Objectives- that the participants:

  1. Identified and understood the role and mission of the laity in the life and mission of the church
  2. Appreciated the value of the laity’s vocation and mission of the Church and in society
  3. Committed themselves to participate actively in the transformation of self, the Church and society

Process: Lecture (about 1 hour). The Lecturer may develop 3 main points: who are the laity, role and mission of the Laity, and spirituality of the laity. The lecturer may start with a question and answer activity like:

What do you mean by laity?

How are the laity different from the religious and the clergy?

What is the specific mission of the laity?

How can the laity fulfil its vocation to holiness, etc?

The lecturer may then summarize the answer and proceed to his lecture proper

SITUATION:

Today we find so many groups promoting their own kind of spirituality and approach to life. In the Philippines we have the Opus Dei, the Focolare Movement, the charismatic movement, the El Shaddai, the Couples for Christ, etc.

Then there are also various going around promoting their own devotions like: God the Father, Mary Mediatrix, Healing of the Family Tree, etc. with vague teachings and questionable practices.

More alarming is the rise of fanatical, fundamentalist groups promoting intolerance and violence (terrorism). Then there are groups promoting vague spirituality without any reference to a specific belief such as ones of neo-Gnostic groups and New Age Movements.

ANALYSIS:

We are familiar with most of these groups.  Some are claim to be in the Church. Others, however, have loose connection with Church authorities, and still others have no connection to any authority or belief system at all.

The existence of these groups may point out to the innate religiosity of man or to man’s search for meaning. On the other hand, this search for the transcendence, if not corrected, may lead to misguided spirituality and devotions.

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS

Who are the Laity?

 The word “laity” comes from the Latin word laicus and Greek word laos meaning ‘the people.’ Canon Law calls the laity ‘lay faithful.’ Other names we use are, lay people, lay men or women, lay persons or simply lay.

According to Canon Law the Christian faithful are of three kinds: clergy, religious and lay. The laity are therefore all Christ’s faithful who are not clerics and not religious.

There are two aspects of laity’s vocation: full membership in the Church and its mystery, and the secular character of their life and mission.

  • The laity are full members of the People of God – the Church.
  • They are the biggest number in the Church
  • They are equal in dignity with the clergy and the religious
  • They share in the mission and responsibility in the Church
  • They are empowered to evangelize in words and witnessing

Their proper place and context is the world – to sanctify it through their ordinary work and life so that by their presence, friendship, and example they can lead others to God.

The first task of the laity is to sanctify his or her ordinary secular life and work – family, social or public activities (including work and recreation). They live in the world, that they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven (LG 31).

The laity are not a “long arm” of the clergy, to carry out a Christian infiltration of the world. They are in the world, and they have their own specific mission there, that is, to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the gospel (Canon 225; LG 31; CCC 898, 909).

Role of the Laity

According to PCP-II, the Role of the Laity is as follows:

  1. Laity are called to a community of families – The laity are called to strengthen the family, the BEC, the parish which is a family of families.
  2. Laity are called to Christian presence – The laity are called to permeate the world with Christ’s teaching and to animate the temporal order with His Spirit.
  3. Laity are called to Ministry and Evangelization – Without lay involvement, the priests’ apostolate becomes less effective. Without lay responsibility, the Church is incomplete. There is a need for the mobilization of the laity in evangelization.
  4. Laity are called to social transformation – The laity are called to heal and transform society, to prepare the temporal order for the final establishment of the Kingdom of God, to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, custom, laws and structures of the community by which they live (PP 81).

 

PCP II Insights regarding the Laity’s Involvement and Leadership in Politics

The Church must be involved in politics. Why? Because it is part of the Church’s mission of integral evangelization. There is a difference, however, in the involvement in politics between the clergy and the laity. The role of the clergy is non-partisan. Their function is to provide guidelines and explain moral principles on political matters. On the other hand, the laity is that of active and direct participation in partisan politics.

PCP II calls the laity and urges them to a more participation and leadership in politics. Why? Politics is the most troublesome aspect of our Philippine society, the most hurtful to us as a people, the biggest bane in our life as a nation, and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full development (cf. CBCP Pastoral letter on Philippine politics 1997). There is a need for the laity to right the wrong – to change the situation; it is a demand of the gospel for the common good. How? Through people empowerment, that is: Through participation of the people in determining direction, policies, and projects of the government; by encouraging qualified candidates to run for elective office; by voting them into office (using the standards of competence, credibility and commitment). By being involved in political exercises: political education, poll watching, OQC, CCHOPE, CCRG, etc.

PCP II has provided us with the following principles as regards Church and Politics: 1) All Christians should promote the common good, 2) Cooperation is the basic relationship between the Church and the State regarding the promotion of the common good, 3) The Church is competent to pass moral judgment even in political matters, 4) Both clergy and laity must involved in the area of politics when moral and gospel values are at stake, 5) The Church must always exercise its prophetic role even in political matters, 6) the faithful must actively participate in politics, including partisan politics, 7) Participation in politics must be inspired and guided by the spirit of service, 8) Empowering people must be carried out both as a process and as a goal of political activity.

What is Lay Spirituality?

According to Vatican II, all Christ’s faithful – clergy, religious and lay, are called to holiness. This universal call to holiness is for everyone whether clergy, religious or lay. How this call to holiness is achieved in one’s state of life, is called Spirituality.

Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit or of the soul. For Catholics, Spirituality refers to one’s life in the spirit or how one lives out his faith. Spirituality is a way of approaching God in prayer and in living out the gospel.

There are various kinds of spirituality. The clergy and the religious may have their own kind of spirituality suited to their own way of life. On the other hand, the laity may have their own style of spirituality which is different from those of the clergy and the religious.

The laity’s specific character is “secular.” They seek the Kingdom of God in the world by engaging in the affairs of the world and directing them according to God’s will (LG). They grow in intimate union with God, “in” and “by means” of the world. Their spirituality therefore is not a matter of departing from the world as the monks and the nuns do. It is precisely through the material world that they sanctify themselves and reach God.

This was precisely what PCP II meant when it described the elements of Lay Spirituality as follows:

  1. A genuine love for and personal commitment to Jesus Christ
  2. Love for the Church
  3. Fidelity to her teachings and respect for their pastors
  4. Dedication for their families and to the apostolate of the family
  5. Love for neighbour, especially the poor and those in need
  6. Dedication to the promotion of justice with involvement in the socio-political, economic problems of the society where they live
  7. Regular reception of the sacraments
  8. Practices of some devotion, especially in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary

There are many different Forms of Spirituality which have developed over the centuries and after Vatican II:

Spirituality traditions among Major Religious Orders and their Emphases:

  1. Desert Spirituality – emphasis on prayer in solitude, asceticism, and a life of sacrifice
  2. Benedictine Spirituality – emphasis on community life, order, and obedience to superiors
  3. Franciscan Spirituality – emphasis on life of poverty, love of nature, and charity to those in need
  4. Dominican spirituality – emphasis on poverty, love of preaching and devotion to truth
  5. Ignatian Spirituality – emphasis on examination of one’s life, discerning the will of God
  6. Carmelite Spirituality – emphasis on interior detachment, silence, solitude, spiritual progress
  7. Others: Redemptorist Spirituality, French school of spirituality, etc.

Post-Vatican II Lay Movements in Catholic Spirituality and their emphases:

  1. Charismatic Spirituality – emphasis on personal experience generally shared in groups
  2. Opus Dei Spirituality – emphasis on life lived in the secular world and “sanctification of work.”
  3. Focolare Movement – emphasis on sharing build community and extend the works of the gospel
  4. Saint’Egidio Movement – emphasis on peace and justice in a spirit of daily common life and prayer
  5. Others: Communion and Liberation Movement, Taize movement, etc.

Prepared: Fr. Romeo Buenaobra (DLC Director)

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