We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own thing. And the laity—not all of them but many—ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar boy than the protagonist of a lay path. This moment in history cries out for mature, intelligent, zealous and faithful lay leaders in an urgent way. Priests and bishops cannot do the work of laypeople. That’s not what Christ called us to do. It’s not what the Church formed us to do. Our role as clergy in bringing Jesus Christ to the world, and the world to Jesus Christ, flows through you lay men and women who hear the Word of God; who love the Church for the truth she teaches; and then bring that Catholic witness into society to change it and sanctify it in Christ’s name. Every Christian life, and every choice in every Christian life, matter eternally. Laypeople, not clergy, have the task of evangelizing the secular world, and only you can do it as God intended. So never be embarrassed by your baptism. Never be afraid of the consequences of your faith. Take pride in your Catholic identity for the blessing and mandate it is. Act on it. Share it with others. — Pope Francis
As an addendum to my laity posts the last few days, I would like to share a poem I wrote the morning after the final exam in my Spirituality of the Laity class back in 2013. I wrote it sitting outside our home, watching the sun rise in the east.
The poem tells the divine backstory of the laity’s call to “consecrate the world to God.” This story runs from Genesis 1 to Revelation 21, from creation to the end of the ages.
So, for what it’s worth:
entwining Image, two-in-one,
flesh God-pressed, marked
by a threefold King:
a daughter, a son.
Both made to lift low Higher
and call down immaterial Fire:
the Father’s very own God from God
falling down in Spirit co-breathed:
Their lovely Life-giver, as yet un-grieved.
But Lo! Lament!
Their kindled earthen-vessel fire
fell down far into wreched mire.
But Love unquenced, unthwarted,
became a crazed Bridegroom,
and adulterous love he courted
By descending far too far,
fleshy dark and deathly low
into our mad and raving folly,
falling beneath our vicious blow.
Graying is our slain-God,
bled dry of His immortal Blood;
lying cold, asleep in a wicked grave
while His weeping bride cries:
Arise unchained, my Love, and unchain us all.
All-drenching Flesh, Risen! Soak us
out of Your gaping, wounded Side
and drain forth Your whole Spirit-tide
seaming for us a heavenly-earth,
our nuptial chamber, our bath of rebirth!
And so it was, the Eighth Day dawned
With Love spreading far-wide, deluging,
drowning mortal death; our Refuging
within His sacred Wounds’ outpouring Flood
whetting our parched, lifeless bones:
O God, breathe Your flesh-knitting Breath
And roll away our heavy stones!
Why, oh why all this?
Your soiled Bride washed now, purely wed,
embraced and swept up God-ward
into one sacrificial Flesh: Take. Eat.
Become My Food that feeds
Scatter my life-giving Seeds.
It is I who fill the starving with Bread,
I who inebriate the joyless dead,
Turning them drunk in self-forgetful love;
Making of their earth a new heaven above.
O Jesus, stone-shattering God-quake
of sudden all things new do make:
earthly heaven, heavenly earth
born again in watery second birth
where Old passes out into New
ever-so quietly as a morning dew
onto our open, uplifted laboring hands
that join the work of angelic bands
whose Opus is no more than to sing:
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
to the re-creating majestic King!
To the Fashioner of that World to Come,
who built His City of our tired clay, let us sing!
Tears and labor, love for neighbor now bring
to His tearless Banquet, this Feast without alloy,
of love and justice burning with peerless joy
torn from the Heart of a God who gives without measure;
a God whose joy is ever the Other’s good-pleasure;
the God who gave us hope of one unending Day
where at last we can join, forever,
in Their thrice unending child’s play.