On March 1, the Holy Father addressed those associated with the work of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which recently held an assembly. Following are excerpts from his remarks:
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Confirmation perfects baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us to bear witness to Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds” (No. 1316). The “new creature,” reborn by baptismal grace, becomes a witness to the new life in the Spirit and a herald of God's great works. “The confirmed person,” explains St. Thomas, “receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and, as it were, officially (quasi ex officio)” (Summa Theologiae III, 72, 5, ad 2; cf. Catechism, no. 1305).
“Lay people: confessors of the faith in today's world,” the theme chosen for your plenary assembly, contains a whole plan of life: to become “confessors of the faith” in word and deed. Is this not a providential invitation to the lay faithful on the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian era?
On the eve of the Jubilee, in this particular kairos, the whole Church is called to present herself humbly before the Lord, to make a serious examination of conscience, to resume the journey of profound conversion, of Christian maturity, of faithful adherence to Christ in holiness and truth, the journey of authentic witness to the faith.
This examination of conscience must also include the reception given to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council — the ecclesial event which has most greatly marked our century — as well as to its enlightening teaching on the dignity, vocation and mission of lay people.
What Have I Done With My Baptism?
The Jubilee therefore spurs every lay Christian to ask himself some fundamental questions: What have I done with my Baptism? How am I responding to my vocation? What have I done with my Confirmation? Have I made the gifts and charisms of the Spirit bear fruit? Is Christ the “Thou” always present in my life? Am I fully and deeply a member of the Church, mystery of missionary communion, as willed by her Founder and as realized in her living Tradition?
In my decisions, am I faithful to the truth taught by the Church's Magisterium? Is my marital, family and professional life imbued with Christ's teaching? Is my social and political involvement based on Gospel principles and the social doctrine of the Church? What contribution do I make to creating ways of life more worthy of man and to inculturating the Gospel amid the great changes taking place?
With the Second Vatican Council, “the great gift of the Spirit to the Church at the end of the second millennium” (Tertio millennio adveniente, No. 36), we have experienced the grace of a renewed Pentecost. Many signs of hope have sprung from it for the Church's mission; I have never failed to point them out, to emphasize and to encourage them.
I am thinking, among other things, of the rediscovery and appreciation of the charisms which have fostered a more vital communion between the different vocations given to the People of God, of renewed zeal for evangelization, of the advancement of lay people and their participation and co-responsibility in the life of the Christian community, of their apostolate and their service in society. At the dawn of the new millennium, these signs encourage us to expect a mature and fruitful epiphany of the laity.
At the same time, however, how can we ignore the fact that unfortunately many Christians, forgetful of their baptismal commitments, live in indifference, yielding to compromise with the secularized world? How can we not mention those faithful who, while active in their own way in the ecclesial communities, are attracted to the relativism of contemporary culture and find it difficult to accept the Church's doctrinal and moral teachings, to which every person is called to adhere?
I hope, then, that the laity will not shirk this examination of conscience, so that they can pass through the Holy Door of the third millennium strengthened in the truth and holiness of authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.
“You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). The world needs the witness of “new men” and “new women” who, in word and deed, make Christ present in an ever more powerful way, for Christ is the only complete and super-abundant answer to the longing for truth and happiness in the human heart. He is the “cornerstone” for building a more human civilization.