Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lumen Gentium (Part 2)

Today, I'm going to continue my discussion on Lumen Gentium, which is about the church.

When Jesus founded the Catholic Church, he instituted various ministries, which work for the good  of all.  The clearest example of this is when he sent forth the Apostles as leaders of the church.  St. Peter was put above the other apostles, to ensure that they remained one and undivided.  He served as "a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion".

The modern church has the same structure as the early church.  The successors of the apostles, the Bishops, are the leaders and chief shepherds of the church.  The Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope or the Successor of St. Peter, holds a special place above the Bishops.  In addition to bishops, the apostles appointed men to be priests and deacons to assist them in serving and leading the community; likewise, in the modern church, the bishops appoint men as deacons and priests, to serve and lead their respective communities.

Chapter III goes on to describe bishops in great detail.  It discusses the college of bishops (all the bishops in the world, working together), individual bishops in relation to their local churches, the duties of bishops, the teaching authority of the bishops (which stems from their authentic preaching of the faith), the sacramental powers of a bishop, and the role of bishop as pastor and leader.  At the end of the section, the role of priests and deacons is discussed.

Chapter IV turns its focus on the laity, which are all the members of the church who are not ordained or living in the religious state (i.e. monks and nuns).  They are characterized by living in the world, and so they are called by God to "work for the sanctification of the world from within".  The laity may differ in terms of who they are or what they do, "yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ".

Since the laity of the church make up part of the Body of Christ, they are called to participate in the salvific mission of the church.  They serve as witnesses and living instruments of the church.  This is not something which is reserved for priests and bishops alone; all members of the church are called to holiness of life and proclamation of the Gospel.  In particular, the laity should work to "remedy the customs and conditions of the world...so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it."

Chapter IV ends by encouraging greater cooperation between the laity and priests.  The laity should obediently follow the decisions of their spiritual shepherds, following the example of Christ's obedience.  As a result of this greater cooperation, the laity will have "a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders."  As for priests, they should promote the dignity of the laity, encourage them, employ their advice and guide them with fatherly love; as a result, they "can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree.