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 fifth installment of Christifideles Laici: Introduction: 1. The Laity's Obligation to the Apostolate, 2. The World, which is the Laity's Apostolic Field, and 3. Changes in the World Today
A Lay Person's Guide to Pope John Paul II's Teaching on the Laity
To read the entire Apostolic Letter click on Christifideles Laici
Introduction: 1. The Laity's Obligation to the Apostolate,
2. The World, which is the Laity's Apostolic Field, and
3. Changes in the World Today
Pope John Paul II begins Christifideles Laici by discussing the Gospel parable of the man who went out to find workers for his vineyard. He went out at mid-morning and "found some people standing idle in the marketplace." The Pope uses this passage to make the argument that the laity, who in past times may have taken on a passive role with regard to the mission of the Church, can no longer take this stance. Yes, there was a time when the good lay person was called on to "pray, pay, and obey." Nothing more was asked for. But now, the Pope clearly teaches that things have changed for the world and for the laity. Laity can no longer stand "idle in the marketplace," the marketplace symbolizing the situation lay persons naturally occupy in the world, such as family, work place, cultural life, political life, and the like. They, more then ever, have the duty - the obligation - to be active in the lay apostolate. This is because the "temporal realm" or the "world" mankind has created for himself is much more important than in past times.
The World, which is the Laity's Apostolic Field: The "world," or the "secular sphere," or "temporal realm" means the non-religious part of life. This area of life is much more dominant than in past times. In past days, most people lived difficult lives, full of suffering, poverty, and disease. They worked very hard, with little to show for their efforts. The Church provided most of the culture and leisure they experienced. The Church, the clergy, monks, and sisters were at the center of society and had great power, at least in Christian countries.
But in the past century, the western world has developed a culture which is no longer dependent on the Church. Also, there has been great material progress in many areas, leading to more opportunities for cultural experience, travel, more time to socialize, and the like. The mass media have come to dominate much of life. The clergy is on the margin of the new cultural situation of the world. Culture and society are controlled by secular forces, meaning non-religious influences. These forces are not necessarily bad, but a Christian influence is needed for things to work right.
The laity are more part of the current secular culture than the clergy, and so they are better able to influence matters. The things which dominate our lives today - media, politics, economics, the arts, sports - this is the field of the laity. Therefore, more than ever, we lay people are the Church present in the world.
The Pope then comments on major trends in this changed world. There is a growing secularism, combined with a denial of God and religion. But at the same time, there is a growing hunger for spiritual realities, since God created us to be happy only with Him. There are serious attacks on the dignity of the person, in the form of abortion, euthanasia, religious persecution, and denial of basic rights. Conflicts among people are on the increase, in the forms of war, violence, terrorism, and the like. These all can best be influenced by the laity.
Next week: Chapter One: 4. Definition of the Laity.
Text Visitors to date in 1998. February 3