Lumen Gentium 31

The council gives a definition:

The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church.

… and acknowledges our proper role in sharing the mission and role of Christ:

These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.

Some comparison on how laity, religious, and clergy operate with regard to the secular sphere:

What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes. But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.

I think there is concern about the occasionally misused notion that “everything is a ministry,” and rightly so. Yet the lay function as priestly, prophetic, and kingly witnesses to Christ in the world, and the task to be a leaven for the Gospel can rightly be called part of our natural state as well as part of our task in the world. A person effectively witnessing for Christ in the world, is no less a facilitator than a person serving within the walls of a faith community. Care with terms is needed. But recognition of lay involvement as a spiritual undertaking must be conceded.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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