The Holy Father and Catholic clergy are the natural focal points of the Church for believers and non-believers, faithful and dissident, friend and foe, alike. But the laity is where the Church’s real force resides, the force of numbers, if nothing else. Solidarity with our clergy and with each other is so vital for the Church and so key in determining her place in the world.
The clergy can have only so much impact upon the secular world. It is we, the laity, who either bring or don’t bring the faith into the secular world and the public square. It is we who either confront or cower before her opponents. As I often say, we are the front line troops–that is our vocation. The clergy are our officers, and we need them. But they and the Church need us and demand great things of us. We should strive to fulfill the responsibilities of the lay vocation with salutary pride, honor, courage and steadfastness, as well as with charity and joy.
Laurence England of the blog, That the Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill, has posted a wonderful call to arms to the Catholic laity of Britain. I think Catholic laity around the world should take it to heart as well. Here’s an excerpt (with my emphases):
… [We] need to step out of the ghetto and to wear our Catholic faith on our sleeves. It is a rallying call. Peter has come to strengthen the brethren and we indeed are strengthened! We have to stop hiding our light under a bushell. We have to be that city upon the hill that burns brightly with the light of Christ, so that all men may see it, because without the Laity, the Church simply would cease to exist.
It is easy for the secularists and the militant atheists to attack the Pope, Priests and Bishops because they have years, centuries even, of anti-Catholic sentiment to draw upon, but it is the Laity who give the Church the greatest credibility and we are harder to attack. Ultimately, the huge crowds showing our support for the Holy Father lend the Pope, the Church and Her mission a measure of public credibility that alone, by itself the Papacy and the Hierarchy of the Church cannot give Her.
While refraining from crying out, “We are the Church”, there is a sense in which the huge crowds testify to our hugely important role in bearing witness to Christ and His Church. Militant atheists despise the Pope and can claim many things about him and throw calumny against him and without too much reproach, for he is a soft target, but Dawkins cannot attack us so easily, for fear of appearing bigoted to those who also share his views. The coverage of the Pope meeting the Queen and many others will have irritated these atheists, but watching us praying, faithfully, before the Blessed Sacrament will have really and truly have got under his skin. It is our Faith that needs to be relit and placed upon the hill for the World to see. It is to us that the Holy Father entrusts the visible proclamation of the Gospel in our everyday lives, in our work, our words, our speech, our actions and our interaction with others, because the Priesthood and the Hierarchy carry different associations in terms of the perception of those who do not believe. It is we, the Laity, who are the greatest threat to the vicious rise of atheism in this country!