Evangelization: The Mission of the Laity
That the lay faithful may fulfil their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.
[…] Often we have given in to the temptation of thinking that committed lay people are those dedicated to the works of the Church and/or the matters of the parish or the diocese, and we have reflected little on how to accompany baptized people in their public and daily life; on how in their daily activities, with the responsibilities they have, they are committed as Christians in public life. Without realizing it, we have generated a lay elite, believing that committed lay people are only those who work in the matters “of priests”, and we have forgotten, overlooked, the believers who very often burn out their hope in the daily struggle to live the faith. These are the situations that clericalism fails to notice, because it is more concerned with dominating spaces than with generating initiatives. Therefore we must recognize that lay people — through their reality, through their identity, for they are immersed in the heart of social, public and political life, participate in cultural forms that are constantly generated — need new forms of organization and of celebration of the faith. The current pace is so different (I do not say better or worse) than what we were living 30 years ago! “This challenges us to imagine innovative spaces and possibilities for prayer and communion which are more attractive and meaningful for city dwellers” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 73).
It is illogical and therefore impossible to think that we as pastors should have the monopoly on solutions for the multitude of challenges that contemporary life presents us. On the contrary, we must be on the side of our people, accompanying them in their search and encouraging the imagination capable of responding to the current set of problems. We must do this by discerning with our people and never for our people or without our people. As St Ignatius would say, “in line with the necessities of place, time and person”. In other words, not uniformly. We cannot give general directives in order to organize the People of God within its public life. Inculturation is a process that we pastors are called to inspire, encouraging people to live their faith where and with whom they are. Inculturation is learning to discover how a determinate portion of the people today, in the historical here and now, live, celebrate and proclaim their faith. With a particular identity and on the basis of the problems that must be faced, as well as with all the reasons they have to rejoice. Inculturation is the work of artisans and not of a factory with a production line dedicated to “manufacturing Christian worlds or spaces”.
There are two memories that should be asked to be safeguarded in our people. The memory of Jesus Christ and the memory of our forebears. The faith we have received was a gift that came to us in many cases from the hands of our mothers, from our grandmothers. They were the living memory of Jesus Christ within our homes. It was in the silence of family life that most of us learned to pray, to love, to live the faith. It was within family life, which then took on the shape of parish, school, community, that the faith came into our life and became flesh. It was this simple faith that accompanied us often in the many vicissitudes of the journey. To lose our memory is to uproot ourselves from where we came and therefore is also not even knowing where we are going. This is fundamental, when we uproot a lay person from his faith, from that of his origins; when we uproot him from the faithful Holy People of God, we uproot him from his baptismal identity and thus we deprive him of the grace of the Holy Spirit. The same happens to us when we uproot ourselves as pastors from our people, we become lost. Our role, our joy, a pastor’s joy, lies precisely in helping and in encouraging, as many have done before us: mothers, grandmothers and fathers, history’s real protagonists. Not through our concession of good will, but by right and actual statute. Lay people are part of the faithful Holy People of God and thus are the protagonists of the Church and of the world; we are called to serve them, not to be served by them. […]
LETTER TO CARDINAL MARC OUELLET
PRESIDENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR LATIN AMERICA
19 March 2016
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