CIMAGALAOUR beloved bishops have declared 2014 as the Year of the Laity. I suppose it is part of the 9-year preparation, a novena of sorts, for the celebration of the fifth centennial of the Christianization of our country in 2021. Remember that Magellan discovered our country and introduced Christianity on March 16, 1521, as that naughty Yoyoy Villame ditty had immortalized.
In their pastoral letter of exhortation, they appeal to the laity to be more aware of their duty and responsibility in the Church and in our country. The bishops wish that the laity to be consistent to their faith, translating it from belief to action, from something personal to something social and collective, especially in the area of politics.
Let’s hope and pray that this initiative acquires more meat and structure, gains foothold and traction, and runs far and wide. It should not just be a good idea, a beautiful letter. It has to be a living reality, widely and immediately felt, and concretely acted out.
Many things need to be done, many concepts to be clarified, programs to be acted on, and goals to be pursued. Even the very concept of laity is not clear to many people, including those who consider themselves very Catholic. So, imagine what idea they have about the responsibilities attached to their status.
While every believer who is baptized is called a faithful in the Church and therefore enjoys a basic equality with everyone else in terms of dignity and responsibility in the Church, there is also a functional diversity that distinguishes them into clergy on the hand, and laity on the other, with the consecrated religious men and women comprising as a third division.
There should be no question about who is higher or lower in the Church. The hierarchical structure of the Church is not meant to elicit that attitude but rather to put in place and to keep the vitality of the Church as animated by the Holy Spirit himself.
Everyone has to be aware that, whether cleric or lay, he is part of an organic body that has dimensions both visible and invisible, material and spiritual, human and divine. He has to realize that the Church is also in his own hands. He has to learn to work in tandem with others.
All faithful are conformed to Christ in baptism. Those ordained to the priesthood are conformed to Christ in a more specific way, that is, to Christ as head of the Church.
Yes, they enjoy a certain authority over others, but that authority is precisely meant to serve the others. They preach, administer the sacraments, etc. Their power should not be understood as a claim of entitlement. On the contrary, priests should feel like rags for the lay faithful to step on softly on their earthly pilgrimage.
But the laity has a great responsibility too in the Church, and especially in the world, since they have to bring Christ, his spirit, his teaching into the world, transforming it to make it more human, more Christian, more in accord with the will and plan of God for it.
Thus, they should never feel like secondary citizens in the Church. They have to stop acting like little, uneducated kids, or mere amateurs. They have to earnestly aim to be mature Christians, aware and alert to do their duties. This truth has to be pounded on their heads more often, because they tend to get contented with an idea of maturity that is simply temporal.
Their faith has to be a matter of conviction, guiding them in their thoughts, words and actuations, whether in private or in public, and in every level and aspect of life. To achieve this, they have to learn to pray, to spend time conversing with God, to study thoroughly the doctrine of our faith, develop the virtues, avail of the sacraments, etc.
They have to burn with desire for holiness and with apostolic zeal, such that wherever they are, they would always be aware and feel urged to be holy and to be apostolically concerned with everyone else.
Let’s hope that we can make use and activate all structures and mechanisms to enable the laity actualize their potentials. We have to start with the individual, then the families, schools, parishes, offices, etc.
It’s good to note that there are now many groups with different charisms that are working to make everyone an authentic Christian. Let’s hope that little by little, we can see a transformation, a new spring in the world of politics, entertainment, business, etc.