Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh
E-bulletin for Pastoral Resources Feb 2010 No.2
Since my last message via the E Bulletin, the major event which has occurred for me has been my ad Limina visit to Pope Benedict XVI in the company of my brother Bishops of Scotland. As President of the Conference, it fell to me to address the Holy Father and then in the company of my brother Bishops to listen to the Pope‟s response to us on this visit. These speeches are on my website.
I am sure that of particular interest to all of the readers of the E Bulletin will be what the Pope said about lay apostolate and lay ministry. The full text of his words is available on my own website but perhaps I could quote them in full: “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 conception 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 evangelising society”.
I am speaking about this on my visits around the diocese at the Lenten Station Masses, emphasising that the lay apostolate is incumbent on each and every member of the lay faithful by virtue of the Sacraments of Initiation. We must practise this as the Pope has said for all living out their vocation „in the family, at home, at work‟.
The Cardinal quite rightly backs up the Pope's comment on the distinction between lay apostolate and lay ministry.
While emphasising this invaluable lay apostolate, we must also remember the importance of lay ministry in our Church at this present time. One would wonder just where we would be without that great army building up the Church in our Archdiocese in so many wonderful ministries open to them. I take this opportunity of thanking all involved in the life of our Church in whatever way in our Archdiocese at this present time and pray that the lay faithful be ever more aware of both their lay apostolate, as well as the opportunity of lay ministry in so many and varied ways.
The Cardinal also quite rightly notes the importance of lay ministry but the crucial point is it's justification. 'Where would we be without...' In severe trouble operating would be the answer with ever diminishing numbers of priests and religious. What I believe Cardinal O'Brien is saying is the Lay Apostolate is most important, but in the times we face just now lay ministry is necessary.
I was a 'lay chaplain', yes I know that may grate for some, but it was what the diocese called me, for a school in the diocese. Why did I do it? Someone needed to carry out the role as the school chaplain had two parishes, two schools, national and diocesan responsibilites and was in his seventies. If (when, God willing) we get a burst of priests and religious I would have stepped aside in a second, gladly, for those more qualified and called to do it.
The problem comes, I think when lay people think they have 'right' to a certain ministry and / or the priesthood is 'not important.'