From time to time you hear a Christian of another denomination say, ‘He’s going into the Church’. That means, ‘He is training to become a priest.’ It wouldn’t fit very well as a Catholic turn of phrase.
We know, at least in theory, that all of the baptized are already in the Church – indeed, they are the Church. Sometimes, though, we are less good than other Christians at remembering what that involves.
The celebration of the sacraments makes it quite clear.
The Catechism says of Baptism: ‘Reborn as children of God, the baptized must profess before men and women the faith they have received … and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God’ (1270).
The Rite of Confirmation includes the prayer that ‘by his coming, the Holy Spirit may make us witnesses before the world to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ’.
The new edition of the Missal adds two striking options for the dismissal at the end of Mass: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,’ and ‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.’
There is no doubt about it. Every baptized and confirmed lay person is called, quite as much as every bishop, to be a ‘prophet, priest and king’ – for and in Christ. It is the job of all of us both to live and to preach the Gospel. There is no difference in whether or when are to do it. The difference is in the how and in the where.
The mission field of the lay person is the family home, the shop or factory, the sports field or cinema or pub. It is in places such as these that they are called to ‘illuminate the whole of human society with His saving light’ (Lumen Gentium 36).