04/26/2016, 15.16
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As it celebrates Sri Lanka’s National Laity Sunday, the Church says no one can be a bystander

by Melani Manel Perera

Mgr Norbert Andradi, president of the National Laity Commission, issued a message for the occasion, reprinted in a Catholic weekly. “The lay apostolate is as important as the priesthood,” he wrote. Lay people can serve children, youth, young couples, and new families. By “sharing the roles and the abilities of one another,” the laity can “manifest the merciful face of the Father.”

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches celebrated ‘National Laity Sunday’ on 24 April, a day dedicated to the lay apostolate.

In the life of the Church, “The lay apostolate is as important as the priesthood and the religious life since they [lay people] live in society.” In view of this, the time has come “to reflect on the mission of lay people and understand the reality of the lay apostolate,” said Mgr Norbert Andradi OMI, bishop of Anuradhapura and president of the National Laity Commission, in a message carried by the Ganartha Pradeepaya, a Sinhala Catholic and the Messenger, a English Catholic weekly, published by the Archdiocese of Colombo.

In his letter, the prelate noted that the Second Vatican Council stressed the importance of the laity who are “are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven” (Lumen Gentium, 31).

“The role and responsibility of the lay person in the church are immense,” Mgr Andradi said. “There are many forms of service that can be rendered to children, youth, young couples, and new families, which are varied and useful.”

The laity “can also assist the various branches of the Church to function more meaningfully.” Likewise, “they can encourage families to live faithful married lives in society."

According to the bishop of Anuradhapura, the activities of the laity should be also emphasised in the Eucharistic celebration, which should not be entrusted only to the priest.

For him, “No one is an observer nor a bystander when participating in Mass.” Lay people are called “to be active participants in the liturgy with the celebrant and the community”.

Although “the lay person should not try to take over the role of the priest, nor should he pass on his responsibility to the priest”.

In order to deepen their own vocation in all those areas of society in which consecrated persons cannot reach, the laity "must turn again and again to their baptismal vocation, and enter its riches to understand them.”

To achieve this, “it would be of great assistance to enter and understand the origins of the lay apostolate. Although not all of us are experts in all fields, by sharing the roles and the abilities of one another we can all collectively progress in prayer and, through love for one another, manifest the merciful face of the Father.”

Echoing such words, National Laity Commission director Fr Leo Perera said that in Sri Lanka the non-consecrated should take a leading role in encouraging respect for people irrespective of race, gender, caste, or creed, and in protecting creation.

“The Holy Father,” Fr Perera said, “has made it clear that people share the Earth as a common heritage, which should be respected and defended. In Sri Lanka, this calls for greater awareness of the value of natural resources, and protection for the environment against exploitation”.

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