By Scott Ferrier, MJ • Phoenix, AZ

The universal call to holiness was one of the main themes in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI in a General Audience talk in 1969 said that the lay person should be “the world’s perfect citizen.”

A curious expression which is used to describe the laity’s role in the Church’s mission appears in a few of the conciliar documents: “Consecratio mundi”—the consecration of the world to God. This expression first originated with Pope Pius XII and was later appropriated by the council fathers.

By “consecration,” the Second Vatican Council intended more than its common meaning of “a separation of what is profane in order that it may be reserved exclusively for divine use.” The laity are called to restore the temporal order according to the plan willed by God. We have a direct, temporal relationship with the secular world. By virtue of our baptism and confirmation and through our liturgical worship, we participate in the holiness of Christ. Thus we impart not only a natural but a supernatural value to each and every one of our actions. It is in truth how we share in Christ’s mission of ‘reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19).

We have both the freedom and the obligation to renew the temporal order in the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church, motivated by Christian charity. This task is an essential aspect of the New Evangelization. We strive to “openly bear witness to Christ in every circumstance, in the midst of human society” because the “earthly and the heavenly city penetrate each other.” In this way “we contribute toward making the family of man and its history more human” (Gaudium et Spes, 40-43). 

Ancient and modern history are replete with examples of the tragic consequences of mankind’s attempt—separated from God’s divine blessings— to “build a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and to make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4). As for us, we must walk along the King’s highway, knowing that “here we have
no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14).

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