Today, the Holy Father addressed the Bishops of Scotland. One of the points that he made was to distinguish between lay ministry and lay apostolate:
Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest’s role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council’s vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church’s mission to sanctify the world. A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give a strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.This struck a particular chord with me, and at the back of my mind, I knew that I had written something on the subject some years ago. Looking back through the list of editorials that I wrote when I was editor of Faith Magazine, I found the article: Lay Apostolate: the forgotten concern of Vatican II, written back in November 1992. I hope that it might provide a suitable reflection on the Pope's words.
From the point of view of the pro-life movement, the best part of the address is the paragraph where the Holy Father encourages the Bishops to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine:
Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life. Recent developments in medical ethics and some of the practices advocated in the field of embryology give cause for great concern. If the Church’s teaching is compromised, even slightly, in one such area, then it becomes hard to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine in an integral manner. Pastors of the Church, therefore, must continually call the faithful to complete fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium, while at the same time upholding and defending the Church’s right to live freely in society according to her beliefs.Pope Benedict also emphasises that the "positive and inspiring vision" of the Church on human life, the beauty of marriage and the joy of parenthood is a positive message of hope: not a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, but a message directed to "the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us."
We have been blessed this week with two excellent addresses of the Holy Father, directed specifically at the needs of the Church and society in Britain. Reading them this evening, I had the frivolous thought that if he were in a philosophical darts match with secular Britain and dissenting Catholics, the Pope's latest salvoes would merit the acclamation "One hundred and eighty!"
The reaction of the mainstream media, of secularists, and of militant gay groups has only underlined just how well he has focussed on the key issues to which the Church must bear witness in Britain today. There will be protests and manufactured fury when he comes to visit, but we should surely recall the words of Our Lord:
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; [...] You are the light of the world. (Matt 5.11-14)(May I remind you to add your name to the Petition in support of the Pope.)