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Father Muench Says...

Considering the laity

February 15, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to call your attention to the chapter on the laity, written in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – one of the documents published by the Second Vatican Council. Yes, it was written 60 years ago, and yet it continues to have great meaning for our Catholic Church today.

Most of you who read this are part of the laity of our Church. The laity is all the faithful of the Church except those who are in Holy Orders, our leaders. The Council gave special attention to the laity, making certain that all the laity would always remember their importance in our Church.

The Council reminds all pastors of the importance of the laity’s participation in the life of all Catholic parishes. The Council writes this: “The pastors of the Church know well how much the laity contributes to the welfare of the whole Church.”

The council goes on to challenge pastors everywhere that they were never called to undertake the salvific mission of the Church alone. “The laity, especially by the witness of their lives, resplendent in faith, hope, and charity, must manifest Christ to others.”

The council quotes Sacred Scripture to help us recognize the importance of the participation of the laity in the life of the Church. The Scripture is from St. Paul’s message to the Romans: “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members, have not the same function, so we the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of one another.”

The council continues to make it very clear that Christ constantly guides the Church to lead all, including all the laity, to sainthood. Again, the words of the council: “In the Church, not everyone reaches along the same path, yet all are called to sanctity – and have obtained an equal privilege of faith – through the justice of God.”

The council fathers use the word “vocation” when speaking of the laity. Just as we speak of the priesthood as a vocation, a call from Our Lord to lead a man to become a priest. So, the council sees the all the men and women of the laity as called by the Lord as having a vocation, a divine invitation to participate in the life of the Church.

The words of the council: “Gathered together in the People of God and established in the one Body of Christ under one head, the laity – no matter who they are – have, as living members, the vocation of applying to the building up of the Church and its continual sanctification all the powers which they have received from the goodness of the Creator and from the grace of the Redeemer.”

So, the council calls upon the laity to realize that they are to participate in the mission of the clergy, the priests and the deacons. “All the laity, then, have the exalted duty of working for the greater spread of the divine plan of salvation to all men and women, of every epoch and all over the earth.”

I like to put it this way: Being a member of the laity is not being a spectator in the Church – at Mass and in all the activities of the parish Church. Members of the laity should realize that they must participate so that our Church stays alive and strong, bringing the Holy Spirit and the love and message of Our Savior to all in their community and all in this world, especially by the way they live each day.

I want to remind you of a recent Sunday Gospel reading that reminded is all, clergy and laity, of Jesus’ call to all his disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I write to remind you that this is a call from the Holy Spirit that the laity is also called to bring new life to our Church, now and in all times to bring a new Spirit and good taste to all the People of God and to become the light of the world leading others from the darkness of sin to the holiness of Our Savior.

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