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 eighth installment of Christifideles Laici: Chapter Two: 8. The Normal Lay Apostolate, 9. Charisms and the Laity, 10. The Parish, and 11. Free Associations of Laity.

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

eighth installment:

Chapter Two: 8. The Normal Lay Apostolate

     Involvement in ministries within the Church must not lead to the idea that being active in the Church means performing directly religious ministries. The field of the lay apostolate, properly speaking, is not mainly this sort of activity, but the secular realm, discussed previously. Pope Paul VI taught that the laity's "field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society, and economics, as well as the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities that are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, and suffering" (p. 57).

9. Charisms and the Laity

     The Pope also acknowledged the manifestation of a great variety of charisms of the Holy Spirit since the Council. These charisms must be welcomed as a grace for the Church provided by the Holy Spirit. The Church should gratefully receive these charisms, but she must exercise discernment to insure that genuine charisms are being exercised.

10: The Parish

     The Pope next discussed the main ways that the Church lives as a community. First, he discussed the diocese, encouraging lay persons to develop a "feeling for their own diocese." This can help us as Catholics cultivate a greater sense of being part of the universal Church, thus having a mature grasp of God's overall plan.

     The parish, however, remains the foundational expression of Church community. Among the main purposes of parishes are the following: to be a place to celebrate the Eucharist regularly, to build Christian community, to inititate and to form Catholics in their faith, and to organize for charitable works. It is also the place where the laity can best use their ministries and charisms. Furthermore, in our age of dehumanization and disintegration of social structures, parishes can be islands of community where those who seek community can find refuge.

11. Free Associations of Laity

     The Pope strongly encourages the many associations and groups that have sprung up since Vatican II, along with groups that existed before the council. He even speaks of a "new era of group endeavors of the lay faithful" (p.70). Although he mentions no names, he is referring to Marian groups such as the Medjugorje movement, charismatic groups, "basic community" groups, retreat movements such as Cursillo, Marriage encounter, among others. These groups are a sign of the truth of the council's vision of the Church as communion/community.

Next week: Chapter Two: Lay Freedom to Form Groups