In my last article I reflected on God’s plan for each of our lives. God’s plan finds expression through our personal vocation. A vocation, though personal, is not exclusively for the benefit and sanctification of the individual, but also for the good of the Church and ultimately for the glory of God. Each Christian community, therefore, beginning with the family, and certainly including the parish and diocese, ought to actively foster a climate and culture in which all vocations are valued, esteemed and welcomed. There ought to be regular prayer and encouragement for young people to help them remain open to discerning and responding generously to their vocation. The cultivation and promotion of vocations is the responsibility of the whole Church.
Just as there are many gifts, there are a variety of Christian vocations within the rich communion of the Church. All are rooted in our Baptism. The mission proper to the lay vocation is to remain in the world and to seek the Kingdom of God by transforming the secular world from within and ordering it according to God’s plan as revealed fully in Christ. Lay members of the Church act as leaven in the world through their Christian witness and influence on such spheres as family life, and the worlds of labor, business, politics, education, media and culture. The lay vocation is to bring Christ to the world and bring the world to Christ.
Though this secular quality of direct engagement with the world is what is distinctive of the lay vocation, some lay men and women dedicate themselves to service within the Church itself in various forms of lay leadership or lay ecclesial ministry. This form of collaboration with the pastors of the Church continues to bear great fruit in its own right.
Most members of the lay faithful live their vocation in the world as married persons. They are called to a special sacrament of the Church that helps them live this high calling and pursue holiness. The Sacrament of Matrimony unites a Christian man and woman in a sacred covenant that is lifelong, faithful and fruitful and which becomes the foundation for the Christian family. Referring to the family as the domestic church, Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church repeatedly affirm the importance of family life and the duties of parents as the first educators of their children in the faith. “It is in the bosom of the family that parents are by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.” (LG 11, CCC 1656).
Among members of the lay faithful, there are also many single persons. These remain single for a variety of reasons, sometimes not of their own choosing. Many live their lives, however, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. They contribute their unique gifts and perspectives and thereby enrich many. These men and women ought to find welcome and their rightful place in the home and family of the Church. As John Paul II wrote, “No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially for those who ‘labor and are heavy laden.’” (Familiaris Consortio, 85).
To be continued ...