The laity of the Church are a very important part of the Mystical Body of Christ. The group "laity" incorporates all those who do not belong to the clerical or religious state. All members of the Church, whether clerical, religious, or lay, are termed "the faithful" - a level we all reach after Baptism and members of the Church Militant in the great Communion of Saints. The laity must remember that they are part of the Church. They must understand that when anyone speaks of the “Church” they are included, as we include the heart and mind of man with his soul when we speak of him. The Church is you and I.
Our Lord intended that all who have been baptized are members of His Mystical Body as He affirmed in John 10: 14-16, “I am the good shepherd, and I know Mine and Mine know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
This also means Christ came for sinners and that Catholic sinners are still very much part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Unless one cuts himself off by heresy, apostasy, or excommunication, a Catholic sinner continues to be a member of the Church. Those in mortal sin are called “dead members”, for their soul dead in sin.
Indeed the Church is the Church of Saints; but the greatest part of its activities has to be for sinners. Perhaps we may say, without fear of contradiction, that most of the members of the Church are sinners. We all fall away from the ideal, at some time, or other; then the Church calls, to bring us back.
Until we attain Heavenly bliss, there will always be the darkness of sin, the pain of evil. Christ Himself spoke of bad fish with the good, of cockle among the wheat Of the sheep in the fold, one wanders out. But Our Lord longs for the wanderer; let us help bring him back.
God gave Catholics the grace of their holy religion. But He also gave them their free will. And they are free to choose; whether to act in full accordance with His commands and counsels, or whether to practice only a part, or whether to violate those commands. The latter has been the case with such "cafeteria" Catholic groups as We Are church and Call To Action. There is a wide gap between belief and practice; it is that gap that finds more division among Catholics, trying to lure the practical Catholics and nominal Catholics, the latter of which look for every out or change they can to justify their position. While their views may differ from orthodox Catholics, all who call themselves Catholics must believe in all the doctrines entrusted by Christ to His Church, and act in accordance with those doctrines, but these pertain to the field of faith and morals, not to other matters. Therefore, there is no question about “thinking and acting alike,” among more than a billion Catholics in the world. This is another reason there is so much variation in liturgy throughout the world today.
Each Catholic is an individual. He or she must believe that Jesus Christ is God; but with one of their Catholic friends they may differ concerning the best political party to join. They must not deny they Church, but they may argue with the parish priest about who should be one’s favorite Saints or whether shrubbery would look good or not in front of the church, not they cannot argue with the priest over matters of faith and morals, doctrine and dogma.
The Church is for no particular class, whether millionaries, or laborers, scientists, or children; the Church is classless, and for all classes, for all men. This is another reason for so many centuries, especially in this last of the millennium, the Church is seen as the "Church of the poor." Yet all cannot all act and think in one uniform pattern. The different classes among Catholis arise from causes apart from the Church, such as racial, cultural, and social causes. But anywhere and everywhere one can be a good Catholic. Good Catholics believe alike in this: that they are members of a divinely-established Church, the well-being of which it is their duty to further, by striving to attain the perfection indicated by Christ and promoted by the Sovereign Pontiff and the appointed successors of the Apostles - the bishops who have appointed the priests to care for us on a personal basis.
The Church presents us with the ideal, and provides the means to reach that ideal, inviting and urging us, feeding and shepherding the flock. But the Church does not guarantee salvation for all the faithful; because among its doctrines the freedom of the will is as fundamental as the divine authority of the Church. In other words, there is no guarantee of salvation unless man puts his mind, heart and soul into it! Christ has provided the Church as the best vehicle to obtain everlasting life.
The laity helps Christ and His Church in the care of souls by leading lives that will reflect credit on the Church, and by cooperating with their bishops and priests, especially through the Commandments of the Church and living the Gospel as well as remaining in the state of Sanctifying Grace. “Even so let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 4:16).
A good Catholic makes serious efforts to save his or her soul. They keep the commandments of God and the Church. They receive the sacraments. They do all things prescribed by Christ through the Church. Therefore, they must know their religion. They must not be ignorant of Christian doctrine, for by it they learn how to save their soul. By it they learns what to believe, and what to do.
A good Catholic layperson obeys his or her ecclesiastical superiors in spiritual matters, and gives them due respect. They see in their lawful superiors Christ’s representatives on earth.
They are loyal to the Church in word and deed. They do not criticise it, or make derogatory remarks about it. Even if their priests may have faults, they try their best not to bring them and the Church into contempt. If the faults are public and grievous, then they may bring the matter to the attention of lawful authority, but always with great prudence.
According to their means, the laity contributes towards the support of the Church.
There is a serious obligation which too many Catholics neglect. The Church neds support as much as the civil government. It cannot subsist on air. Religion makes no progress where Catholics are so indifferent as to begrudge their material support. Good Catholics have before them a wide scope of activity if they wish to participate in the work of the Church; there are no barriers between man and God.
Should a Catholic layperson be moved by a spirit of reform, he or she need not cut themself off from the Church by founding a new sect. They should busy themselves within the Fold of the Church, taking active steps to attain the reform they desire without disrupting the teachings, doctrines and dogmas so solid for 2000 years. Recently over the past few decades numerous commendable lay organizations have risen that contribute much to the Church while not tearing it down as others do who would change fundamental doctrine. Rome has recognized these new lay groups and has not only held world conferences for them, but established a special Pontifical Council for the Laity headed by former Archbishop of Denver, Cardinal Francis J. Stafford.