Fifty years ago, as the Second Vatican Council deliberated, it became very clear that the role of the laity needed serious attention and prayerful consideration. The hierarchical leadership of Pope, Bishops, Priests, a few lay theologians and observers realized that the laity, the largest segment of the faithful was not represented in an active or participatory manner. The Decree on the ‘Apostolate of the Laity’ highlighted the dignity and role of lay people in the Church and the world. The baptized laity is a constitutive dimension of the Mystical Body of Christ with special responsibility for family life, evangelization, and the “Christianizing” of the secular world as leaven, conscience, outreach and witness.
It was also noted that the laity has its proper role in the decision-making and administration of the Church, not just as passive recipients but as active collaborators. Even in the sixties the need to recognize in new ways the importance of women in the Church was recognized.
The essential feature of the layperson’s role is the vocation to bring the spirit of Christ into the arenas of secular life from within, i.e., into the family, work and profession, trade and commerce, politics and government, mass media, science and culture, national and international relations.
One of the common misunderstandings of the role of the laity is to restrict the lay apostolate to cooperation with the clergy in what is called “inner-Church affairs”. St John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation ChristifidelesLaici, bases the lay apostolate on the mystery of the Church: “I am the vine and you are the branches” (Jn 15:5; CL 20). The lay people are sharers in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly mission of Jesus Christ (CL 29). A secular character is peculiar to the laity. So, this great Pope stated: “Thus for the lay faithful, to be present and active in the world is not only an anthropological and sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological reality as well” (CL 15). He considered the lay faithful primarily as called to evangelize the secular order.
Catholic Sabha, Udupi Pradesh ® under the ideals of Service, Sacrifice and Unity has been striving to realize the noble ideals set by the Church. It is high time that its gaze is directed towards the outer secular world. It must take leadership in the outer world and lead the society with the Gospel ideals of peace, equality and harmony. May the Lord grant the Catholic Sabha strength and courage to carry out its mission.
Long live the Catholic Sabha!
Bishop of Udupi