How fitting for Pope St. John Paul II, in Christifideles Laici, to name our Father, God, as the first teacher. God’s work of forming His people is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Today, Mother Church is the entity to carry on this divine work and has many layers through which it absorbs and subscribes God’s teachings. Understanding the function each layer plays in the formation of God’s lay faithful can be fruitful.
The primary role of Mother Church is assumed by the pope, not just in his words but “also those transmitted by the various departments of the Holy See.” The universal Church is sectioned into various dioceses. Each diocese is under the leadership of a bishop, who is responsible for teaching, sanctifying and governing those under his jurisdiction.
Parishes, under the guidance of a pastor or possibly a religious, are the make-up of each diocese. A parish is the Church’s personal connection to the lay faithful through instruction in the Word, participation in liturgy, gathering in prayer, performing works of charity, etc. Helpful to this effort are the smaller Faith communities that exist in many parishes and provide catechesis in some form.
Outside of the parish, the domestic Church is “a natural and fundamental school for formation in the Faith.” Here, children learn from their parents about love, trust and reciprocity in preparation for living the Gospel in the bigger world. Schools and universities continue the work of helping God’s children prepare for their part in carrying on Christ’s mission.
Christifideles Laici is clear that “formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all … and the formation of those who will form others is to be developed through appropriate courses.” The document further states the importance of safeguarding the traditions of the local culture while still honoring the many other diverse cultures existing in any given society.
Though the methodology of formation may be thoughtfully framed, it is noted that we must also leave room to the “open action of God.” It is here we allow God’s grace to move us to be conscious of our participation in mission and shared Christian dignity.
When we are in communion with our Church community, when our branches are connected to the vine, our fruitfulness will flourish. We will then live a life of Faith integrated with the secular world and continue the mission of Christ in our day and time. We will be collaborators with God, our first teacher.
Rose Robertson is a writer and certified spiritual director. She holds a master’s degree in pastoral ministry.
For the complete document, visit diolc.org/LayFaithful or Google search Christifideles Laici.