Summary of Chapter IV,
“The Church”, Vatican II
There are certain things that are particular to the laity which are peculiar to their mission and situation. The clerics understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and “recognize their services and charismatic gifts” For all must practice the truth in love and grow in Christ.
The term “laity” means all the Faithful except those in Holy Orders and those in a religious state as sanctioned by the Church. By baptism the laity share in the one body with Christ. They share in the kingly, priestly, and prophetic functions of Christ.
The vocation of the laity in seeking the Kingdom of God is by engaging in temporal affairs and order those affairs to the plan of God. The laity live in the world in the work and in their professions. The laity work in the world in the social and family life. They become a visible testimony of Christ especially when they live exemplary lives in faith, hope and charity. It is the laity’s special task to illumine and organize the affairs of the world that is always starts out, develops, and persists in accord with Christ’s mind. Holy Church is divinely structured and governed by a wonderful diversity.
The People of God is one and share in One Lord, one faith, one baptism. They share in one undivided charity. In Christ, the Church has no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex.
All are called to sanctity and all have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God. It is equality in the building up of the Body of Christ. The priests minister to the people. The Faithful should lend their cooperative assistance to their pastors. This diversity of graces are the work of the One Holy Spirit.
By Divine humility, Our Lord is the brother of the Laity who came not to be served but to serve. Some are called to a duty by Christ while we all are called by grace to be a Christian on the race to salvation.
The Laity are all members of the Body of Christ under One Head and are all called to “expend their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification.”
“The lay apostolate … is a participation in the saving mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation, all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself.” Through the Holy Sacraments (especially the Holy Eucharist) the charity toward God is communicated and nourished and toward man which is the soul of the entire apostolate. It is only through the laity that certain places and circumstances where the Church is present and operative as the salt of the earth.
Via the gifts bestowed on each person, he or she becomes the witness and living instrument of the Church. Further, “laymen have the capacity to be deputed by the hierarchy to exercise certain church functions for a spiritual purpose.” By their works and abilities and the needs of the time, the Laity zealously participate in the saving work of the Church.
The High Priest wills that His witness and work in the Laity to; and “He vivifies them to His Spirit and unceasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.” “For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.”
For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".
Christ the Great Prophet fulfills his office not only through the hierarchy but through laity with the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, through their gifts, the understanding of the Faith, so that the power of the Gospel might shine through their lives.
When the Faithful courageously join their faith with a life springing from Faith, Christ not only is proclaimed by the Word but also by example in the daily lives of the Laity.
“For where Christianity pervades the entire mode of family life, and gradually transforms it, one will find there both the practice and an excellent school of the lay apostolate. In such a home husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children.”
In the midst of worldly cares, the Laity evangelize. It is their work to spread the Word, yet the Laity are to devote their lives to study revealed truth and let them ask God for wisdom through prayer and participation in the Sacramental life.
Christ by His death and Resurrection have subject all powers to Himself in the Father. Christ has communicated this Royal power to His disciples, “that they might be constituted in royal freedom and that by true penance and a holy life they might conquer the reign of sin in themselves.”
“…the Lord wishes to spread His kingdom also by means of the laity, namely, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace .”
The Laity must understand the entire creation and its role in its “harmonious praise of God.” They must assist each other toward holier lives by permeating Christ in everything they do. “. . . let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word. May the goods of this world be more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom. In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light.”
The Laity are called to change the customs and conditions of the world if such are subject to sin, so that actions may be conformed to justice and favor the practice of virtue, imbuing all activity with moral values; and visibly open the doors of the Church so that the world may see it and the message of peace.
“Because of the very economy of salvation the faithful should learn how to distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society. Let them strive to reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God's dominion. “
“. . . that ominous doctrine which attempts to build a society with no regard whatever for religion, and which attacks and destroys the religious liberty of its citizens, is rightly to be rejected.”
So too, should the Laity “as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. “ The hierarchy too should use the Laity in the service of the Church. “Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them [the Shepherds of the Church] in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.(8*) However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city.”
“Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits.(212) They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peace makers—whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed.(213) In a word, ‘Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.’”