Fr. Anthony Egan recently published an article in the Southern Cross about the “Priesthood of the Laity”. It was a good article but I could not help wonder why more was not made of the important role that the laity has to play in the ordinary everyday circumstances of their normal daily lives.
It seems that there is an excessive emphasis on the role of the laity in visible ministries like reading, extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, etc., and not enough emphasis on the most important role of the laity. Its almost as though a perception exists amongst Catholics that those lay people who are truly “holy” and devoted are the one’s visibly involved in the Mass or in some visible and recognised "official" Church ministry.
Bishops, priests, deacons and religious cannot be everywhere. They have a limited role and reach in the Church and in the world. The most important role in the Church is that of the Catholic laity taking Christ into ordinary everyday life – at work, at school, at the book club, on the golf course, on the rugby field, at family dinners, a social get together, and so on.
The Church does not need to resort to ordaining women priests, increasing the numbers of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc., to do apostolate. What the Church needs to do is increase the number of lay Catholics doing apostolate in the world and bringing people to the Church to receive the Sacraments.
Lay Catholics should be asking themselves: How many people have I directly converted to Catholicism during my lifetime? Imagine if each of the 1 billion odd Catholics in the world converted just 1 other person to Catholicism during their lifetime. We would then have 2 Billion Catholics. That converted billion would in turn convert another billion, making the Church 3 billion strong, and so on. I am sure you get the point. Not to mention the work of getting lapsed Catholics practicing their faith again.
We should never forget that there is a universal call to holiness. There is not a universal call to be a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, altar server, priest, deacon, nun, etc. Plus, ask yourself, if you are unable to convert people as a layperson, what makes you think you will be able to convert someone if you have some official role in the Church?