St. Thérèse and the mission of the laity — a guest column by Katie Faley
By Katie Faley
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feast we celebrate on the first of October, has long been a favorite of mine. I have always found her character relatable and her simplistic faith approachable.
She never saw herself as being anything special — hard to believe considering she is now a Doctor of the Church. In fact, she saw herself as a spiritual toddler needing help from her father to ascend a flight of stairs. This analogy became a cornerstone for her “Little Way.” For St. Thérèse, faith is quite simple. We are like little children that must rely entirely on our parents for care. We must have total reliance upon God and confidence in His love for us.
As a young girl, Thérèse dreamed of being a missionary for the Church in distant lands. She wanted to do something big to make God known, loved, and served throughout the world. But she ended up in a cloistered convent not far from her childhood home. She never lost her passion, however, for living out her mission as a disciple of Christ spreading the Gospel all over the world.
She came to understand that though she may be called to “just” accomplish ordinary things, she could do those things with extraordinary love. One way that Thérèse did this was by praying for the mission of the Church and the intentions of the Holy Father.
PRAYING FOR THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD
Each year, the Holy Father prepares a specific set of 12 special intentions, dedicating each month to focus on praying in a special way for one intention. These prayer requests are submitted from all around the world. The pope prayerfully discerns these suggestions and creates 12 intentions to focus on throughout the year.
This month of October is devoted to praying that, “by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church.”
LIVING OUT OUR MISSION AS THE LAITY
Evangelizing is not just a duty of the clergy and an elite few. All baptized share a responsibility to participate in God’s Church and spread the Gospel. This comes with both grace and responsibility. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, we are called to go out to all the world and share the love of Christ.
In this month of October, Pope Francis asks us to pray in a special way for the laity and as the laity to discern how we can use our gifts to take an active role in the Church. By virtue of our baptism, we are equipped with unique gifts chosen specifically for us to carry out the mission of the Church. No matter what our gifts are, we are meant to use those gifts to glorify God and share His Love with the world — in ways great and small.
St. Thérèse, despite initially wanting to spread the Gospel as a foreign missionary, realized that she was called to spread the love of Christ through the circumstances of her life in the moment of history in which she was living.
We are called to respond to the needs of the world and the Church in this moment in history. In his Apostolic Exhortation, “Christifideles Laici,” St. John Paul II writes that the lay faithful must heed “the call of Christ the Lord to work in his vineyard, to take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church in this great moment in history.” This is our moment to go out into the vineyard of the Lord. Whatever our circumstance may be in life, it is there that we are called to carry out our mission.
As the laity, God does not call us to ordained or religious service. Our lives are not spent in a convent like St. Thérèse. But we are called to participate fully and joyfully in the mission of the Church. We have the example of St. Thérèse and other great saints to show us how we can do our ordinary, everyday things with great love. St. Thérèse may not have spent her vocation as a member of the laity, but her “Little Way” is a rich source of guidance for us as the laity in living out our mission in the Church.
In this month as we join Pope Francis in praying for this intention, may we also pray to discover the ordinary ways we can be more involved in spreading the Gospel. Perhaps that looks like getting involved at your parish, inviting a friend or your family to pray the rosary with you, saying a prayer for all those who experience hunger in the world while cooking our own dinner, engaging in conversations with non-Catholic or non-practicing friends about the Catholic faith, or practicing charity in dealing with frustrating people and situations that arise in life.
May we lean on our favorite saints to help us recognize our gifts and passions, and how we can utilize those to carry out our mission as the laity in the Church. And may we join the Holy Father in praying for a fuller, more active participation in the Church worldwide.
Katie Faley has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. A member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria, she is a former Echo Catechetical Leader at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naperville.