Continuing our look at Lumen Gentium
Bringing to a close the writing concerning those who are ordained, Lumen Gentium turns to contemplate the laity. It is tricky business that. I heard a talk recently that challenged people to come up with a definition of the word laity and their role without using negative descriptions (such as non-ordained or they share in the priesthood than cannot . . .) The theology of the laity really does need to be developed better. Priests and religious will not change the world by themselves. They can barely keep up with one parish let alone your home, school, work place, neighborhood, your friends, family, and acquaintances. Who can get there and do all that? The laity.
Much earlier the “People of God” was spoken of in a very general way. The precepts put forth there are applied equally to bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laymen. There are other aspects of Christian living that are particular to persons such as to bishops (which we just sloshed through rather heavily) or to laity. And though roles may be different, it is “right and just, our duty and our salvation” for every man, woman, and child of the Body of Christ, the People of God, the holy nation, a people set apart, to carry out their individual roles in order to advance the Kingdom of God. The whole structure is fitted together so that we may “with one mind cooperate in the common task,” that is, “the building up of itself in love.”
Here is an example: It is a terrible thing to speak of a brother who did not become a priest as “just a brother,” (which is a “jab” to their calling and vocation if you will,) as if not being a priest somehow makes them “less than.” There is a nobility all its own to being brother. If that is what God is calling a man to, then it is of the highest nobility that he is fulfilling God’s plan. In that state he hopefully is fulfilling an essential piece of the puzzle that God needs to further the salvation of mankind in the particular way that lay brother can. If we were all priests, what an anemic Church we would be. If we were all priests, who would speak to those who are married, or are single for Christ, or who are children, or in the work place. Everyone is vital or the whole experiment is compromised. Never think of yourself as too little or inconsequential if you are doing what you can in your state.
One of my favorite persons in the parish lives in a decidedly non-Catholic area of town. She has become decidedly Catholic. She is regularly confronted by people hostile to the Catholic Church – people with whom I would never have the opportunity to come in contact. She is a missionary. She does incredible work among the hostile. She can only do that because of her state in life. She takes her calling seriously and does not suppose, “I am not clergy or religious, that is not my role.” She is not “just a lay person.” She is Church.