Question 6.How does the Church define "the Church?" Isn't "the Church" the Pope, bishops, priests, and sisters? Isn't it Mass and the sacraments? Isn't it Catholic parishes and schools? We hear from the pulpit that the Church is a community, it is a sacrament, it is Christ's body, the People of God, and so on.
ANSWER The Church is all that Vatican II says it is - a sacrament, God's people, the Mystical Body of Christ, a Temple, a vine and branches, a communion - and more. In Christifideles Laici, John Paul II emphasized the Church as a Communion, or close, personal, spiritual community, both between each of us and God, and among us as the Church community.
Question 7. If the Church is a communion, what does this mean for laity? Does it refer to our going to Holy Communion? It sounds like such a vague term.
ANSWER. Communion is a term that can seem vague to us. The following ideas can clarify its meaning. Communion means close, personal, spiritual community. This idea is meant to enrich the traditional Catholic definition of the Church: The divinely instituted community that is united by one faith, one sacramental life, and the same leaders, especially the Pope. But we are also united spiritually because the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell in our hearts. The Church is "those who have been brought into unity by the unity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Constitution on the Church,4). We are united as children of our Father, as Christ's body on earth, as temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. We are God's family, His household. We are God's Pilgrim people, journeying through life, following Christ our Priest, Prophet, and King. He is our shepherd, we are His flock. We are the City of God, the New Jerusalem. If we think and pray on these themes, we will catch the spirit of the idea that the Church is a communion.
Question 8.What specifically can we do to be more active members of the Church?
ANSWER. One way to be more active as a Catholic lay person is to perform some lay ministry for the Church, such as catechist, Eucharistic minister, and the like.
Question 9. What if I don't have the time or the inclination to do that sort of thing? Does that mean I don't have an apostolate or ministry?
ANSWER. We laity do have some Churchly ministries open to us. But most of us do not have the time or inclination to participate in these ministries. But the normal lay apostolate is not doing these kinds of ministries. Instead, it involves redeeming and sanctifying the environments we naturally occupy - family, job, culture, politics, etc. Doing this is what makes us active lay apostles, more than anything else.
Question 10. What about spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gives freely? What if we feel led by God to use charisms?
ANSWER. The Church encourages charisms and charismatic renewal among the laity. She asks only that we be open to the Church's own charism of discerning the value of such charisms, because the work of the Holy Spirit is best fostered in communion with the Church.
Next week: Questions 11, 12, and 13 in the Third Set of Questions.