Their, our, role in the Church and in the world has been a central issue since Vatican II and this article from the National Catholic Register examines it.
“This October, the Church will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In that three-year period from 1962 to 1965, the bishops and their collaborators strove to bring the Church into the modern world so that the message of Christ could be heard more clearly and spread more effectively.
“A better understanding of the role of the laity was high on the agenda. “The laity, by their very vocation, seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God,” declared Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations), Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church.
“They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God, that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel, they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. … Since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs, it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs, in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase, according to Christ, to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.”
“Greater engagement in Christian discipleship for the laity does not mean being involved primarily in “church ministries” or preaching on a street corner, worthy as those activities may be. It means, in the words of the Catechism, that the laity need to discover or invent “the means for permeating social, political and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life” (899).
“So, if you are an elected representative in government, for example, you support measures that you believe will foster the common good. If you are in commerce, you embrace business practices that are fair to employees and customers and not based on greed. If you are a worker, you do your job conscientiously because you want to offer God the best work that you can do. If you are a doctor, you approach each patient as an individual human being created in the image and likeness of God, with particular needs that perhaps only you can address at that moment. If you are parents, your main concern is the Christian formation of your children.
“The Church in America now faces a challenge that demands the laity exercise their role as Vatican II saw it. What began as an apparently well-intentioned effort to serve justice by helping everyone have “affordable access to health care” (a concern of the Catholic bishops for the longest time, by the way) is turning out to be a grave encroachment on the religious liberty of millions of Americans.
“In carrying out their ordinary duties of everyday life — striving to live according to the Gospel while raising families and making a living, contributing to the common good by doing their jobs well — Christians are being asked to carry an extra burden.”