Every Christian person, by virtue of their Baptism, is called to participation in the life of the Church. This participation sometimes may take the form of a vocation to the priesthood or to religious life. For those not called in that particular way, we have both the right and the duty to participation in the lay apostolate.
“Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it.” (CCC 900)
The lay apostolate does not mean that lay people should do everything in the Church, and it certainly isn’t a call to do the things that are reserved to a priest. The ministry of the priesthood is a ministry to the baptized faithful; the lay apostolate is a ministry to the greater society. Sometimes the laity’s ministry includes service to their parish, in roles that are appropriate to their state in life. Often, the laity serve in many ways outside of their parish Church, in social ministries. Whatever the particular ministry is, it must always be in conformity with the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.
“Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity ‘to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.’ (CCC 2442)
There are many opportunities in your parish for lay people to serve both within the appropriate ministries of the Church, as well as social outreach ministries. Often, you just need to call and find out where help is needed. Are you involved in your parish? One aspect of our baptismal call is that of service, in cooperation with the ministry of the Church. How do you respond to that call?
A great motet for today’s Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul!
Tu es Petrus
et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam
et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.
Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum.
You are Peter,
And upon this Rock I will build My Church:
and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
“The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ – the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, ‘until he comes.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076).
We speak about Pentecost as the beginning of the Church, but do we really know what we mean when we are saying that? Often our “great commission” is quoted, that we need to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. Yet the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost is not only for the purpose of evangelizing non-Christians. The Holy Spirit helps us experience that invisible heavenly reality through the Sacraments and other sacramental signs. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand how Christ is acting through the Church, through her Sacraments, in this time when we can’t physically see him.
“In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to a new age. He acts through the sacraments, in what the common Tradition of the East and West calls the ‘sacramental economy’; this is the communication (or ‘dispensation’) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s sacramental liturgy.” (CCC 1076).
Read this carefully. Christ acts through the Church. It is through the Church’s liturgy that we receiving the “fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery” (the saving work he did for us on the Cross). The sacraments, signs and symbols of heavenly realities, were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church.
As we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost, and remember our own reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand how he is working through the Church and making Christ present to us at each and every Mass.
May is known as the month of Mary. While Mother’s Day is not a religious holiday, but a secular observance, today we show appreciation for both our earthly mothers and Mary, who is our heavenly mother.
One of the titles for Mary is Mother of the Church. We give her this name because, by being the mother of Christ, we consider her also to be the mother of all of those who are members of Christ’s body. We learn about this further in both the Catechism (no. 963) and in the dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium (one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, no. 53):
“The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. (…)She is the mother of the members of Christ, having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head. (…) The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.”
Let us today honor both our earthly mothers, for their response of “yes” to God in their gift of life to us, and also honor Mary the Mother of the Church for her example of faith in God and gift of life to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, pray for us!
And to my awesome earthly mother: I love you so much, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!!