Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Consecrated LIfe of the Lay Catholics

Korean Catholicism is unique, started by lay people and not missioners. They are proud of this and know even before the first priest entered Korea, they had 4,000 Catholics. The Chinese Missioner Fr. Chu Mun-mo died as a martyr, today, he will be beatified with 123 others. After only six years working in the country the first Catholics raised the number of Catholics to 10,000. Over thirty years, until the French Missioners came to Korea, the Catholics were without clergy. Lay Catholics were the foundation of our Korean Church.

Lay people are the sleeping giant in the Church. They are the Church, and when the clerical and religious presence are too strong, the laity may find it difficult to take their rightful place. "These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are established  among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ. They carry out  their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and  the world ("Lumen Gentium" #31).

In one of the columns in the Catholic Times the writer, a layman, brings to our attention the consecrated life of the laity. In many parts of the world, we see the lack of vocations to the clerical and religious life, and the weakening of the faith  in these countries. At the same time, we see an increase in the number of lay people who are getting involved with the community of faith, living as celibate  lay persons, dedicated completely to the work of Christ.
Next year, he reminds us is the year of the consecrated life. The writer mentions that a lay women hearing about this in one of the volunteer groups working within the Church  said:  "Consecrated life when heard is filled with difficulty.  The smell of the  clerical and religious life is what comes to mind; I don't know how much meaning this will have for the layperson?" The columnist agrees with the woman's observation.  

However, he says when you understand that a person who is consecrated to the worship of God no matter whether he is a priest, religious or lay person, the distinction disappears. We are all given life by God and consecrating our life to the worship of God is not  difficult to understand.

The consecrated life is living the Gospel values of chastity, obedience and poverty. Many are those who take upon themselves this way of life by promises or vows."Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God" (Catechism # 915).  

There are many who are lay members of secular institutes who live within the world and and are consecrated and live as lay persons recognized by the Church. Only God knows the numbers who give themselves completely to God without any recognition by the church, but live the life of the evangelical counsels.

Friday, August 15, was the Feast Day of the Assumption and the Independence Day of Korea, liberation from the colonial rule of Japan. Mary is the pre-eminent  disciple of Jesus a person who was consecrated to the mission she had received, and the one we try to imitate.

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