Laity's Mission of Example
In Workplace, Home, and Apostolic Groups
In Pope John Paul II's ad limina address June 6 to the bishops of the states of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, he stressed that bishops must encourage a laity who live their faith in their daily decisions in every aspect of their lives — through groups like Legatus and Serra International (See Inperson, Page 1). Here is an excerpt (Nos. 4-5 and 8) of the text of the Pope's address, which was given in English.
As the Fathers at the 1987 Synod on the Laity pointed out, it is an inadequate understanding of the role of the laity which leads lay men and women to become so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that they fail to become actively involved in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural, and political field.
The first requirement of the new evangelization is the actual witness of Christians who live by the Gospel. … Since lay people are at the forefront of the Church's mission to evangelize all areas of human activity — including the workplace, the worlds of science and medicine, the world of politics, and the diverse world of culture — they must be strong enough and sufficiently catechized. …
As my predecessor Pope Paul VI put it: “Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who in the midst of their own community show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good.
Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine.
Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one” (Evangelii nuntiandi, No. 21). …
The immediate and in many ways most important arena of the laity's Christian witness is marriage and the family.
Where family life is strong and healthy, the sense of community and solidarity is also strong, and this helps to build that ‘civilization of life and love” which must be everyone's aim. But where the family is weak, all human relationships are exposed to instability and fragmentation. Today the family is under pressure from many quarters. …
Since the Christian family is the “domestic church,” couples must be helped to relate their family life in concrete ways to the life and mission of the Church…. The parish should be a “family of families,” helping in every way possible to nourish the spiritual life of parents and children through prayer, the word of God, the sacraments, and the witness of holiness and charity. Bishops and priests should be eager to help and encourage families in every way, and should give their support to groups and associations which promote family life. …
Finally, I wish to tell you of the great joy which I experienced last week-end in St. Peter's Square at the meeting of so many lay members of the various ecclesial movements and communities which represent a providential gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church of our time. … As instruments of conversion and authentic Gospel witness, they render a magnificent service in helping the Church's members to respond to the universal call to holiness and to their vocation to transform worldly realities in the light of the Gospel values of life, freedom and love. … An extraordinary and surprising new springtime for the Church will blossom from the dynamic faith, living hope, and active charity of the lay men and women who open their hearts to the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit.
- March 21-27, 1999