The Way of St. Vincent Is Our Way. 8. The laity, light of the world

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoCharismLeave a Comment

Author: Miguel Pérez Flores, C.M. & Antonino Orcajo, C.M. · Translator: Charles T. Plock, C.M.. · Year of first publication: 1986.
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8. The laity, light of the world

Through Jesus the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:16

The purpose of the Congregation of the Mission is to follow Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor. This purpose is achieved when, faithful to Saint Vincent, the members, individually and collectively … help the laity in their formation and lead them to a fuller participation in the evangelization of the poor.
Constitutions, 1, 3

1. The Laity Are in the Heart of the World

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 not only the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but 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, suffering. The more Gospel-inspired lay people there are engaged in these realities and clearly involved in them, the more these realities will be at the service of the Kingdom of God and, therefore, of salvation in Jesus Christ.1

2. The Secret of Providence

Saint Vincent was a force on behalf of the lay apostolate. He perceived anew the plan of God. He expressed his thoughts to the Daughters of Charity:

For the last 800 years, women have filled no public roles in the Church. Before that period there were deaconesses who occupied themselves with organizing women in the church and instructing them in the ceremonies that they would be using. But … in the time of Charlemagne, by a secret disposition of Providence, the Church stopped doing this and your gender was left deprived of every occupation. This same Providence now directs itself to you to supply what is needed for the purpose of caring for the poor sick in the hospital. Some women responded to God’s plans, a little later, others joined the original group. God asked them to serve as mothers for abandoned children, heads of hospitals, dispensers of alms in Paris … These good women have responded in each case with vigor and resoluteness, by the grace of God.2

3. Agents of Evangelization of the Poor

The field of the lay apostolate is extensive. That which the Congregation ought to contribute is a concern for the poor, in order that they may be served and evangelized in a credible manner, especially when works of charity are being done.

So that the exercise of such charity may rise above any deficiencies in fact or in appearance, certain fundamentals must be observed. Thus, attention is to be paid to the image of God in which our neighbor has been created, and also to Christ the Lord to whom is really offered whatever is given to a needy person. The freedom and dignity of the person being helped should be respected with the utmost delicacy, and the purity of one’s charitable intentions should not be stained by a quest for personal advantage … the demands of justice should first be satisfied … so that not only the effects but also the causes of various problems might be removed. Therefore, the laity should hold in high esteem and, according to their ability, aid works of charity and projects for social assistance, whether public or private, including international programs whereby effective help is given to needy individuals and peoples. In so doing, they should cooperate with all people of good will.3

  • Does the grace of priesthood help me to understand, value and seek the help of the laity in my apostolic work?
  • Do the lay people with whom I minister see me as someone who is committed to make them participants in the evangelization of the poor?


God our Father, you send the power of the Gospel into the world as a life-giving leaven. Fill us, whom you call to live in the midst of the world and its concerns, with the Spirit of Jesus and help us by our own work on earth to build up your eternal kingdom. We pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.4

  1. Evangelii Nuntiandi, December 8, 1975, 70.
  2. Dialogue With the Ladies of Charity, July 11, 1657, O.C., x, 953.
  3. Apostolicam Actuositatem, November 18, 1965, 8.
  4. Prayer from the Votive Mass for the Laity.

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