A Challenge to Catholics: Revitalize the Laity (and more priests and collection money too)
One of the messages we as Catholics are often unknowingly sending is likely undermining both our ability to evangelize and our financial sustainability. What if a small adjustment in our words that required no compromise on the Truth could lead to an energized laity (and might also lead to more priests and more money in the collection basket too)?
Hear me out.
Every Sunday we hear a well-intentioned call to, “Pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” In many parishes we also have vocation chalices which are used to encourage families to pray for, “an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.” So far so good. But it is the additional words not included in these calls that are a lost opportunity to reach the over 99% of Catholics who will never be ordained religious.
This incomplete messaging has crept into nearly every aspect of our Catholic culture. This realization became clear one Sunday as I dropped my daughter off to PSR class. The families were invited to pray as a group before the kids went into their respective classrooms. The head of the program led us in a very nice and typical call to, “pray for all of those who give their lives to the Church: the priests, deacons, and nuns.” Suddenly a thought (that hasn’t left my mind since) occupied my mind. While those people certainly have given their lives to the Church and we should pray for them, they are not the only ones who have given their lives to the Church. The list was incomplete.
The list was incomplete.
What about the millions of lay people who daily live the struggle of trying to create a positive work environment, and then come home and heroically rise above homework help and chores to create an enriching family environment, and then despite exhaustion setting in push into the night to ensure there is enough quality time with their spouse to keep their marriage strong?
Have these people not also given their lives to the Church? If not, then what is the Church?
In my last post I quoted Jesus’ call from the very end of the Gospel of Matthew to “go make disciples of all the nations” Even if we tripled the number of priests, over 99% of Catholics would still be lay people. And these people live the majority of their lives at work, participating in social activities, and raising their families. What if we could invigorate the laity to answer Jesus call in these spheres of their lives?
So what if instead of sending a message only that, “You might be called to the priesthood, and if so we want to talk with you,” we said:
“Every single one of you – you are called!
You also are called to ‘go make disciples of all the nations’ and through your unique, God-given talents you must wake up every morning to transform your workplace, your social events, and your family. None of us is given a pass from our calling to just go do “secular work”. These moments of our lives are all God’s. And we must use all of them to glorify Him by transforming all the situations of our seemingly ordinary lives into holy ones. The extra minutes you spend listening to a struggling friend, the extra kindness you add to an email to a co-worker before pressing send, the softness with which you respond to your child who has just enraged you – these are all holy opportunities and prayers of action through which we can effectively live our lay call. Others will 'know we are Christian by our love' and want to join us.”
What if, instead of focusing on a calling for only one group, this was the message we emphatically sent every Sunday? It could convert an entire laity, who are currently only told to pray for the callings of others, to embarking on their own God-given life missions. I would be willing to bet that, within an entire Church living daily life with a purposeful mission, calls to religious life would be more easily answered. And money in the collection basket wouldn’t be a problem. People who are edified seven days a week wouldn’t need to be begged for money. Instead they would be excited about supporting the Church that is fully recognizing their integral part in the mission.
It could convert an entire laity, who are currently only told to pray for the callings of others, to embarking on their own God-given life missions.