The Laity: Out of the Pews and Into the Trenches

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By Ben Duphiney, Catholic University of America

The Second Vatican Council strengthened and clarified the true meaning of universal holiness. Just as clergy and the ordained are called to a life modeled by Christ, so are the laity. The mission of the laity is to dive into in the trenches and reach those who the priests and religious cannot reach. Some could argue that their vocation is more important for spreading the Gospel. But how was this call redefined? At the time, for some, this was revolutionary and unconventional. This universal call to holiness included the laity and showed that any mission, plumber or CEO, can bring glory to God and spread the Gospel.

The vocation of the laity is to be lived “day by day” and is a “gradual process.”[1] As the “father and mother…receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, the grace and the ministry of the Christian education of their children, before whom they bear witness…”[2] The fruit of marriage, children, begin growing in faith in their own homes through the mission of the parents. This goes beyond Catholic education and weekly Mass; having parents as guides for the faith is essential for growing in faith and holiness.

With children being raised in the home by their parents as models, “schools and Catholic universities”[3] are essential as well; not only is this essential for the children, but for the mission and vocation of the laity working in these institutions. The building and growth of institutions with Catholic values add a place where vocations can flourish; anyone working can bring their God-given talent and use it.

The vocation of the laity deepens with a mission. These missions, after responding to the call, can range anywhere from janitor to principal. These specific missions allow for diversity of vocations to thrive. The imagery of the Body of Christ is essential to understand this. Just as the legs and brain differ in jobs, both are essential to the living body here on earth; “As all members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the Faithful in Christ.”[4] As different parts of the body, the laity are called to use their talents and mission in their everyday life. As we discussed in class, the lay are called to spread this in the most mundane activities of life and what the secular world have to offer.

The laity have an apostolate, a fundamental mission of the Church; they are essential for each parish and family. “All activities of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal (spreading the Kingdom of Christ) is called the apostolate.”[5] Their participation in parish ministry is essential for the growth of the Church. Beyond the pews, the laity are called to go out into the world and evangelize. “Young persons exert very important influence in modern society” [6] therefore should use that to the glory of God, becoming the “light of the world.”[7] In a time where people are quickly turning away from the Church, a trend emerging from secularism, abuse crises, and liberalism, the mission and vocation of the laity is more important than ever. The lay are the soldiers of our faith, as they get down in the dirt and roll up their sleeves to spread the message of Jesus.

Just as the laity are called to evangelize and spread the Gospel, they are called in a deeper way to suffer with Christ. There are many empty promises outside the walls of the Church and the laity are called to bring Christ into the streets and offices. The laity are called to martyrdom and experience this in a very real and intimidating way. They face rejection and mockery each day outside of the “bubble” of the Church. Just as Christ suffered this way, so do the laity; they are called to join Christ in His suffering, all to bring glory to God. To renew and “refuel”, the laity are called to participate in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

Through constant renewal, the laity are the soldiers on the ground. Their role becomes more important each day, as the world continues to turn away from God. The laity need to realize that their mission is essential for the Church and they need not be afraid. Their mission is to spread the kingdom of Christ here on earth, reaching beyond the pews and onto the streets and into the trenches.


[1] Christifideles Laici Ch. V, 58

[2] CL 62

[3] CL 62

[4] CL Ch. II, 20 (1 Cor. 12:12)

[5] Apostolicam Actuositatem 2

[6] AA 12

[7] AA 13

One Response

  1. The laity is not only important for evangelizing in the secular world, but also for being a light in the world through personal sanctification. This sanctification is beyond the boundaries of clergy and laity, and is equal opportunity because it is conferred by humility toward God (see 1Peter 5:5-7 and James 4:4-10). “You shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). See also Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:25-27, 11:28-30, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalms 37:7, 55:22, Isaiah 26:3-4, 55:7-9, Galatians 5:22-23, and John 6:63.

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