The Lay Vocation

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Introduction

To be a lay person is not merely the “default” position in the Church. A lay person is a member of the Church who in baptism is called upon to participate in the salvific work of the Church in the secular realm; in a special way, the laity are commissioned to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances of daily life where only through them can the Church become the salt of the earth. Distinguished from the ordained clergy – whose fundamental calling is the care of the baptized – the calling of the lay person is to transform secular society through living the faith in all aspects of life: in the family, socially and recreationally, in one’s occupation, etc.

We will emphasize what is meant by “vocation,” particularly using St. John Paul’s apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici: to be a lay person is to be a member of the People of God and is to be called by God to participate as a member of that People in the redemptive mission of Jesus. We will show how the realization of one’s personal vocation is always manifested in the light of the vocation of the whole People. We will therefore consider:

  • the apostolic commission that each of us receives and to which we are called and appointed by God himself;
  • that we are therefore invited to understand the concrete circumstances of our lives in the light of what Jesus means for us to see and to accomplish as those who he calls, commissions and sends, meditating upon the real difference that this makes in our relationships and commitments;
  • the manner in which we participate in the priesthood of Christ – the royal priesthood – and the priestly, prophetic and kingly dignity of the lay person;
  • how the laity are possessed of “a secular character” and how the whole temporal order is entrusted, most particularly, to the laity;
  • how the realm of the “secular” was first conceived, what it meant and has come to mean;
  • how we can more deeply understand our present “secular” culture (making use of the “social imaginaries” of Charles Taylor) and how we are called to baptize the imaginations of our contemporaries;
  • the manner of our dependence upon each other in the particular work to which we are called, given our common vocation;
  • how we can accompany others in the light of Jesus’ instruction to us in the Beatitudes.

We will invite prayerful reflection and conversation around each of these topics, supplemented with brief readings taken from magisterial documents (especially Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, Christifideles Laici) and excerpts of works by Yves Congar, OP.

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