SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH
Exemplified by developing a method of prayer suitable
to a secular lifestyle
Fr. Patrick Colbourne OFMCap., National Assistant SFO-Oceania
The Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World began
with the words, "Joy and Hope". If we look at the state of the world, was this
the right title?
* When we were young, we fought the devil sometimes over the sixth
commandment. As we become older, we fight God over the fifth commandment, i.e.,
not to become angry with him concerning the state of the world, the way life has
treated us, and the fear of what lies ahead as we lose our independence. This
follows the pattern of the life of Christ who fought with the devil at the
beginning of his public ministry and fought with his Father in the Agony in the
Garden. It is hard not to lose faith but it is easy to give into fear.
* There are so many things that the Council could not have foreseen, e.g.,
test tube babies, terrorism, proliferation of wars and weapons, ecological
problems such as global warming, same sex marriages, drugs, and so on. The
average person longs for a spirituality to support them as they face such things
within their own families.
* As Tod will state, spirituality has often been based on the assumption that
priests and religious had a monopoly on speaking to God.
* Consequently, there were times when the laity were seen and defined through
a clericalized projection of what clerics thought laity should be.
* The clergy and the laity have a place in the Church based on the Sacraments
which they receive. The Hierarchy receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and have
a duty to safeguard doctrine and the authentic interpretation of Scripture.
(This is not dissimilar to the altius moderamen according to which
Spiritual Assistants ensure that the SFO is orthodox in faith and Franciscan
spirituality.) All the baptised have the gift of the Spirit that enables them to
experience their faith and, as St Paul says in his Second Letter to the
Corinthians, to pass on the consolation with which they have been consoled. All
SFO members have to set an example of experiencing the Franciscan way of
following the Gospel. At his Episcopal Ordination, Bishop Peter Ingham used the
phrase: "For you I am your Bishop, with you I am a Christian."
* While authenticity of doctrine is needed, the world today is also in great
need of examples of an experience of faith to offset the prevalent culture of
* Prayer is an experience of faith - a coming into his presence. People are
convinced that they need it in the face of their problems and to sustain their
hope. But we need to develop methods in line with lay life and its demands quite
separately from methods suitable for priests and religious.
* In Australia, as there are no Spiritual Assistants who are not either priests or religious, this is an area where they could seek advice from lay people who have successfully found a place for authentic prayer in their secular lives.