The Secular Franciscan Order - An Appropriate Lay Vocation

The Church provides a means to visibly and vigorously participate in Christ's mission to invite every man and women into a deep and personal relationship with God.

Identity and Affiliation

By Fr. Michael Higgins, TOR

From: Koinonia, 2002, N. 3

Koinonia is a publication of:

The Conference of General Spiritual Assistants of the Secular Franciscan Order and is published in Rome.

Introduction

In a real and practical sense it is to be the leaven of faith for people, the salt of the earth, the light and soul of the world. It is at one and the same time in the world and for the world. That is, the Church is to be actively involved in transforming the world and the world order as it provides a locus for the sacrament for salvation. In this process it is to use all the means at its disposal to continue the outreach and mission of the Savior.

The starting point of becoming coworkers with Christ and the Church is with the reception of the sacrament of baptism. [1] This sacrament provides a challenge to every Christian to live and witness to the salvific presence of Christ with love, energy and conviction. It is clear that women and men on fire with the love of God are the most efficacious instruments of the transforming ministry of the Church. The paradox is that as one gives him or herself to God through active participation with the mission of the Church of spreading the Kingdom of God one finds life and meaning.

Some live this baptismal call through a dedication to God in religious vows and an embrace of a life guided by prayer and works of mercy. The consecrated life is a separation from the secular order which allows religious to be inserted ever more deeply into the framework of human life as ministers of the faith. Religious vocation allows religious to be public representatives of the Church as they witness to the saving power of Christ in the vowed life. Even those religious dedicated to the enclosure and contemplation are involved in the currents of the world in a deep and tangible way through their life and prayer.

On the other hand, the lay person, whether married or single, is not only in the world and for the world but also of the world. That is, he or she is inserted into the very fabric of human existence and society on every level. In a sense this can be called the "secular" dimension of the lay state. The role and challenge of the lay person is to live fully in this situation. Quoting section 31 of the Dogmatic

Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will.... It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and may be to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer. [2]

Recently, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this teaching when he addressed the bishops of the Antilles at the end of their ad limina visit to the Holy See. He stated that the laity have an important role to play in the Church and stated that, the premier place of the exercise of the lay vocation is in the world of economic, social, political and cultural realities. It is in this world that lay people are called to live their baptismal vocation... [3]

This is what the lay vocation is all about, it is a way of responding the challenge of baptism, the challenge of living and spreading the gospel in the midst of world. The Catechism goes further by stating that the "initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life." [4]

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