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February 16, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 33

The expanding responsibilities of the Laity

      The Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici shows how the laity's new role in the Church, evangelization and striving for personal holiness has evolved to give the lay role a higher status in the Church. But with this privilege comes more responsibility as Dr. Joseph Bagiackas summarizes in his expert analysis of the Pope's writings. For the seventh installment, dealing with Chapter Two and the Definition of the Church and the Lay Person's place in this "communion," click on 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 seventh installment of Christifideles Laici: Chapter Two: 6. Definition of the Church, 7. Chruch Ministries open to the 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

seventh installment:

Chapter Two: Definition of the Church and ministries open to the Laity

The Church was defined in many ways at Vatican II. In a statement that confused the laity, Pope Paul VI used to say, "The Church is a mystery." By "mystery," he did not mean something human impossible to understand, such as how God is Three in One. Neither did he mean some puzzle that could be solved, like a murder mystery. Instead, in his statement, the word mystery refers to something that can be described in many ways that are all true, but there is always more that can be said. The nature of the Church is "always open to greater exploration," said Pope Paul VI.

     This was how Vatican II discussed the nature of the Church. The Church was called a "sacrament," "the People of God," "the Body of Christ," and "a communion." Other Scriptural images were used by the council, such as bride, household, vine, and temple. All of these descriptions assumed the traditional institutional definition of the Church - the community which believes the same faith, is joined in the same sacraments, and is under the same pastors, especially the Pope.

     In Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II highlighted the council's idea of the Church as "communion." Communion, meaning close spiritual community, refers to the Church as a communion with God, and also a communion with other Catholics. Communion is a good word to describe the Church because all of the other ways the Church was described at Vatican II - sacrament, body, People of God, vine, bride, temple, and so on - can be united in this notion.

     The Church, says the Pope, is an "organic communion." Thus, like any community, different members have different functions, each complementing the others. It is the Holy Spirit Who unifies the various members into one body.

     Within the body of Christ, there are various ministries. The sacrament of Holy Orders confers an office which is of a different quality than ministries which can be performed by lay persons. However, there are many ministries and offices which pastors can confer on the laity, based on the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Among these are lector, acolyte, extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist, and other liturgical functions. In addition, laity perform teaching functions and have pastoral care in cases of need.

Next week: Chapter Two: The Lay Apostolate, Charisms, Parish and Free Associations in the Church.


"Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death!"

Proverbs 14: 12

Medjugorje Monthly Message for January 25th

      Dear children! Today again I call all of you to prayer. Only with prayer, dear children, will your heart change, become better, and be more sensitive to the Word of God. Little children, do not permit satan to pull you apart and to do with you what he wants. I call you to be responsible and determined and to consecrate each day to God in prayer. May Holy Mass, little children, not be a habit for you, but life. By living Holy Mass each day, you will feel the need for holiness and you will grow in holiness. I am close to you and intercede before God for each of you, so that He may give you strength to change your heart. Thank you for having responded to my call! For more on Medjugorje, click on MEDJUGORJE

683 and counting, hoping and praying...

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant



     BEIJING (CWN) - A delegation of US religious leaders in China to look into religious freedom and persecution in the country met with President Jiang Zemin on Thursday.

      "This is a historic first meeting of an American delegation of religious leaders with President Jiang Zemin," Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal to Conscience Foundation said in a statement. The other two members of the delegation are the Rev. Don Argue of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark. Zemin invited President Bill Clinton to send the delegation to Communist China during a visit to the US last year in an attempt to disprove allegations of persecution in the country.

      Some observers have said the trip is of questionable value since the three men will be chaperoned to staged events and meetings with approved representatives of the country's major religions. "It's part of an attempt by the two governments to shift the question of human rights from the political agenda to the diplomatic agenda," said Robbie Barnett, director of the London-based Tibet Information Network.

      The Communist government requires all Christians to belong to state-controlled patriotic associations which eschew all connections to foreign groups, including the Vatican. The Catholic association allows the government to appoint its bishops and determine doctrine, ignoring the authority of the Pope and the Universal Church.

      Meanwhile in Rome, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, has told reporters that the Holy See is hoping for progress toward an agreement with the government of China.

      At a celebration hosted by the Italian ambassador to the Holy See, marking the anniversary of the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the cardinal spoke with journalists, and said the Church is "hopeful" that relations with China will improve.

      Cardinal Sodano said it would be a positive sign if China reacted favorably to a Vatican offer to send a delegation from the Holy See to Beijing. To date there has been no response to that Vatican suggestion.

      The cardinal also expressed hope that changes in China would lead to greater religious freedom for Catholics. "A modern state should not interfere in its citizens' choices of religion," he said.


     NEW YORK (CWN) - A poll of young Catholics by sociologists from Catholic and non-Catholic colleges released on Friday said most hold the Church's teachings on the sacraments as non-negotiable but differ when it comes to other popular issues of the day.

      The survey of 701 post-baby boom Catholics, taken by Dean Hoge and William Dinges of Catholic University of America, Sister Mary Johnson of Emmanuel College in Boston, and Juan Gonzalez of California State University, Hayward, asked them what they felt was non-negotiable about their faith. Sixty five percent said God's presence in the sacraments is essential to Catholic belief, while 58 percent said Christ's presence in the Eucharist. But, only 17 percent said it is essential that only men can be priests and 27 percent that they remain celibate. Another 25 percent considered a male priesthood -- and a celibate one -- to be "important" but not essential.

      The younger generation also sees little difference between their faith and other Christian denominations. Forty-eight percent said that in their main beliefs, today's Catholics are essentially no different from Protestants. Half said the Catholic Church is no more faithful to the will of Christ than other Christian churches.

      One of the reasons for this seemingly lack of faith is the influences of youth media and the misconception of the public as to the dangers. The Hauppage school superintendent came under fire on Thursday after he yanked three teen magazines from the middle school library's shelves because they contained sexual content.

      Paul Lochner removed the magazines Seventeen, Teen, and YM after receiving complaints from parents that articles on condom use and other sexual activity was inappropriate for sixth-grade students. "We have a right and an obligation as educators to protect the children from sexual material that we deem to be age-inappropriate," he said. While most parents supported the change, some parents as well as the ACLU, and a teacher's union are considering legal action.

      The problem, said Monsignor Ellsworth Walden of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, are advice columns like YM's "Ask Anything: the Lowdown on Life, Sex and Your Bod." They "convey the attitude that sex among teen-agers is perfectly normal," said the priest, who mobilized parishioners to attend a school board meeting on Thursday that ended with a vote of support for Lochner. "There probably are good articles in there," Monsignor Walden said, "but some of them convey values that are in direct conflict with what we believe."


     VATICAN (CWN) -- During the Jubilee year, 5,000 sanctuaries will be designated, at sites spread across the world's five continents. Pilgrims to these churches will be eligible to receive a plenary indulgence.

      Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, the secretary of the central committee preparing the Jubilee celebrations, made that announcement today as he concluded a preparatory meeting at which organizer began to settle the calendar for the Jubilee year.

      Pope John Paul II will publish a statement explaining the special indulgences, and later a separate document-- a papal bull-- on the wider topic of the Holy Year. The papal bull will set out all of the special observations for the year, which will begin with the solemn opening of the "holy door" of St. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve, 1999. The formal ending of the Holy Year has not yet been set; it may be on Christmas Eve, 2000, or the celebrations may continue until the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2001. In view of the difficulty of accommodating the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who are expected to attend the Jubilee celebrations, there is even some discussion of prolonging the observances until Easter of 2001. Pope John Paul will make the final decision on that question.

      The only foreign travel on the Pope's schedule for the Jubilee year will be a visit to the Holy Land. If circumstances permit, the Holy Father plans to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and to participate in inter-religious events in March and April, 2000. In Rome, the many special celebrations planned for the year will include the World Youth Day in August, the 3rd Encounter for Families, the international retreat for priests, the world day of the sick, and special celebrations for travelers, union leaders, and other groups.

      Bishop Sepe cautioned that while the Jubilee will involve substantial logistical difficulties, the greater danger is that people may lose sight of the spiritual purpose for the celebrations. "To forget the spirit of the faith on the 2,000th anniversary of Christ's birth would be a scandal," he observed.

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The Prayer today, in honor of Presidents Day, is for America:

      Our Father, You chose Mary as the fairest of Your daughters. Holy Spirit, You chose her as Your Spouse. God the Son, You chose her as Your Mother. We put the United States into Mary Immaculate's hands that she may present the country to You, our God. We thank You for the great resources of this land and for the freedom which has been its heritage. Through her intercession, grant us and all nations Your peace. Inspire our president and all the officials of our government to serve us with integrity. Grant us a fruitful economy born of justice and clarity. Amen.

For today and tomorrow's liturgies, click on LITURGY OF THE DAY

MONDAY, February 16, 1998

TUESDAY, February 17, 1998


     There were seven concilors of Florence who founded the Servants of Mary or Servites in 1233. The best known were Saint Buonfiglio dei Monaldi and Saint Alessio de' Falconieri, who served as a lay brother all his life.The other five were also from influential families in Florence and were all members of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through this association, they grew spiritually and longed for something more. Thus, under the direction and advice of their bishop, the majority became priests, forming the Servants of Mary or Servites. They adopted the Rule of Saint Augustine, wore black cassocks and strove to emulate the mendicant friars like the Franciscans and Dominicans. Their Order was officially approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1259; canonically approved by Blessed Pope Benedict XI in 1304; and canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. Their feast is celebrated in Church Liturgy on February 17th. There was also a contemplative order of Servite nuns founded by two penitents of Saint Philip Benezi and a Third Order of nuns dedicating to treating the poor and sick as well as educating children. This was founded by a relative of St. Alessio's, Saint Juliana Falconieri in 1306.

For all other standard features, articles and columns, click on Archives

Click here to return to SECTION ONE or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue.

February 16, 1998 volume 9, no. 33          DAILY CATHOLIC

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