Josemaría Escrivá Obras
  Conversations > Freedom and Pluralism in the People of God > Number 21

At the same time there are other aspects of this process of ecclesiological development which represent quite significant doctrinal enrichment. God undoubtedly has desired that Opus Dei, along with other no less worthy apostolic ventures and associations, should contribute in no small part to them, with its spirit and its life. However these are doctrinal enrichments which may be long in becoming incorporated into the life of the whole People of God. You yourself have touched upon some of these aspects in your earlier questions: the development of an authentic lay spirituality; the understanding of the layman's proper and specific role in the Church, a role which is neither ecclesiastical nor official; the clarification of the rights and duties which the layman has by virtue of being a layman; the relations between hierarchy and laity; the equality and dignity of the complementary, not contrary, tasks which men and women have in the Church; the need to achieve an orderly public opinion in the People of God, and so forth.

All this obviously constitutes a very mobile reality, which is often paradoxical. Something which when said forty years ago scandalised most if not all who heard it, now sounds strange to hardly anyone. But on the other hand there are still very few who understand it fully and who live it properly.

I can explain this better with an example. In 1932, commenting for my sons and daughters in Opus Dei on some of the aspects and consequences of the special dignity and responsibility which Baptism confers upon people, I wrote for them in a document, 'The prejudice that ordinary members of the faithful must limit themselves to helping the clergy in ecclesiastical apostolates has to be rejected. There is no reason why the secular apostolate should always be a mere participation in the apostolate of the hierarchy. Secular people too have a duty to do apostolate. Not because they receive a canonical mission, but because they are part of the Church. Their mission... is fulfilled in their profession, their job, their family, and among their colleagues and friends'.

Today, after the solemn teachings of Vatican II, it is unlikely that anyone in the Church would question the orthodoxy of this teaching. But how many people have really abandoned the narrow conception of the apostolate of the laity as a pastoral work organised 'from the top down'? How many people have got beyond the previous 'monolithic' conception of the lay apostolate, and understand that it can and indeed should exist without the necessity of rigid centralised structures, canonical missions and hierarchical mandates ? How many people who consider the laity as the longa manus Ecclesiae, do not at the same time confuse in their minds the concept of Church-People of God with the more limited concept of hierarchy? How many laymen understand that unless they act in tactful communion with the hierarchy they have no right to claim their legitimate sphere of apostolic autonomy?

Similar lines of thought could be formulated with regard to other problems because there is in fact a great deal which remains to be done, as much in the way of doctrinal exposition, as by education of consciences and reform of ecclesiastical legislation. I often ask our Lord — prayer has always been my great weapon — that the Holy Spirit will help His People, and especially the hierarchy, in accomplishing these tasks. And I also ask him to continue using Opus Dei so that we may be able to contribute and help, in whatever way we can, in this difficult but wonderful process of development and growth in the Church.

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