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Who are the Laity?

October 31, 2013
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This post comes to us from Leanna Cappiello, a former Salt + Light intern, turned blogger and storyteller. This post was first published online by The Catholic Register. You can read Leanna's blog Curious Catholic, on The Catholic Register's website.
Before Vatican II, the laity served a passive role in the Church behind ordained religious figures such as priests, sisters and brothers. But post-Vatican II much has changed. As recounted in the book The Many Marks of the Church, in response to a dismissive, rhetorical question “The Laity? Who are they?” posed by a Vatican official, John Henry Newman replied, “The Church would look rather silly without them.”
In addition to the clergy, parishioners and lay members of the Church have a responsibility to voice the Good News to the world. In The Church Alive series by Salt and Light Media, Cheridan Sanders summarizes Fr. Julian Fernando, as saying, “Priests are responsible for the Church, and lay people are responsible for the world.”
Not everyone can be a priest or a religious sister. Most people are called to a different sort of ministry within the same mission of the Church. Lay men and women have a job that clergy can't do. Priests, sisters and monks may wear beautiful physical signs of their devotion (a collar, a habit, etc.) that are outward signs of hope for many. But ordinary men and women also have an extraordinary purpose — to evangelize face to face, bearing witness in everyday life.
In the theatre, you hear the phrase, “there are no small parts.” Artists are aware there is more than one type of artistry, or one way to accomplish something. A performer knows he is nothing without a writer, other actors and a stage manager’s cue to enter the stage. Likewise, the director knows she is nothing without the props, costume and set designers to bring their vision to reality. Everyone is dependent upon, and inspired by, everyoneelse’s roles and duties.
The Church, like the theatre, is designed so that many hands can work effectively toward the same goal. We all have different roles that play to our strengths and we are all equipped with unique gifts. At the end of the day, we are collaborating with each other, and with God, to show the world a taste of what heaven could look like here on Earth.
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(CNS Photo / Nancy Phelan Wiechec)
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