How Lay Catholics Can Serve the Church in the Secular World
Undoubtedly, for some, getting a degree in theology is exactly what God wants. They may be destined for the priesthood or for religious life. Or they may be Catholics working towards careers in academia or a lay vocation as a catechist, leading an apostolate or an evangelistic effort.
But realistically, if the entire lay body of the Catholic Church were to dedicate their lives to the study of the Catholic faith at an academic level, we simply would not have time to be faithful to our vocation as lay people. .
It is certainly essential that the laity grow in relationship with Christ and his Church through the frequent reception of the sacraments. It is also important to be an active part of a parish community and to serve it as much as possible. But having a burning passion for the Faith and love of God does not equate to changing one’s life or career.
In other words, the Church would lose if it tried to turn all lay Catholics into aspiring theologians. Doesn’t the Church also need doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, nurses, engineers, social workers, communicators and educators who see their professional field as a territory of mission?
I run a Catholic organization, Direction of Tepeyac, which seeks to reorient the average lay Catholic mind, especially that of lay people in the professional world. We need to start thinking differently about the most effective way we lay people can serve God and his Church.
What if there were more lay Catholics involved in the professional world? Can you imagine how we could influence the world? Catholics are already present everywhere from the most remote corners of society to the highest levels of power. We have Catholics – about 1.3 billion, in fact, but let’s face it: what we don’t have are enough faithful Catholics.
For a very long time, we were wrong about the role of the laity in the Church. Very often, when a lay person experiences an encounter or a re-encounter with Christ, he ends up burning for the Faith. So what are they doing? They go back to the parish and sign up for all the “ministries” they can find. And sometimes they would pitch a tent and camp at the parish. Their first instinct is to close the world and hide in a Catholic bubble. But is this our true vocation as lay people?
Here is an Easter challenge: Consider serving Christ and His Church by taking a leadership role in the secular world. Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said it well: “The true calling of the laity, the authentic vocation of lay Catholic men and women, is to be ambassadors of Christ in the world, living among all others in the secular society, while striving for holiness, sanctifying the world, and witnessing to the gospel wherever they go.
This is our true vocation, boldly expressed in numerous documents of the Second Vatican Council. By virtue of our baptism, every Catholic is called to be a leader. We are called to lead others to Christ!
But this leadership is not meant to be experienced exclusively within the confines of the Catholic faith community. Lay Catholic leaders are to serve as a guiding force that illuminates every aspect of secular society with the truth of the gospel.
For lay Catholics who are also professionals in the world, there is a unique responsibility and a privileged opportunity to influence the world for Christ. Whether they understand it or not, it is not an optional prerogative, but their duty as baptized children of God. They must lead. The concepts of chance or coincidence are not compatible with our Catholic faith.
If God has blessed us with a professional career, then our career is our mission field.
We have seen it before: lukewarm Catholics returning to the Faith and giving up everything to become full-time ministers, aspiring theologians or apologists. But what may not have occurred to them is that our legislative systems, our public health care, the media, our schools and universities are crying out for more faithful lay Catholic leaders. Many lay Catholic professionals still don’t realize that there are institutions and places in society that our beloved priests, even the Pope, cannot influence the way we lay people can.
We live in a suffering world. Some doctors and politicians no longer defend the dignity of all human beings. Some teachers, pastors, and even parents choose to violate the innocence of children in their care. Practices carried out in the name of science continually challenge God’s purposes, making the human person a means rather than an end to His work.
In this post-pandemic world of mass shootings and terrorist attacks, it is time for lay Catholic professionals to seriously consider where they have the most potential to support the mission of the Church, influence culture and serve the common good. .
After all, we cannot all be theologians.