Christifideles laici EN 51

Mission in the Church and in the World

51 In speaking about participation in the apostolic mission of the Church, there is no doubt that in virtue of Baptism and Confirmation, a woman-as well as a man-is made a sharer in the threefold mission of Jesus Christ, Priest, Prophet and King, and is thereby charged and given the ability to fulfill the fundamental apostolate of the Church: evangelization. However, a woman is called to put to work in this apostolate the "gifts" which are properly hers: first of all, the gift that is her very dignity as a person exercised in word and testimony of life, gifts therefore, connected with her vocation as a woman.

In her participation in the life and mission of the Church a woman cannot receive the Sacrament of Orders, and therefore, cannot fulfil the proper function of the ministerial priesthood. This is a practice that the Church has always found in the expressed will of Christ, totally free and sovereign, who called only men to be his apostles(188); a practice that can be understood from the rapport between Christ, the Spouse, and his Bride, the Church(189). Here we are in the area offunction, not of dignity and holiness. In fact, it must be maintained: "Although the Church possesses a 'hierarchical' structure, nevertheless this structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ's members"(190).

However, as Paul VI has already said, "We cannot change what our Lord did, nor his call to women; but we can recognize and promote the role of women in the mission of evangelization and in the life of the Christian community(191).

Above all the acknowledgment in theory of the active and responsible presence of woman in the Church must be realized in practice. With this in mind this Exhortation addressed to the lay faithful with its deliberate and repeated use of the terms "women and men", must be read. Furthermore the revised Code of Canon Law contains many provisions on the participation of women in the life and mission of the Church: they are provisions that must be more commonly known and, according to the diverse sensibilities of culture and opportuneness in a pastoral situation, be realized with greater timeliness and determination.

An example comes to mind in the participation of women on diocesan and parochial Pastoral Councils as well as Diocesan Synods and particular Councils. In this regard the Synod Fathers have written: "Without discrimination women should be participants in the life of the Church, and also in consultation and the process of coming to decisions"(192).And again: "Women, who already hold places of great importance in transmitting the faith and offering every kind of service in the life of the Church, ought to be associated in the preparation of pastoral and missionary documents and ought to be recognized as cooperators in the mission of the church in the family, in professional life and in the civil community"(193).

In the more specific area of evangelization and catechesis the particular work that women have in the transmission of the faith, not only in the family but also in the various educational environments, is to be more strongly fostered. In broader terms, this should be applied in all that regard embracing the Word of God, its understanding and its communication, as well as its study, research and theological teaching.

While she is to fulfill her duty to evangelize, woman is to feel more acutely her need to be evangelized. Thus, with her vision illumined by faith (cf. Eph
Ep 1,18), woman is to be able to distinguish what truly responds to her dignity as a person and to her vocation from all that, under the pretext of this "dignity" and in the name of "freedom" and "progress", militates against true values. On the contrary, these false values become responsible for the moral degradation of the person, the environment and society. This same "discernment", made possible and demanded from Christian women's participation in the prophetic mission of Christ and his Church, recurs with continued urgency throughout history. This "discernment", often mentioned by the Apostle Paul, is not only a matter of evaluating reality and events in the light of faith, but also involves a real decision and obligation to employ it, not only in Church life but also in human society.

It can be said that the problems of today's world already cited in the second part of the Council's Constitution Gaudium et Spes, which remain unresolved and not at all affected by the passage of time, must witness the presence and commitment of women with their irreplaceable and customary contributions.

In particular, two great tasks entrusted to women merit the attention of everyone.

First of all, the task of bringing full dignity to the conjugal lite and to motherhood. Today new possibilities are opened to women for a deeper understanding and a richer realization of human and Christian values implied in the conjugal life and the experience of motherhood. Man himself-husband and father-can be helped to overcome forms of absenteeism and of periodic presence as well as a partial fulfilment of parental responsibilities-indeed he can be involved in new and significant relations of interpersonal communion-precisely as a result of the intelligent, loving and decisive intervention of woman.

Secondly, women have the task of assuring the moral dimension of culture, the dimension, namely of a culture worthy of the person, of an individual yet social life. The Second Vatican Council seems to connect the moral dimension of culture with the participation of the lay faithful in the kingly mission of Christ: "Let the lay faithful by their combined efforts remedy the institutions and conditions of the world when the latter are an inducement to sin, that all such things may be conformed to the norms of justice, and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hindering it. By so doing, they will infuse culture and human works with a moral value"(194).

As women increasingly participate more fully and responsibly in the activities of institutions which are associated with safeguarding the basic duty to human values in various communities, the words of the Council just quoted point to an important field in the apostolate of women: in all aspects of the life of such communities, from the socio-economic to the sociopolitical dimension, the personal dignity of woman and her specific vocation ought to be respected and promoted. Likewise this should be the case in living situations not only affecting the individual but also communities, not only in forms left to personal freedom and responsibility, but even in those guaranteed by just civil laws.

"It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a helper fit for him" (Gn 2,18). God entrusted the human being to woman. Certainly, every human being is entrusted to each and every other human being, but in a special way the human being is entrusted to woman, precisely because the woman in virtue of her special experience of motherhood is seen to have a specific sensitivity towards the human person and all that constitutes the individual's true welfare, beginning with the fundamental value of life. How great are the possibilities and responsibilities of woman in this area, at a time when the development of science and technology is not always inspired and measured by true wisdom, with the inevitable risk of "de-humanizing" human life, above all when it would demand a more intense love and a more generous acceptance.

The participation of women in the life of the Church and society in the sharing of her gifts is likewise the path necessary of her personal fulfillment-on which so many justly insist today-and the basic contribution of woman to the enrichment of Church communion and the dynamism in the apostolate of the People of God.

From this perspective the presence also of men, together with women, ought to be considered.

[188] Cf. Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe, Instrucción sobre la cuestión de la admisión de la mujer al sacerdocio ministerial Inter insigniores (15 Octubre 1976): AAS 69 (1977) 98-116.
[189] Cf Juan Pablo II, Carta Ap. Mulieris dignitatem, MD 26.
[190] Ibid., MD 27. «La Iglesia es un cuerpo diferenciado, en el que cada uno tiene su función; las tareas son distintas y no deben ser confundidas. Estas no dan lugar a la superioridad de los unos sobre los otros; no suministran ningún pretexto a la envidia. El único carisma superior -que puede y debe ser deseado- es la caridad (cf 1Co 12-13). Los más grandes en el Reino de los cielos no son los ministros, sino los santos" (Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe, Declaración sobre la cuestión de la admisión de la mujer al sacerdocio ministerial Inter insigniores (15 Octubre 1976):AAS 69 (1977) 115.
[191] Pablo VI, Discurso al Comité de organización del Año Internacional de la Mujer (18 Abril 1975): AAS 67 (1975) 266.
[192] Propositio 47.
[193] Ibid.
[194] Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. sobre la Iglesia Lumen gentium, LG 36.

The Presence and Collaboration of Men Together with Women

52 Many voices were raised in the Synod Hall expressing the fear that excessive insistence given to the status and role of women would lead to an unacceptable omission, that, in point, regardingmen. In reality, various sectors in the Church must lament the absence or the scarcity of the presence of men, some of whom abdicate their proper Church responsibilities, allowing them to be fulfilled only by women. Such instances are participation in the liturgical prayer of the Church, education and, in particular, catechesis of their own sons and daughters and other children, presence at religious and cultural meetings, and collaboration in charitable and missionary initiatives.

Therefore, the coordinated presence of both men and women is to be pastorally urged so that the participation of the lay faithful in the salvific mission of the Church might be rendered more rich, complete and harmonious.

The fundamental reason that requires and explains the presence and the collaboration of both men and women is not only, as it was just emphasized, the major source of meaning and efficacy in the pastoral action of the Church, nor even less is it the simple sociological fact of sharing a life together as human beings, which is natural for man and woman. It is, rather, the original plan of the Creator who from the "beginning" willed the human being to be a "unity of the two", and willed man and woman to be the prime community of persons, source of every other community, and, at the same time, to be a "sign" of that interpersonal communion of love which constitutes the mystical, intimate life of God, One in Three.

Precisely for this reason, the most common and widespread way, and at the same time, fundamental way, to assure this coordinated and harmonious presence of men and women in the life and mission of the Church, is the fulfilment of the tasks and responsibilities of the couple and the Christian family, in which the variety of diverse forms of life and love is seen and communicated: conjugal, paternal and maternal, filial and familial. We read in the ExhortationFamiliaris Consortio: "Since the Christian family is a community in which the relationships are renewed by Christ through faith and the sacraments, the family's sharing in the Church's mission should follow a community pattern: the spouses together as a couple, the parents and children as a family, must live their service to the Church and to the world ... The Christian family also builds up the Kingdom of God in history through the everyday realities that concern and distinguish itsstate of life: it is thus in the love between husband and wife and between members of the family-a love lived out in all its extraordinary richness of values and demands: totality, oneness, fidelity and fruitfulness-that the Christian family's participation in the prophetic, priestly and kingly mission of Jesus Christ and of his Church finds expression and realization"(195).

From this perspective, the Synod Fathers have recalled the meaning that the Sacrament of Matrimony ought to assume in the Church and society in order to illuminate and inspire all the relations between men and women. In this regard they have emphasized an " urgent need for every Christian to live and proclaim the message of hope contained in the relation between man and woman. The Sacrament of Matrimony, which consecrates this relation in its conjugal form and reveals it as a sign of the relation of Christ with his Church, contains a teaching of great importance for the Church's life-a teaching that ought to reach today's world through the Church; all those relations between man and woman must be imbued by this spirit. The Church should even more fully rely on the riches found here"(196). These same Fathers have rightly emphasized that "the esteem for virginity and reverence for motherhood must be respectively restored"(197), and still again they have called for the development of diverse and complementary vocations in the living context of Church communion and in the service of its continued growth.

[195] Juan Pablo II, Exh. Ap. Familiaris consortio,
FC 50: AAS 74 (1982) 141-142.
[196] Propositio 46.
[197] Propositio 47.

The Sick and the Suffering

53 People are called to joy. Nevertheless, each day they experience many forms of suffering and pain. The Synod Fathers in addressing men and women affected by these various forms of suffering and pain used the following words in their final Message: "You who are the abandoned and pushed to the edges of our consumer society; you who are sick, people with disabilities, the poor and hungry, migrants and prisoners, refugees, unemployed, abandoned children and old people who feel alone; you who are victims of war and all kinds of violence: the Church reminds you that she shares your suffering. She takes it to the Lord, who in turn associates you with his redeeming Passion. You are brought to life in the light of his resurrection. We need you to teach the whole world what love is. We will do everything we can so that you may find your rightful place in the Church and in society"(198).

In the context of such a limitless world as human suffering, We now turn our attention to all those struck down by sickness in its various forms: sickness is indeed the most frequent and common expression of human suffering.

The Lord addresses his call to each and every one. Even the sick are sent forth as labourers into the Lord's vineyard: the weight that wearies the body's members and dissipates the soul's serenity is far from dispensing a person from working in the vineyard. Instead the sick are called to live their human and Christian vocation and to participate in the growth of the Kingdom of God in anew and even more valuable manner. The words of the apostle Paul ought to become their approach to life or, better yet, cast an illumination to permit them to see the meaning of grace in their very situation: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (
Col 1,24). Precisely in arriving at this realization, the apostle is raised up in joy: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (Col 1,24). In the same way many of the sick can become bearers of the "joy inspired by the Holy Spirit in much affliction" (1Th 1,6) and witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. A handicapped person expressed these sentiments in a presentation in the Synod Hall: "It is very important to make clear that Christians who live in situations of illness, pain and old age are called by God not only to unite their suffering to Christ's Passion but also to receive in themselves now, and to transmit to others, the power of renewal and the joy of the risen Christ (cf. 2Co 4,10-11 1P 4,13 Rm 8,18 ff)"(199).

On the Church's part-as it reads in the Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris-"Born in the mystery of Redemption in the Cross of Christ, the Church has to try to meet man in a special way on the path of suffering. In this meeting man 'becomes the way for the Church', and this is one of the most important ways"(200). At this moment the suffering individual is the way of the Church because that person is, first of all, the way of Christ Himself, who is the Good Samaritan who "does not pass by", but "has compassion on him, went to him ... bound up his wounds ... took care of him"(Lc 10,32-34).

From century to century the Christian community in revealing and communicating its healing love and the consolation of Jesus Christ has reenacted the gospel parable of the Good Samaritan in caring for the vast multitude of persons who are sick and suffering. This came about through the untiring commitment of all those who have taken care of the sick and suffering as a result of science and the medical arts as well as the skilled and generous service of healthcare workers. Today there is an increase in the presence of lay women and men in Catholic hospital and healthcare institutions. At times the lay faithful's presence in these institutions is total and exclusive. It is to just such people-doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, volunteers-that the call becomes the living signof Jesus Christ and his Church in showing love towards the sick and suffering.

[198] VII Asam. Gen. Ord. Sinodo de los Obispos (1987), Per Concili semitas ad Populum Dei Nuntius, 12.
[199] Propositio 53.
[200] Juan Pablo II, Carta Ap. Salvifici doloris, 3: AAS 76 (1984) 203.

Renewed Pastoral Action

54 It is necessary that this most precious heritage, which the Church has received from Jesus Christ, "Physician of the body and the spirit"(201), must never diminish but always must come to be more valued and enriched through renewal and decisive initiatives of pastoral activity for and with the sick and suffering. This activity must be capable of sustaining and fostering attention, nearness, presence, listening, dialogue, sharing, and real help toward individuals in moments when sickness and suffering sorely test not only faith in life but also faith in God and his love as Father.Such pastoral initiatives find most meaningful expression in sacramental celebrations with and for the sick, as a source of strength amid pain and weakness, hope amid despair, and as an occasion of joyful encounter.

One of the basic objectives of this renewed and intensified pastoral action, which must involve all components of the ecclesial community in a coordinated way, is an attitude which looks upon the sick person, the bearer of a handicap, or the suffering individual, not simply as an object of the Church's love and service, but as an active and responsible participant in the work of evangelization and salvation. From this perspective the Church has to let the good news resound within a society and culture, which, having lost the sense of human suffering, "censors" all talk on such a hard reality of life. Thegood news is the proclamation that suffering can even have a positive meaning for the individual and for society itself, since each person is called to a form of participation in the salvific suffering of Christ and in the joy of resurrection, as well as, thereby, to become a force for the sanctification and building up of the Church.

The proclamation of this good news gains credibility when it is not simply voiced in words, but passes into a testimony of life, both in the case of all those who lovingly care for the sick, the handicapped and the suffering, as well as the suffering themselves who are increasingly made more conscious and responsible of their place and task within and on behalf of the Church.

In order that "the civilization of love" can flourish and produce fruit in this vast world of human pain, I invite all to reread and meditate on the Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, from which I am pleased to again propose the lines from its conclusion: "There should come together in spirit beneath the Cross of Calvary all suffering people who believe in Christ, and particularly those who suffer because of their faith in him who is the Crucified and Risen One, so that the offering of their sufferings may hasten the fulfilment of the prayer of the Saviour himself that all may be one. Let there also gather beneath the Cross all people of good will, for on this Cross is the 'Redeemer of Man', the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all their questions.

Together with Mary, Mother of Christ, who stood beneath the Cross, we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man and we ask all of you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your sufferings in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious"(202).

[201] San Ignacio de Antioquía, Ad Ephesios, VII, 2: S. Ch. 10, 64.
[202] Juan Pablo II, Carta Ap. Salvifici doloris, 31: AAS 76 (1984) 249-250.

The States of Life and Vocations

55 All the members of the People of God -clergy, men and women religious, the lay faithful-are labourers in the vineyard. At one and the same time they all are the goal and subjects of Church communion as well as of participation in the mission of salvation. Every one of us possessing charisms and ministries, diverse yet complementary, works in the one and the same vineyard of the Lord.

Simply in being Christians, even before actually doing the works of a Christian, all are branches of the one fruitful vine which is Christ.

All are living members of the one Body of the Lord built up through the power of the Spirit. The significance of "being" a Christian does not come about simply from the life of grace and holiness which is the primary and more productive source of the apostolic and missionary fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church. Its meaning also arises from the state of life that characterizes the clergy, men and women religious, members of secular institutes and the lay faithful.

In Church Communion the states of life by being ordered one to the other are thus bound together among themselves. They all share in a deeply basic meaning: that of being the manner of living out the commonly shared Christian dignity and the universal call to holiness in the perfection of love. They are different yet complementary, in the sense that each of them has a basic and unmistakable character which sets each apart, while at the same time each of them is seen in relation to the other and placed at each other's service.

Thus the lay state of life has its distinctive feature in its secular character. It fulfills an ecclesial service in bearing witness and, in its own way recalling for priests, women and men religious, the significance of the earthly and temporal realities in the salvific plan of God. In turn, the ministerialpriesthood represents in different times and places, the permanent guarantee of the sacramental presence of Christ, the Redeemer. The religious state bears witness to the eschatological character of the Church, that is, the straining towards the Kingdom of God that is prefigured and in some way anticipated and experienced even now through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

All the states of life, whether taken collectively or individually in relation to the others, are at the service of the Church's growth. While different in expression they are deeply united in the Church's "mystery of communion" and are dynamically coordinated in its unique mission.

Thus in the diversity of the states of life and the variety of vocations this same, unique mystery of the Church reveals and experiences anew the infinite richness of the mystery of Jesus Christ. The Fathers were fond of referring to the Church as a field of a pleasing and wonderful variety of herbs, plants, flowers and fruits. Saint Ambrose writes: "A field produces many fruits, but the one which has an abundance of both fruits and flowers is far better. The field of holy Church is fruitful in both one and the other. In this field there are the priceless buds of virginity blossoming forth, widowhood stands out boldly as the forest in the plain; elsewhere the rich harvest of weddings blessed by the Church fills the great granary of the world with abundant produce, and the wine-presses of the Lord Jesus overflow with the grapes of a productive vine, enriches Christian marriages"(203).

[203] San Ambrosio, De Virginitate, VI, 34: PL 16, 288. Cf San Agustín, Sermo CCCIV, III, 2: PL 38, 1396.

The Various Vocations in the Lay State

56 The Church's rich variety is manifested still further from within each state of life. Thus within the lay state diverse "vocations" are given, that is, there are different paths in the spiritual life and the apostolate which are taken by individual members of the lay faithful. In the field of a "commonly shared" lay vocation "special" lay vocations flourish. In this area we can also recall the spiritual experience of the flourishing of diverse forms of secular institutes that have developed recently in the Church. These offer the lay faithful, and even priests, the possibility of professing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience through vows or promises, while fully maintaining one's lay or clerical state(204). In this regard the Synod Fathers have commented, "The Holy Spirit stirs up other forms of self-giving to which people who remain fully in the lay state devote themselves"(205).

We can conclude by reading a beautiful passage taken from Saint Francis de Sales, who promoted lay spirituality so well(206). In speaking of "devotion", that is, Christian perfection or "life according to the Spirit", he presents in a simple yet insightful way the vocation of all Christians to holiness while emphasizing the specific form with which individual Christians fulfill it: "In creation God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruits, each one after its kind. So does he command all Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to his character and vocation. Devotion must be exercised in different ways by the gentleman, the workman, the servant, the prince, the widow, the maid and the married woman. Not only this, but the practice of devotion must also be adapted to the strength, the employment, and the duties of each one in particular ... It is an error, or rather a heresy, to try to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the shop of the mechanic, the court of princes, or the home of married folk. It is true, Philothea, that a purely contemplative, monastic and religious devotion cannot be exercised in such ways of life. But besides these three kinds of devotion, there are several others adapted to bring to perfection those who live in the secular state"(207).

Along the same line the Second Vatican Council states: "This lay spirituality should take its particular character from the circumstances of one's state in life (married and familylife, celibacy, widowhood), from one's state of health and from one's professional and social activity. All should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life and should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit"(208).

What has been said about the spiritual vocation can also be said-and to a certain degree with greater reason-of the infinite number of ways through which all members of the Church are employed as labourers in the vineyard of the Lord, building up the Mystical Body of Christ. Indeed as a person with a truly unique lifestory, each is called by name, to make a special contribution to the coming of the Kingdom of God. No talent, no matter how small, is to be hidden or left unused (cf. Mt
Mt 25,24-27).

In this regard the apostle Peter gives us a stern warning: "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1P 4,10).

[204] Cf Pío XII, Const. Ap. Provida Mater (2 Febrero 1947): AAS 39 (1947) 114-124; C.I.C., can. CIC 573.
[205] Propositio 6.
[206] Cf Pablo VI, Carta Ap. Sabaudiae gemma (29 Enero 1967): AAS 59 (1967) 113-123.
[207] San Francisco de Sales, Introduction à la vie dévote, I, III: OEuvres complètes, Monastère de la Visitation, Annecy 1893, III, 19-21.
[208] Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Dec. sobre el apostolado de los laicos Apostolicam actuositatem, AA 4.



The Formation of the Lay Faithful in the Lay State

A Continual Process of Maturation

57 The gospel image of the vine and the branches reveals to us another fundamental aspect of the lay faithful's life and mission: the call to growth and a continual process of maturation, of always bearing much fruit.

As a diligent vinedresser, the Father takes care of his vine. God's solicitude is so ardently called upon by Israel, that she prays: "Turn again, O God of hosts! / Look down from heaven, and see; / have regard for this vine, / the stock which your right hand has planted" (
Ps 80,15-16). Jesus himself speaks of the Father's work: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away. and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes that it may bear more fruit" (Jn 15,1-2).

The vitality of the branches depends on their remaining attached to the vine, which is Jesus Christ:"He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15,5).

People are approached in liberty by God who calls everyone to grow, develop and bear fruit. A person cannot put off a response nor cast off personal responsibility in the matter. The solemn words of Jesus refer to this exalted and serious responsibility: "If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned" (Jn 15,6).

In this dialogue between God who offers his gifts, and the person who is called to exercise responsibility, there comes the possibility, indeed the necessity, of a total and ongoing formation of the lay faithful, as the Synod Fathers have rightly emphasized in much of their work. After having described Christian formation as "a continual process in the individual of maturation in faith and a likening to Christ, according to the will of the Father, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit", they have clearly affirmed that the formation of the lay faithful must be placed among the priorities of a diocese. It ought to be so placed within the plan of pastoral action that the efforts of the whole community (clergy, lay faithful and religious) converge on this goal"(209).

[209] Propositio 40.

To Discover and Live One's Vocation and Mission

58 The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one's vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfil one's mission.

God calls me and sends me forth as a labourer in his vineyard. He calls me and sends me forth to work for the coming of his Kingdom in history. This personal vocation and mission defines the dignity and the responsibility of each member of the lay faithful and makes up the focal point of the whole work of formation, whose purpose is the joyous and grateful recognition of this dignity and the faithful and generous living-out of this responsibility.

In fact, from eternity God has thought of us and has loved us as unique individuals. Every one of us he called by name, as the Good Shepherd "calls his sheep by name" (
Jn 10,3). However, only in the unfolding of the history of our lives and its events is the eternal plan of God revealed to each of us. Therefore, it is a gradual process; in a certain sense, one that happens day by day.

To be able to discover the actual will of the Lord in our lives always involves the following: a receptive listening to the Word of God and the Church, fervent and constant prayer, recourse to a wise and loving spiritual guide, and a faithful discernment of the gifts and talents given by God, as well as the diverse social and historic situations in which one lives.

Therefore, in the life of each member of the lay faithful there are particularly significant and decisive moments for discerning God's call and embracing the mission entrusted by Him. Among these are the periods of adolescence and young adulthood. No one must forget that the Lord, as the master of the labourers in the vineyard, calls at every hour of life so as to make his holy will more precisely and explicitly known. Therefore, the fundamental and continuous attitude of the disciple should be one of vigilance and a conscious attentiveness to the voice of God.

It is not a question of simply knowing what God wants from each of us in the various situations of life. The individual must do what God wants, as we are reminded in the words that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, addressed to the servants at Cana: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5).However, to act in fidelity to God's will requires a capability for acting and the developing of that capability. We can rest assured that this is possible through the free and responsible collaboration of each of us with the grace of the Lord which is never lacking. Saint Leo the Great says: "The one who confers the dignity will give the strength!"(210).

This, then, is the marvelous yet demanding task awaiting all the lay faithful and all Christians at every moment: to grow always in the knowledge of the richness of Baptism and faith as well as to live it more fully. In referring to birth and growth as two stages in the Christian life the apostle Peter makes the following exhortation: "Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation" (1P 2,2).

[210] "Dabit virtutem, qui contulit dignitatem" (San León Magno, Serm. II, 1: S. Ch. 200, 248).

Christifideles laici EN 51