Christifidelis Laici: vocation and mission of the lay faithful (2)

Christifidelis Laici: vocation and mission of the lay faithful (2)

Anne Lastman

Continued from the first part of this article - Laity and Clergy

The family is central

The role of the family is central: "The lay faithful's duty to society primarily begins in marriage and in the family. This duty can only be fulfilled adequately with the conviction of the unique and irreplaceable value that the family has in the development of society and the Church herself.

"The family is the place where there is birth, growth, love, and companionship, and this place is the target especially of egoism, anti-life, anti-birth attacks, situations of poverty, material, cultural and at times violence which threaten to make 'life' dry up. To counter this and safeguard the role of family, requires a concerted re-humanisation of the person and society.

"History has shown that civilisation and safety and cohesiveness of society depend upon the human family and for this reason is the duty of the lay apostolate towards the family which acquires incomparable value.

"It is the lay apostolate's duty to make the family aware of its role and identity as primary social nucleus and its most important and basic role in society. In such a way the family requires from all beginning with public authority, the respect for the rights which in saving the family, will save society itself." (CL 40)

The whole Church is called to the service of charity and while she recognises and rejoices in the undertakings of others, she claims works of charity as her own inalienable duty and right. For this reason mercy to the poor and sick, works of charity and mutual aid intended to relieve human needs (as in relieving the pain of post abortion grief) are held in special honour by the Church" (CL 41).

The laity can be in the forefront of works of mercy, especially as volunteers of service, because they exist within the milieu of those suffering.

Public life

In order to renew the temporal order in the sense of serving persons and society, "the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life" that is, in all areas of public life including the legislative, administrative and cultural whose aim is to promote the common good .

"Furthermore, public life on behalf of the person and society finds its continuous line of action in the defence and promotion of justice. The Church by reason of her role is not identified with any political system ... However, the lay person must bear witness to the Gospel values that are connected with political activity, especially including the preferential love for the poor and the least.

"This participation in public life demands of the lay faithful an animated participation in the life of the Church and enlightened by her social doctrine. The lay faithful cannot remain indifferent and inactive in the face of that which denies and compromises human value, peace, violence and all other anti-life activity. The lay faithful ought take up the task of being "peacemakers" (Mt 5:9) and reject all forms of violence and promote dialogue and peace (CL 42).

They have a duty and responsibility to be at the forefront of all endeavours to eradicate injustice and do this work with professional competence, honesty, and a Christian spirit. By work "an individual provides for self and family, is joined in fellowship with others and renders service" (CL 43).

Also important is the evangelisation of culture: "Service to the individual and to human society is expressed and finds its fulfilment through creation and the transmission of culture . By culture is meant "factors which go towards refining and developing of humanity's diverse spiritual and physical endowments. It means to humanise social life in the family and community through improvements of customs and institutions.

In this area the Church calls upon the lay faithful to be present, as signs of courage and intellectual creativity in places where culture exists, schools, places of learning, technology, humanities.

Renewal of culture (or the Lord's vineyard) in a specific way is the responsibility of the laity who through the Church bring before culture the hope of purification from evil (CL 44).

In the words of Jesus, "the harvest is rich but the labourers are few" (Lk 10:2). The call and variety of charisms needed for the Lord's Vineyard are many. There is the need to evangelise the young, the not so young and the elderly. The young have a need for 'like to like' companioning, The married couple and family have need for community and 'like to like' mission, public figures have need for the Church and community of faithful to support their vocation, and the elderly have a need of specific pastoring in preparation for the journey home.

The "domestic church" which mirrors in miniature the universal Church nurtures children, parents and grandparents and when seen in its true image sanctifies its members and extends further to community.

Affirming the dignity of man and woman is of immediate concern and "if anyone has this task of advancing the dignity of women in the Church and society, it is women themselves, who must recognise their responsibility as leading characters" (CL 49) and while not called "to the apostolate of the twelve" or the ministerial priesthood, women were and are present in the life of Jesus even to the end (Lk 23:49); they too received and transmitted the Good News of the Resurrection.

The Synod of Bishops, from which emerged Christifidelis Laici, proclaimed that "the Church seeks to recognition and use of all the gifts, experiences and talents of men and women to make her mission effective" (CL 49).

"Above all the acknowledgement in theory of the active and responsible presence of woman in the Church must be realised in practice. This Exhortation addresses the lay faithful with its deliberate and repeated use of the terms "women and men". Furthermore the revised Code of Canon Law contains many provisions on the participation of women in the life and mission of the Church: (CL 51).

In particular two great tasks are entrusted to women. First, that of bringing full dignity to the conjugal life and to motherhood and secondly, woman has the task of assuring the moral dimension of culture .

"It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18) and so God entrusted the man, life, children, society and culture into her care. By virtue of her co-operation with life, woman, has been entrusted with the future.

How tragic then that in this era, "woman" is rejecting the entrustment which God has given into her care: a child created in His own image and likeness and a future (CL 52).


The sick and suffering are also part of the Lord's vineyard and they too bring charisms which show how those who suffer help to bring before the eyes of the world and make concrete the words of St Paul, "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church (Col 1:24).

The suffering are beloved because in their suffering, they imitate Christ who is the Good Samaritan who "does not pass by" but "has compassion on him" (Lk 10:32-34).

All members of the people of God, clergy, religious and laity form together the living body of Christ built up through the power of the Holy Spirit and called to live out their shared Christian dignity and call to holiness in the perfection of love.

The roles differ but each complements the other in their very own unmistakable character which sets each apart while at the same time each is placed in each other's service.

Pope Francis, in his weekly audience on 16 October 2013, affirmed Christifidelis Laici when he called on the faithful to ponder the importance of the gift that Christ has given us, the gift of the Church.

The Church is apostolic because she is sent to bring the Gospel to the whole world. Christ's call to "make disciples of all nations" highlights this missionary aspect. Christ, the Pope said, invites us all to go meet with others, he sends us, and he asks us to bring the joy of the Gospel to others.

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