Redemptoris Missio 71bc: More On The Baptized Life

One of the fatal flaws of the average Christian is viewing their baptism as a membership ritual rather than as a sacrament of vocation. Maybe the problem letter in RCIA isn’t the “R,” but the “I.” Fraternities, country clubs, and other social groups have initiation. The Christian is baptized for life, wherever she or he may choose to live out that life. There is a vocation associated with it. Too many of us lay people miss it. But it has always been so.

It is clear that from the very origins of Christianity, the laity – as individuals, families, and entire communities – shared in spreading the faith. Pope Pius XII recalled this fact in his first encyclical on the missions,(Cf. Encyclical Letter Evangelii Praecones) in which he pointed out some instances of lay missions. In modern times, this active participation of lay men and women missionaries has not been lacking.

And not just in recent decades:

How can we forget the important role played by women: their work in the family, in schools, in political, social and cultural life, and especially their teaching of Christian doctrine?

Perhaps people in the mission apostolate deserve some higher ranking in the Martyrology. I think I would place them after martyrs and doctors, and ahead of clergy and religious founders.

Indeed, it is necessary to recognize – and it is a title of honor – that some churches owe their origins to the activity of lay men and women missionaries.

Vatican II recognized the centrality of the mission apostolate in an underdeveloped way:

The Second Vatican Council confirmed this tradition in its description of the missionary character of the entire People of God and of the apostolate of the laity in particular,(Cf. Lumen Gentium 17, 33ff ) emphasizing the specific contribution to missionary activity which they are called to make.(Cf. Ad Gentes, 35-36, 41)

Pope John Paul II offers a good self-quote:

The need for all the faithful to share in this responsibility is not merely a matter of making the apostolate more effective, it is a right and duty based on their baptismal dignity, whereby “the faithful participate, for their part, in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King.”(Christifideles Laici 14) Therefore, “they are bound by the general obligation and they have the right, whether as individuals or in associations, to strive so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all people throughout the world. This obligation is all the more insistent in circumstances in which only through them are people able to hear the Gospel and to know Christ.” (canon law 225, 1; cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem 6, 13) Furthermore, because of their secular character, they especially are called “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering these in accordance with the will of God.”(Lumen Gentium, 31; cf. canon law 225.2)

“Duty” doesn’t quite complete the picture for me. It might be more accurate to say that the baptized lay person has a responsibility to live out her or his vocation by participating in the mission of the Lord. What do baptized Christians look like? It’s not the buildings they inhabit or the people they hang out with. It is about their actions. Specifically, I would ask, “How do you imitate Christ? How do you further his mission? You may profess a creed, and do so with some accuracy as the institution insists, but do you identify with an active, intentional Christianity? Or is it just about Sunday appearances?”

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in evangelization, Redemptoris Missio. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s