Cardinal: Baptism Something to Be Proud Of

Urges Lay Faithful to Discover Vocation

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By Chiara Santomiero

ROME, MARCH 1, 2009 ( Twenty years after Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the laity, there is a need to rediscover our baptismal vocation and be proud of it, says the president of the Vatican’s laity council.

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, affirmed this during a lecture Saturday on John Paul II’s «Christifideles Laici,» which was sponsored by the Pontifical Gregorian University as part of a class on the vocation of laypeople.

The document, the cardinal said, was «a true milestone in the life of the Catholic laity. […] Twenty years later, it is worthwhile to take it up again, to reread it in light of what has been experienced at the dawn of the first century of the second millennium and to assess its effective reception by the lay faithful of the present generation.»

«‘Christifideles Laici,'» Cardinal Rylko explained, «gathers together the fruits of the 1987 synod of bishops on the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and the world.»

He said that synod was a powerful invitation to the laity «to co-responsibility in the Church’s mission in view of the third millennium.»

The document encouraged avoiding two temptations, the Vatican official noted: «preoccupation with ecclesiastical things at the expense of concern for professional, economic and social realities, and the temptation to separate faith and life, acceptance of the Gospel and action in temporal matters.»

«Central to ‘Christifideles Laici,'» the prelate observed, «is the question of the layperson’s identity, synthesized in two words: vocation and mission. The vocation of the laity, which flows from baptism, is a real one.»

Not the same

Cardinal Rylko reflected that since the publication of the document, there have been many changes in a world that is «more and more ambivalent, complex, confused,» in which «there is no longer consensus about the values that ground the person and human society.»

«In the ‘spiritual desert’ that is the postmodern world,» he said, «there is a growing thirst for hope, for that ‘great hope’ that [Benedict XVI] writes about in the encyclical ‘Spe Salvi.’ It is this hope that we the baptized are called to slake.»

«We must rediscover,» the cardinal stressed, «the meaning of our baptismal identity and be proud. Our real problem is not that we are a minority but that we have willingly become marginalized, irrelevant.»

In this regard, he said, «the Pope has recently returned to encouraging Catholics to actively participate in the public life of the countries they live in, contributing their competence, their moral honesty and the prophetic spirit that comes from the Gospel.»

It is important, then, «that the laity rediscover the Church’s social doctrine, that they allow themselves to be inspired by its principles and impregnate temporal realities so that the spreading of the Church’s social doctrine be a part of the Christian’s essential message,» the cardinal urged. From this the importance of formation is evident, as the «ambit in which our identity is formed and the quality of our Christian presence is decided.»

«Today the faith,» Cardinal Rylko concluded, «can no longer be taken for granted, not even in the context of pastoral work in our parishes. Because of this, there is a huge field for action in dioceses and parishes, called as they are to find always more adequate ways and methods to answer the demands of the formation of the lay faithful.»

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