Called by Baptism
When people talk about vocations in the Church they are often referring to those who have taken religious or clerical vows; priests, brothers, sisters, nuns. Yet statistically the majority of the People of God do not fit such criteria. Yet all the Baptised are called. The very meaning of the word vocation comes from the Latin vocatio, a calling or summoning.
Sometimes it also seems that laity are enabled to take on roles because there are a shortage of priests or religious, as gap fillers. Yet the place and work of the lay faithful in the Church is given directly to them by the Holy Spirit. Paul VI made this quite explicit when he wrote
[The laity] are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself. They are consecrated for the royal priesthood and the holy people not only that they may offer spiritual sacrifices in everything they do, but also that they may witness to Christ throughout the world.
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Pope Paul VI, November 1965
Laypeople have a distinct and very real role in the spreading of the Good News. The Church really needs them to carry out this mission with the authority, creativity, and power that the Holy Spirit gifted them in Baptism. Christ was and still is priest, prophet and king and all of us created in His image and likeness shares in each of these roles in our everyday lives. They need to be reclaimed.
The role of the priest is praise and petition. By their daily activities all people are able to give praise to God and pray. When we pray for our families, friends, the needs of the world, when children and grandchildren are taught to pray and give praise to God the priestly role of the Christian is in action. The lay person both prays for the world and works to be part of God’s answer to pleas for help. When those in crisis ask where God is in the mess of the world one aspect of the answer is that God is working through and in the lives of all people, through the actions of those who respond to the crisis or situation. By such a response these people are fulfilling their priestly role.
The role of a prophet is to share and proclaim the Word of God so that it can be understood and followed. This is more than remembering and sharing passages of Scripture it is living out the scripture imperative to “only do justice and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). If we read and reflect on the scriptures – daily if possible, we will becomes imbued with God’s Word and our lives will reflect our prophetic role. For example, when we listen to others troubles and concerns and offer them words of encouragement or comfort what we say is not just our words but God’s words spoken through us.
Whenever we do anything that helps the Church be church we take on the role of king. This may be serving in the parish community in a ministry such as lector, or talking with others about the Church- by being Church and enabling others to be Church we are practicing our kingly ministry. Furthermore, when we offer service in our daily lives be it helping in the St Vincent de Paul shop or budgeting services or giving time to help migrants learn English or other acts of helping we are living out our kingly role of service.
Let us reflect and rejoice in how we and those around us are intentional disciples. Not just cultural, law-following or Sunday-only Catholics but ‘net dropping disciples’ who despite the entanglements of everyday responsibilities take on the roles of priest, prophet and king. Perhaps we see others carrying out these roles and make an effort to thank and encourage them. Perhaps we can see in our own lives how we live out our Baptism as priest, prophet and king. When we engage with people praying for and with them, speaking to them about God, serving them and caring for them, we are carrying out the roles of priest, prophet and king. Everyday acts in everyday circumstances being the face of Christ.