Sunday, November 24, 2013

Laypeople Within the Church

Last Sunday was Layman's Sunday, another opportunity for the Church to encourage the laity to take their rightful place within the Church--the sleeping giant.  A professor, whose talk on the current state of the layperson in Korea was picked up by the Korean Catholic "Now Here" news service, expressed the hope of the Church that our Catholic laity will soon have a prominent role to play in Church affairs.

He prefaced his talk with two questions: How do we make Catholicism believable? And what is the culture asked of our laity? In answering these questions, he said that the number of Catholics in society cannot be overlooked and, as a consequence, we must take into consideration that the role of the laity has  grown in importance. He believes that laypersons are not sufficiently conscious of this change and what it means in terms of their place in the larger society. They still remain concerned only with the parish and the groups to which they belong, he said.  

The professor prefers to use the word "culture" when describing today's Catholic layperson rather than the word "spirituality." He would like the laity to focus more on justice and peace issues, on ethical issues in harmonious dialogue with others, and on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, with the goal of working together with other religions for the good of society.

The emphasis on the layperson's cultural background and understanding is intended to promote  a more believable Church, with better communication and training on the part of the laity. This cultural attainment is not only a desire for knowledge--though there never is a place for ignorance and shamelessness--but a desire to be truly human. The laity needs a  grounding in the Scripture and in the traditions of the Church, as they engage other religions and the whole of society in dialogue and with the communication proper to the times, so that there can be more active participation in works for justice and the common good.

When we have  this growth among the laity, the quality of the sermons will change, and the way the parish is run will improve, he said, adding that "the call to follow our Lord is not only addressed to the clergy and religious but to laypeople. The laypeople  have the same call to holiness, and are no less required to be free of the unlimited desire for power and riches."

Laypeople are the ones who are to work in society doing the work of Jesus and have not been exempted, he pointed out, from striving for holiness. The clergy must not diminish with their authority the rightful duties of the layperson as he endeavors to work within society and its often daunting cultural guidelines. The clergy prepares the laity by working with them, but more as teachers than as active workers within the culture. Our mission requires the laity to be full of vitality, as it works for the sanctification of society. And there is, he said, "no  glass ceiling stopping us."

Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. All of us at baptism have received the mission of king, prophet and priest. Today is a good time to reflect on how well we have lived up to this calling when we entered the community of the Church.

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