Describing lay spirituality is a formidable task, not least because the very concept is in doubt. It has been asserted that lay spirituality is simply basic Christian spirituality sine addito and thus ought not be treated as a separate subject. Some have argued that there is not just one lay spirituality but many reflecting the diverse contexts of the lay vocation. For example, might not the married require a different spirituality than the single, the worker than the professional, the member of a lay ecclesial movement than a tertiary? Still others are hesitant to delineate a lay spirituality for fear of reviving past tendencies to treat laity as second class citizens and their spirituality as somewhat inferior to that of clerics and religious.
Despite these concerns, a convergence of ideas regarding lay spirituality has emerged since the Second Vatican Council. While there are diverse ways of living the lay vocation, some fundamental and unifying components can be identified. This article explores the foundations for a lay spirituality in the New Testament, reviews the historical data in order to see how lay spirituality has evolved, and discusses the impact of the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar developments. By way of conclusion, some key elements for a lay spirituality in the twenty-first century are suggested.
New Testament Foundations . Although it is clear that Jesus instituted a structured community (Mt 16–18) and St. Paul described different roles within the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12, Rom 12), the New Testament as a whole precludes the idea of distinct spiritualities for diverse members of the Church, and consequently any notion of a specific lay spirituality. The word laikos is not even found in the New Testament; rather the Greek substantive is used to describe an entire people consecrated to God through baptism who together become "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people (laós )" (1 Pt 2:9). All the baptized, without distinction, are called to holiness.
The primordial and fundamental spirituality for all the baptized, according to the New Testament, is one of Christian discipleship. Through a continual process of conversion which manifests itself in conformity to Jesus Christ, the disciple seeks the Kingdom by doing the will of the Father (Mt 6:33), living the beatitudes (Mt 5:1–11), joining the community in celebration of the Eucharist (Acts 2: 46) and embracing an evangelical life of service to others (Mt 25: 35–36). This radical new life is brought about through the action of the Holy Spirit, enfolding the believer into koinonia with other believers (2 Cor 13:14) and the very life of God (Rom 5:5). This spirituality is for the laity; this spirituality is for every Christian who struggles with the tension of living in the world but being not of the world (Rom 12–13).
A Brief Historical Survey.
From the Early Church to the Middle Ages . The spirituality of the early Church was decisively informed by a dichotomy between the Church and world. Until the peace of Constantine (313), persecution and exclusion from civil society marked Church life. In a community characterized by internal cohesion against a hostile world, the model of sanctity for all the baptized was the martyr. Convinced that the End Times were at hand, these martyrs embraced a costly discipleship in imitation of Christ, identifying with his perfect martyrdom. Among the first martyrs were many laity, including Blandina (d. Lyon, 177 a.d.) and Perpetua and Felicitas (d. Carthage, 203 a.d.).
Notwithstanding the certainty that the world around them was vanishing, some of the early Christians grappled with how best to incarnate the Gospel in a pagan society. An early manifestation of this dilemma is found in the Epistle to Diognetus (c.150–200 a.d.): "Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by either country, speech or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language, they do not follow an eccentric manner of life…. They reside in theirown countries, but only as aliens; they take part in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land" (Epistola Diognetus V, 1–5 passim ). This anonymous letter exhorts Christians to embrace their responsibilities in the world, "for God has appointed them to so great a post" (V, 9). They are to become for the world what the soul is to the body. Just as the soul animates the body, so Christians are called to bring the life of Christ to the world.
Mindful of the true source of their strength in God, Christians from the earliest time gathered on the first day of the week to celebrate Eucharist. Here again, the incarnational and eschatological dimensions of spirituality are united as the memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ is joined with joyous expectation of Christ's return. It was common to consider Sunday not only the first day of the week, but also the Eighth Day, for it was not only the beginning of time, but an anticipation of the festal gathering at the end of time (St. Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 27, 66; SC 17,484–485).
In addition to the Eucharist, early Church Fathers encouraged presbyters and laity alike to pray daily either alone or with others. Tertullian's treatise On Prayer (c. 198–204 a.d.), counsels every Christian to pray not only at the beginning and end of each day, but also at the third, sixth and ninth hours, and even at night. Further, he suggests that Christians pray before meals, before going to the baths, as well as when they entertain guests (chapters 25–27). The Apostolic Constitutions, written in Greek by a Syrian around 380 a.d., specifically instructs bishops to encourage lay participation in communal prayer: "When you teach, bishop, command and exhort the people to frequent church regularly, morning and evening every day, and not to forsake it at all, but to assemble continually and not diminish the Church by absenting themselves and making the Body of Christ lack a member…. But especially on the Sabbath, and on … the day of the resurrection of the Lord, meet even more diligently, sending up praise to God …" (Apostolic Constitutions, book II, 59).
To these directives, John Chrysostom (344–407 a.d.) and Gregory the Great (540–604 a.d.) added familiarity with the word of God. Chrysostom's reply to a skeptical lay person is telling: "You say, 'I am not a monk'… But in this you have made a mistake, because you believe that Scripture concerns only monks, while it is even more necessary for you faithful who are in the midst of the world" (In Matthaeum V, 5). Gregory makes a similar point in a letter (c. 595 a.d.) to the physician of the emperor who was too busy to read Sacred Scripture everyday. "What is Sacred Scripture if not a letter from Almighty God to his creatures? If you find yourself away on a journey and you receive a letter from the Emperor,… you would not go to bed, until you knew what the Emperor had to say to you. The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of all humanity and of angels, has written you a letter regarding your life… and you do not show any impatience in reading this letter…. Find a way every dayto meditate on the words of your Creator. Learn to discover the heart of God in the word of God" (Registrum Epistola L. V, 46).
Even in this early period, a spirituality common to all the baptized nourished by the Eucharist, prayer and Sacred Scripture had to compete with an emerging wedge between the clergy and the laity. The first use of the word laikos is found in Clement's letter to the Corinthians with the enigmatic statement that "the layman is bound by lay ordinances" (40, 5). While scholars debate Clement's precise meaning, it is clear that the use of the term is isolated; it does not occur again until the mid-second century. By this time, the laity are distinguished from clerics in the writings of clement of alexandria (d. c. 215 a.d.), Origen (d. c. 254 a.d.) and cyprian (d. c. 258 a.d.). By the beginning of the third century, this division becomes widely accepted, leading to both a distinctive lay spirituality and in some cases its denigration as inferior to that of the cleric.
In addition to the dichotomy between clergy and laity, the rise of monasticism, which itself began as a lay movement, had an adverse effect on lay spirituality. In the period after Constantine, the monk and the virgin replaced the martyr as models of Christian perfection. Although monasticism's positive and valid emphasis on virginity and fuga mundi as a spiritual path remains a vital gift to the Church, there was an accompanying negative proclivity to undervalue the married state and to suggest that Christian perfection for ordinary lay women and men consisted in an imitation, insofar as possible, of the monastic lifestyle.
Another line of thought detrimental to the idea of lay spirituality came from augustine of hippo's (354–430) teaching on original sin. In his anti-Pelagian writings, Augustine taught that Adam's sin was passed on from one generation to the next through the inordinate concupiscence intrinsic to sexual intercourse. Though Augustine's teaching is complex and needs to be understood in the diverse contexts of his writings, without a doubt, his works, as interpreted through the centuries, have cast a dark shadow on human sexuality and marriage. Since marriage is one key element that distinguishes most lay persons from the monk or virgin, the ideal of a common spirituality of all the baptized further recedes.
Notwithstanding these developments, one can find in Augustine positive and constructive contributions to lay spirituality. For example, precisely in his teaching on baptism, Augustine says, "Let us rejoice and give thanks: we have not only become Christians, but Christ himself… Stand in awe and rejoice: We have become Christ" (In Ioann. Evang. Tract. 21,8). This statement along with many others in the Church Fathers, especially those surrounding the preparation of catechumens and the mystagogical catechesis for the newly baptized, are significant resources for developing a lay spirituality firmly rooted in the sacraments of initiation.
The Middle Ages . Unfortunately, in the Middle Ages these treasures from the Church Fathers remained largely obscured. The canonist, gratian (c. 1189) epitomizes a prevalent attitude towards the laity when he delimits two types of Christians: clerics (and also monks), involved in spiritual activities, and laity, consigned to temporal affairs. For Gratian, the lay state is a concession to human weakness for "these are allowed to possess temporal goods …They are allowed to marry, to till the earth, to pronounce judgements on men's disputes and plead in court, to lay their offerings on the altar, to pay their tithes: and so they can be saved, if they do good and avoid evil" (Corpus iuris canonici C. 12, q.1 c.7). This common outlook, when combined with the fact that most of the laity were uneducated, led to a minimalist approach to lay spirituality. Gradually, lay spirituality became coterminous with simply keeping the commandments. It must be said, however, that our access to the actual spiritual life of the laity during this time is obscured by the fact that the vast majority, being illiterate, had no means to leave their thoughts to posterity.
Yet here again there are counter-trends. Earlier, Charlemagne (r. 768–814), the first layman of the new empire, both lived and promoted a spirituality appropriate for the laity, emphasizing the relationship between prayer and the need for Christian formation (cf. General Monition of 789). Later, in the twelfth century, various lay movements that promoted chastity, simplicity, poverty and manual work became popular. These movements were sometimes prone to error, either by exaggeration or imprecise theological formulations which led to suspicion on the part of the institutional Church. Among them were the mulieres sanctae in the low countries, commonly known as the beguines. These women lived a committed Christian life, either alone or in community, without entering a monastery or marrying. The development of lay confraternities like the Humiliati in Lombardy and of the Tertiaries connected with various mendicant orders provided new ways of living the lay vocation in the midst of the world. Some outstanding medieval lay saints include angela of foligno (c. 1248–1309), catherine of siena (1347–1380) and frances of rome (1384–1440), though their status as laity is often neglected.
For those laity not connected with a particular counter-movement, the liturgical year provided a spiritual framework in which everyday activities were conducted. Liturgical feasts and fasts marked the turning of the seasons and proclaimed the sacredness of time. Other positive elements include popular devotions focused on the humanity of Christ, a profound reverence for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, a greater accessibility to Sacred Scripture, and a more developed devotion to the Virgin Mary. Marriage, though still not fully appreciated as a path to Christian perfection, was at least recognized as one of the seven sacraments. In addition, all Christians of the age of reason were not only encouraged, but required to receive the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist at least once a year (cf. Fourth Lateran Council c. 21; Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta 221).
The waning of the Middle Ages brings a further development in lay spirituality. With increased literacy the laity were able to gain a new level of participation in the life of the Church. For example, in late medieval England, the popularity of Books of Hours or primers, monastic in origin, and devotional books allowed some lay Christians to take greater initiative in their own spiritual formation.
From the Reform to Modern Times . The Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation had both negative and positive consequences for lay spirituality. Negatively, an increased insistence on the hierarchical character of the Church relegated the laity to the lowest rung. Positively, however, many developments in the Counter-Reformation helped the laity discover God in their daily lives. ignatius of loyola's (1491–1556) Spiritual Exercises, written when he was still a layman, brought spirituality out of its monastic confines into the heart of the world. The first spiritual treatise written specifically for the laity was The Introduction to the Devout Life written by francis de sales (1567–1622). His preface explains that "Nearly everybody who has written about the spiritual life has had in mind those who live apart from the world, or at least the devotion they advocate would lead to such retirement. My intention is to write for those who have to live in the world and who, according to their state, to all outward appearances have to live an ordinary life" (p. 1). Addressing himself primarily to noble women, de Sales insists that they too are called to holiness, to the fulness of Christian perfection, seeking the will of God in ordinary activities.
If Francis de Sales offered the first spirituality of the laity, Vincent Pallotti (1795–1850) offers significant insights into the mission of the laity. His spirituality, focused on Caritas Christi urgens (2 Cor 5:14), is rooted in the compelling love of Christ which draws all Christians, clerical and lay, to participation in the mission of the Church. Pallotti envisioned a universal apostolate as a collaborative and complementary effort uniting clergy, religious and laity.
Along similar lines, Vincent Pallotti's contemporary John Henry newman (1801–1890) sought to retrieve the biblical notion that every Christian has a vocation and mission. This idea is most beautifully expressed in a personal meditation: "God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next…. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good. I shall do His work" (Meditations on Christian Doctrine, March 7, 1848 in Meditations and Devotions ). Of course, Newman was fully aware that for laity to participate in the mission of the Church, greater attention to formation in the faith was needed. "I want a laity… who know their religion and who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent and well-instructed laity" (Newman, Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England, Longmans Green 1924, p. 390).
A layman who well fits Newman's ideal of an intelligent and well-instructed laity is Frédéric ozanam (1813–1853), who served the poor as part of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. This married man and father juggled family commitment, active service of those in need, and a career as a professor. He demonstrated that it is possible for a committed lay person to live a radical evangelical life in the midst of the world. In a letter to his wife, Ozanam offers a vision of discipleship within marriage. "Then Providence led you into my path, and I offered you the sharing of a life poor, for long and perhaps ever obscure, but sanctified, ennobled by the cultivation of all that is beautiful. I offered you … the tenderness of a heart which had never belonged to anyone but you" (Letters, p. 357). Ozanam stands out as an exemplar of lay sanctity, although full appreciation of what lay holiness might mean will be delayed until the next century.
The Impact on Early Twentieth Century Developments on Lay Spirituality . For Catholic lay spirituality in the twentieth century all roads lead to and from the Second Vatican Council. In the first half of the century various trends of spiritual revival and theological reflection retrieved the biblical centrality of baptism and the Church as the People of God. This retrieval would have great and positive effects on a new appreciation of the lay vocation and mission. Careful attention to pre-conciliar developments reveals that the Second Vatican Council's teaching on the laity is as much a point of arrival as a point of departure. This becomes evident by tracing the insights into the lay apostolate developed in the teachings of Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII, especially with regard to catholic action. Within theological circles, the great milestone is Yves Congar's Jalons pour un théologie du laïcat (1953). Also important were the effects of the liturgical movement and advances in Biblical scholarship. In sum, the emerging theology of the preconciliar period aimed at a more positive description of the laity, stressing that the lay mission comes directly from Christ through baptism. All of these elements will affect the spirituality of the laity as fostered at and after the Second Vatican Council.
Combined with developments in theology, the twentieth century has also seen the birth of various and diverse initiatives to promote lay spirituality, sometimes in the form of movements, new communities and associations. The Young Christian Worker Movement, begun in 1912 by the Belgian priest, Joseph Cardign, helps young working class men and women develop a spirituality that integrates faith and life through its threefold discernment process of see, judge and act. opus dei, founded in 1928 by the Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá, became a personal prelature in 1982. It proposes to help ordinary people discover paths to sanctity in their everyday life. Other movements or associations respond to specific challenges. Chiara Lubich's focolari movement, begun in 1943, seeks to overcome the modern sense of isolation by providing a communal experience of unity with God and others. Another effort to combat isolation, particularly intense for handicapped women and men, is Jean Vanier's L'Arche which began in 1964 and offers a community of love and healing. In all of their diversity, these various initiatives, of which only a few have been mentioned here, desire to promote a spirituality that acknowledges the universal call to holiness and encourage lay women and men to live an evangelical life in the midst of the world.
The Influence of Vatican II on Lay Spirituality . The Twentieth Century renewal made itself felt in the Second Vatican Council's deliberations on how best to present the nature of the Church in Lumen Gentium. The monumental decision to begin with the whole people of God (Lumen Gentium 9–17) before reflecting on the hierarchy (Lumen Gentium 18–29) and laity (Lumen Gentium 30–42) sets the framework for a total ecclesiology which recognizes both the equality of all the members of the Church and the fundamental unity of the communio Christifidelium. While charisms, roles and functions differ, all the baptized share the same dignity and ultimate call to communion with the Triune God. The consequences of this approach for the spirituality of the laity are four. First, the laity are not relegated to the margins of the Church, but through their baptism enter into a life of communion that incorporates them into the Christ. Second, the lay state is presented as a genuine path to holiness and is in no way a concession to human weakness. Third, through baptism and confirmation the laity participate in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, which is an expression of their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. Finally, the dualistic notion that clerics and religious are concerned only with the sacred while the laity are concerned only with the temporal is rejected. The entire Church is called to be a sacrament of salvation in the world.
While firmly rejecting dualism, Lumen Gentium holds that the distinguishing mark of the lay vocation and mission is its secular character (Lumen Gentium 31). As the conciliar teaching unfolds, it becomes clear that the secular character is understood not merely as an anthropological or sociological reality, but as a profoundly theological reality. Lumen Gentium examines the existential situation in which lay people live out their baptism and respond to God's call. It is identified as primarily in the midst of the world—in the context of family life, work, civic responsibilities. These concrete situations of everyday life present opportunities for growth in holiness (Lumen Gentium 41) and are how the laity participate in the one mission of Christ. They are to become like a leaven in the world (cf. Lumen Gentium 31, AA 2).
The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, encourages all Christians— laity, priests and religious— to see religious and temporal activities as one vital synthesis and to guard against a split between faith and life. Specifically, regarding the laity, the Council Fathers caution that those who neglect family, work and responsibilities in society place their eternal salvation in jeopardy (GS 43). Family life and faith are to be united, and work, far from separating one from Christ, is a path for living out one's baptism. (AA4). This emphasis on the integration of faith and life is one of the key contributions of the Second Vatican Council to lay spirituality.
Post Conciliar Developments . Six post conciliar developments deserve mention. Foremost are the 1987 synod dedicated to the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and the world, and the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Christifideles laici (CL, 1988), by John Paul II. Christifideles laici is closely related to the two other post-synodal apostolic exhortations that followed it, Pastores dabo vobis (1992) and Vita Consecrata (1996). Taken together, they celebrate the diverse vocations in the Church in the context of an ecclesiology of communion.
The primary strength of viewing lay spirituality within an ecclesiology of community is the priority given to being before doing. The laity are described more in terms of who they are rather than what they do. This approach also emphasizes that the sacraments of initiation are an entrance into communion with the Triune God. The theme of communion has the further value of retrieving the Pauline insistence on the diversity and complementarity of the various charisms and ministries in the Church.
Another important theme of Christifideles laici is its promotion of a full integration of spiritual and secular activity. Using an image from the Gospel of John (John 14), John Paul II notes that, "the branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In fact, every area of the lay faithful's lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires these very areas be the 'places in time' where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others" (Christifideles laici 59). Christifideles laici also makes explicit the paradigm shift that had already taken place in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Instead of referring to the "laity," Christifideles laici consistently refers to "the lay faithful," or "lay Christians"—Christifideles laici — those faithful who have been incorporated into Christ by baptism. Here, the lay faithful are not characterized by their relationship to priests, but by their relationship to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Second, Christifideles laici recognizes not only the secular character of the lay vocation, but also the gift that lay participation in ecclesial activities has been to the Church (Christifideles laici 23). Already in the post-synodal exhortation, Evanglii Nuntiandi (1975), Paul VI stated that the laity "are being called, to cooperate with their pastors in the service of the ecclesial community, to extend and invigorate it by the exercise of different kinds of ministries according to the grace and charisms which the Lord has pleased to bestow upon them" (Evanglii Nuntiandi 73). Developing a theology and a spirituality that recognizes these legitimate ecclesial lay ministries is a major task for the twenty-first century.
Third, the pontificate of John Paul II has given great attention to the spirituality of marriage and the family, beginning with the apostolic exhortation, Familiaris consortio (1981). Taking up this challenge to develop a spirituality appropriate for couples and their families, a variety of institutes have emerged. What unites these initiatives is the conviction that the relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, provide an authentic path for spiritual growth. In particular, the virtues traditionally associated with asceticism are here expressed in the mutual self-gift inherent in the struggles and joys of marital and family life. A deeper understanding of this relatively new area of lay spirituality will require an interdisciplinary approach that takes into account not only theological insights, but also philosophical, psychological and sociological data. Concomitant with this urgent need for a marital and family spirituality is the development of a spirituality of those who are single—whether through choice, widowhood or as a result of broken marriages.
Fourth, the rapid growth of ecclesial movements, associations and other more spontaneous groupings has opened up new contours of lay spirituality. Such diverse groups as the Cursillos de Cristiandad, Charismatic Renewal, the Neocatechumenal Way, Communion and Liberation and Worldwide Marriage Encounter witness to the desire of many laity to enter into a deeper Christian commitment with others who share the same vision. In addition to more formal movements and associations, small Christian communities, sometimes referred to as basic ecclesial communities, have flourished in various parts of the world, often among the poorest of the poor. These groups not only develop solidarity amongst their members through common prayer and reflection on Sacred Scripture, but also explore how gospel values can transform society. Each ecclesial movement, association or initiative makes its own contribution to the development of lay spirituality and together they are a sign of the spirit working to renew the Church. The Code of Canon Law provides guidelines for the various categories of associations in the Church (cf. canons 215, 298–329).
Fifth, there are recent attempts to promote a spirituality of the workplace. Since most lay women and men spend a major portion of their day in economic activity, the theological significance of human work must be considered. Work is embraced not exclusively for personal and familial needs, but also to serve society and to cultivate resources for the common good. A Christian spirituality of work accents the inherent dignity of labor, but does not define a person by his or her occupation. (GS 35, LE 26). A full approach this spirituality will aim to connect work, leisure and worship.
Finally, a survey of the twentieth century would not be complete without mentioning the renewed appreciation of martyrdom for lay spirituality. When the Commission for the New Martyrs published its findings in March 2000, among the 12,692 new martyrs listed were 2,351 lay men and women. These are representative of the countless unknown laity who died for their faith in this century. This development provides a needed corrective to past tendencies to identify radical discipleship almost exclusively with clerical or monastic models. Remembering those men and women who lived their baptismal commitment to the full can expand and enrich the spiritual landscape of the entire Church.
Towards a Lay Spirituality in the Twenty-first Century . In light of past developments, some guidelines for a lay spirituality in the twenty-first century can be ascertained. First, every consideration of lay spirituality begins with the conviction that all the baptized are called to radical Christian discipleship. Jesus is the paradigm of every Christian vocation and it is in conformity to Christ that one's relationship with the Triune God, with the Church and with the world, is discerned. Since to be a follower of Jesus is to be baptized into his life and death, there can be no second class Christians. The future of lay spirituality presumes the universal call to holiness by virtue of the sacraments of initiation.
Second, even within a new context, the traditional building blocks of lay spirituality provide a firm foundation. The laity, living out their baptism within the sacramental life of the Church, are challenged to experience the Eucharist as the font and summit of their spirituality. This celebration flows into a eucharistic way of life, a life lived in thanksgiving, praise of God and self-giving love to God and to others. This eucharistic way of life finds nourishment in prayer grounded in meditation of Sacred Scripture. The task, however, is to find creative ways to assist laity in rediscovering the centrality of the sacraments, Sacred Scripture and prayer in a fragmented and frenetic society where the link between faith and life is under constant threat.
Third, the secular character of the lay vocation is gaining in importance in the twenty-first century. The challenges of globalization, environmental stewardship and cultural diversity will require new ways to actualize the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the early Christians, the baptized of the future will be called not to abandon the world, but to transform it in light of the kingdom of god. Theirs will be an incarnate spirituality, always supporting whatever promotes the dignity of the human person and courageously resisting all that is contrary to Gospel values. As followers of the Crucified One, the lay faithful must be in solidarity with the poor, promoting a faith that does justice.
Fourth, the future of Catholic lay spirituality is inseparable from Vatican II's irrevocable commitment to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. A mature spirituality strives for full visible unity among Christians, while celebrating the communio already shared through baptism. In addition, those living in religiously pluralistic societies are challenged to integrate the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with respectful openness to neighbors of different religious convictions. With nonbelievers whose lives are often marked by ethical values and a sincere search for truth, the laity are called to embody a culture of dialogue.
Finally, since lay spirituality is no longer to be seen as a watered down form of monastic spirituality, new models of sanctity need to be promoted. Some past exemplars have already been mentioned in this article. The Church will benefit from more models of lay sanctity, including canonized married saints, recognized precisely because they bear signs of holiness in and through their lay vocation, as husbands, as wives, as mothers, as fathers, as workers, as politicians.
In conclusion, those exploring the potential of lay spirituality will encounter not only the burdens of the past, but the genuine riches of the tradition. The post-conciliar era has proved to be a springtime for the lay vocation, but whether the Church will reap the full measure of the harvest will depend upon laity taking responsibility in forging their own paths to sanctity. Too often in the past, family and work responsibilities have prevented them from carving out large block of sacred time and sacred space for spiritual activities. In reality, however, all time and space have a sacred dimension for they are shot through with God's presence. Salvation is worked out precisely in and through relationships at home, at work, and in the marketplace. The challenge in the twenty-first century is for laity to discover extraordinary grace ever active in their ordinary lives.
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