Laity and Mission


When our general chapter reconvened after visiting with Pope Francis on Monday we explored our mission with the laity. Our mission is “with” the laity. As a religious community our mission is incomplete without them.

“What’s your experience working with the laity?” That question yielded a rich response from members of my community from all parts of the world. Their life experience is different than ours, their holiness often deeper than ours, so we need to learn from them. We need to develop a mechanism to gather their wisdom and establish ways to work together.

During the chapter we had an excellent presentation on continuing formation by Fr Amedeo Cencini, who called “docility”, the willingness to be taught, the key to grow daily in life. Life in all its shapes and forms teaches us, day by day. I wonder if we need a mutual “docility” to create the best relationship between us and the laity.

If the present sexual abuse crisis in the church brings about anything good, it should lead to a greater docility in the future– a docility among church leaders and ministers to be taught and a docility among laypeople to offer their wisdom and experience to the church at all levels.

As I waited for the pope to enter the Clementine Hall in the Vatican on Monday, I took a picture of the large painting beside me of Jesus inviting his disciples, Peter, James and John and the others, to follow him to Jerusalem.(above) Mark’s gospel in recent Sundays says the disciples did not understand what that invitation meant. Neither do we.

But they learned, together, painfully, never completely. The gift of the Spirit made them docile.
Come, Holy Spirit, form us into a docile church.

2 thoughts on “Laity and Mission

  1. Harry Warren

    You could never be accused of being ‘docile’, Fr Victor. You have always been the most curious to learn all things that can aid you and bringing your message to us. Thank you for that grace. Harry

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  2. Lynda Regan

    Thanks for this post, Fr Victor, and for the beautiful work of Art. I’ve been thinking over your thoughts on the Clergy-Laity Partnership for the past couple of days, and I think this morning’s Gospel finally brought it all into focus for me.

    What I believe Fr Cencini was getting at is the frequent contradictions we find in our encounters with God. Or, should I say “apparent” contradictions? For example, the now familiar Cross– an instrument of shame and death– became a Sign of Hope and Life. This is what happens when the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in us unhindered. Thus does “docility,” which many associate with indifference, or timidity, become a Virtue.

    The Blessed Virgin (a young woman, in a culture where women generally remained in the background) perhaps personified timidity, until she encountered the Holy Spirit with an open heart and mind– a “willingness to learn” what God had planned for her. Then her docility became her strength, and our greatest Blessing, in Jesus her Son.

    I am reminded of a scene from my girlhood which played out each Summer as Jerry Lewis spent every Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas, televised across the Nation, in a telethon to raise money for research into Muscular Dystrophy. We would work hard to put on our backyard Carnival, and then hurry down to the local TV affiliate to proudly drop off our earnings (usually only a few bucks); but the TV hosts acted like it was a $Million. Many times, over the course of those telethons, Jerry would look directly into the camera and say: “Don’t give until it hurts. Give until it feels good!” Likewise, scripturally speaking, Jesus saw, not the amount of the Widow’s Mite, but the breadth of her Love.

    Mary willingly gave up all of her personal plans for that quiet life in a home with Joseph, their own children, and maybe someday even grandchildren. She asked a simple question of the Angel Gabriel: “How shall this be?” Then, in an instant, she LEARNED God’s Plan for All Eternity. Giving beyond her own loss and pain, Mary discovered True Wisdom dwelling within her.

    Today’s Gospel reminds me that accepting God’s Invitation– like Mary, and the Apostles in that beautiful painting, did– requires a charism to openess. Just as that simple Jewish girl became the First Lady of the Universe, and Christ’s Cross became His Triumph, we who are lead by the Holy Spirit can learn to live Graced Lives; and we can share that Grace with our Brothers and Sisters, Clergy and Laity, Believers and Unbelievers, alike. From us, to whom much has been given, much will be expected.

    “We preach Christ Crucified.”

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