Pope Francis turns our attention to the laity in today’s post of Evangelii Gaudium. His observation is that within the structure and operation of the church, we have progress yet to make. He also speaks of the need for a greater “penetration” into the secular world. Let’s read, then discuss:
102. Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith.
Not nearly enough–that’s probably the same assessment of most lay people and a significant portion of clergy. Though some clergy still resist. And that would be a true clericalism:
At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making.
Baptism and confirmation, not ordination, confers a duty and responsibility to contribute to the mission of Christ. This is basic New Testament. This is Sainthood 101. It’s what everyone should be aiming for.
Lay people in ministry is not enough:
Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. The formation of the laity and the evangelization of professional and intellectual life represent a significant pastoral challenge.
Do we have reason to hope we can transform society? That’s a tough question. Speaking for myself, I saw the Church as the primary way I could make a difference in music, liturgy, and ministry. Knowing what I know today, I don’t know that I wouldn’t choose an alternate career path and bring Christianity into my service as an astronomer or an architect. Of course, the challenge to me is this: do I bring it as an active citizen in my community? If I can’t focus on those few hours a day outside of the church building, then how can I set an example to people who spend the other 167 hours a week outside the church doors?