The Vicar of Christ Speaks

INTRODUCTION: In this "Lay Person's Guide to the Pope's Encyclicals" we catch a synopsis of the Holy Father's wisdom adroitly capsulized by Dr. Joseph Bagiackas, Ph.D. In his Papal Exhortation "Christifideles Laici", the Holy Father exhorts the laity to faithfulness. It is appropriate we follow-up November's pertinent document from the Holy See on Instructions to the Laity and Priests on abuses, by reinforcing the Pope's teachings with this Apostolic Exhortation imparted ten years ago. Now ten years later, after the "ten year period of grace" Our Blessed Mother spoke of to Father Don Stefano Gobbi back in 1988, we revisit this important letter from the supreme pontiff and, through the expert analysis of Dr. Bagiackas his holiness' words will be clearer and more simple to understand and most meaningful in these times when there are so many who, rather than pulling together for God's Will, are pulling apart within the laity. The eminent prelate from New York John Cardinal O'Connor has said of Dr. Bagiackas' work: "These summations will draw the reader closer to knowing God and will encourage broader readership of the writings of this remarkable Pope." BELOW: the fourth installment of Christifideles Laici: Twenty Questions We Laity Ask about the Lay Apostolate - Fourth and Final Five Questions

A Lay Person's Guide to Pope John Paul II's Teaching on the Laity

by Dr. Joseph Bagiackas

To read the entire Apostolic Letter click on Christifideles Laici

fourth installment:

Twenty Questions We Laity Ask about the Lay Apostlate - Fourth and Final set of Five Questions

      The order in which these questions are asked follows the orders of the topics discussed in Christifideles Laici.

Question 16.How do young people fit into the Church's mission? They are such a powerful force in society today, much more than in the past. What about children? And senior citizens? Do their lives no longer have apostolic possibilities?

ANSWER Young people are not just "objects of pastoral concern," but must be active participants in evangelization and renewal of society. Small children too have a role to play in the sanctification of their parents and the strengthening of their families. Seniors must not let up in efforts at ministry. Old age can be a time of new apostolic endeavors, especially for those who retire and so have more time.

Question 17: What is the place of women in the mission of the Church? Will the Church ever ordain women priests?

ANSWER. Women may not be ordained, according to the clear will of Christ. But the Church should work hard to enhance the role of women in ministries in the Church.

Question 18. Do the sick and suffering have a role to play? John Paul II talks of them so often.

ANSWER.Yes, the suffering of a Christian is a great witness in itself, and witnessing to the Gospel by those who suffer is given great attention.

Question 19. What about the three basic vocations in the Church - laity, clergy, and Religious life (life under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience)? How are they different?

ANSWER.Clergy are ordained, with official powers, while laity are not. Religious take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, while laity do not. The lay "secular character" refers to the laity remaining in their natural environment in life in following Christ's call, while the clergy and religious leave this environment in following their vocations. Viewed as signs, laity represent the importance of the good things of this world in God's plan. Clergy represent the official guarantee of the presence of Christ in the world. Religious, by giving up the good things of this world, represent the Church's living for Heaven, and not for this life.

Question 20. How does one go about being trained for the lay apostolate?

ANSWER. Find a spiritual guide, and look for some group of Catholics who will help out. Ask your parish priest for help. Then begin to follow the guidance that is offered. The rest of the process of formation will fall into place.

Next week: Introduction: 1. The Laity's Obligation to the Apostolate.

January 1998