St. Francis of Assisi: Layman, Deacon, Roman Catholic friar who carried the wounds of Christ, founder of 3 orders: Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), Poor Ladies (Poor Clares) , secular Franciscan.

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Difference between the Laity and Religious

Our first vocation, being either a layman or religious, is to be saints. Each of us bases our lives and mission on the model of Christ, the high priest. Man can only find himself when he gives himself entirely for others (John Paul II). This concept is found in the mystery of the Eucharist, our salvation, and union with God – the Holy Trinity. There is “a true equality between all of us with respect to dignity and activity which is common between all faithful in the edification of the body of Christ.” (Lumen Gentium, 10) We find distinctions between the laity and religious (ordained by the Catholic Church) but these distinctions do not override their equality.

It is very important, nevertheless, to note the differences between these two vocations. The main difference is that the ministerial priesthood (ordained) is at the service of the

common priesthood (laity). While the task of the common priesthood is evangelization, the ordained priest works on “developing the baptismal grace of Christians.” Moreover, the ministerial priesthood takes place within the Christian community for the salvation of the Christian community. It holds three functions: To reach, to sanctify, and to govern the Christian community. These functions, although distinct among themselves, are indivisible in one: The role of Christ, the good shepherd, who cares for his sheep – the church. The difference between the lay and religious exists only within the church. The function of the lay person is very important since he/she is at the forefront of the church’s evangelistic mission. The priest or religious does not have the ability to bring Christ into the local family, business, and society. The family which the priest is concern about is the church – the bride of Christ – and it is in the church where the priest cares for his sheep teaching and sanctifying them. These same sheep embody Christ and take Christ to the world which continues to suffer and seek to know God.

    When the laity teaches, sanctifies, and governs the church, he/she assists in the ministerial priesthood.

    Both the priest and the lay person represent Christ and constitute a tabernacle of God. The priest represents the

good shepherd while the lay person represents the evangelist Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven.

Unfortunately, human inclination to evil can disturb both of these vocations. The ego, in particular, transforms the priest in a false Christ where the crucified lamb takes instead the soldier’s position to nail himself on the Cross. The results are arrogance, selfishness, and a false humility (among others). The lay person has also the potential to make of Christ an egotistical monster where humility turns into an uncontrolled need to govern the church at the expense of other’s dignity. The results are the same as with priest.

When the priest and the laity unite, they beautifully reflect two dimensions of Christ’s priesthood: Christ the high priest and Christ the layman. Neither of these is more important than the other. They are

both based on Christ and function under the model of giving oneself entirely to another in an act of love and mercy. As we increasingly reflect Christ, we would be able to further advance His kingdom in a world that cries and suffers from an absence of goodness. Let’s all root our lives in Christ, and with Trust in Him, work together for the salvation of ourselves and the World.

Reflexion n article written by

Rev. Michael B. Sweeney

(President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology)

regarding the difference between the laity and religious.

Laicos y Religiosos