I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you.
The confreres should also devote themselves to motivating and suitably preparing lay people for the pastoral ministries necessary in a Christian community.
The apostolic labor of Saint Vincent de Paul was accomplished in great part through collaboration with the laity. These men and women provided extraordinary support for the promotion of the Saint’s charitable works. Vincent spent much time and effort in the preparation of the laity to carry on works of justice and charity. John Paul II, impressed with the many lay charitable movements inspired by Saint Vincent, wrote:
The vocation of this gentle initiator of social and charitable action continues to inspire his sons and daughters—men and women who give life to his spirit, young people who find in him the key to a meaningful life and who, in a radical way, dedicate themselves to the task of evangelization1.
1. All the Laity Participate in the Mission of the Church
The confraternities of men and women, who received their rules from Saint Vincent, demonstrate our Founder’s great interest in promoting and preparing the laity to take their rightful place in society and the Church. These organizations reveal Vincent’s trust in the diverse spiritual and apostolic gifts of the laity. Vincent, as a man of the Church, was ahead of his times. We can easily imagine him today, putting into practice the following statement of Vatican II:
The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation, all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, and especially by the Eucharist, that love of God and neighbor which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished2.
2. Vincent’s Evangelizing Activity
Our interaction with the laity is outlined for us by the Church. As Vincentians we work with the laity and share with them our own preferential option for the poor:
Lay people, whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world and in charge of the most varied temporal tasks, must for this very reason exercise a very special form of evangelization. Their primary and immediate task is not to establish and develop the ecclesial community—this is the specific role of the pastors—but to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world. Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, and also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, suffering3.
3. Builders of the Kingdom of God
The proclamation of the Kingdom of God as an absolute reality, before which all else is secondary, demands the commitment of the laity. Without their cooperation it becomes impossible to announce the Good News to all:
The more Gospel-inspired lay people there are engaged in these realities, clearly involved in them, competent to promote them and conscious that they must exercise to the fullest their Christian gifts which are often buried and suffocated, the more these realities will be at the service of the Kingdom of God and, therefore, of salvation in Jesus Christ, without in any way losing or sacrificing their human content but rather pointing to a transcendent dimension which is often disregarded4.
- Am I involved in preparing the laity for their ministry?
- Do I animate the laity in their apostolic work?
- Do I attempt to uncover the hidden talents of the laity?
Lord Jesus, you said: “The harvest is great but the laborers are few”. Raise up in your Church men and women committed to the work of evangelization. In this way the work of the clergy will receive its necessary complement and your Kingdom of peace and justice will be established throughout the world. We ask this in your name Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.