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 ninth installment of Christifideles Laici: Chapter Two: 12. Lay Freedom to Form Groups
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
Chapter Two: 12. Lay Freedom to Form Groups
On the contrary, says the Pope, the laity are free to form groups for spiritual renewal, according to Vatican II (Decree on the Laity, 18) and Church Law. And this is not merely a concession by Church authorities. Forming such groups is a natural outflow of Baptism and Confirmation, which empower us laity to participate actively and creatively in the Church's mission.
The Pope then quotes the new 1983 Code of Canon Law: "The Christian faithful are at liberty to found and govern associations for charitable and religious purposes or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world; they are free to hold meetings to pursue these purposes in common" (Canon 2150.
This freedom is to be "exercised in Church communion." The Pope then gives five criteria for discerning the genuineness of a lay group.
1. The importance given to growth in personal holiness.
2. The care with which members maintain and deepen their Catholic faith.
3. Cooperation with the Pope and local bishop in submitting to Church doctrine and pastoral initiatives, the Pope means doing things like anti-abortion work, or helping with a diocesan fund raiser.)
4. Commitment and zeal for re-evangelizing the culture.
5. A commitment to make the Church's values more present in secular culture.
The bishops have the task of discerning such groups, so as to help groups work better. "They ought to accompany their work of discernment with guidance and, above all, encouragement so that lay associations might grow in Church communion and mission" (p. 76).
Next week: Chapter Three: Evangelization and Renewal of Society with specifics