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Reviewed by:
  • The Emerging Laity—Vocation, Mission, and Spirituality
  • Rose Mcdermott S.S.J.
The Emerging Laity—Vocation, Mission, and Spirituality by Aurelie A. Hagstrom. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2010.

In the Preface to the text, Dolores Leckey notes that many people live out the changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council without understanding their sources. Following twenty years of study, Hagstrom states the goal of the text in the Introduction: "to translate the Second Vatican Council's theology of the laity into simple and clear language for others who have not made such a serious study." Six chapters comprise the text: 1) The Second Vatican Council and the Laity, 2) The Call or Vocation of the Laity, 3) The Laity's Call to Holiness, 4) The Mission of the Laity, 5) The Ministry of the Laity in the Church, and 6) The Spirituality of the Laity.

Chapter one reviews Pope John XXIII's call for the twenty-first ecumenical council in order to open the windows of the Vatican for fresh air. This "New Pentecost" affected all members of the Christian faithful, particularly the laity. The conciliar fathers recognized the Church as the communion of the faithful having a common dignity and equality as well as a sharing in Christ's mission.

Chapter two addresses the counciliar teaching, reclaiming baptism as the fundamental sacrament, and Pope John Paul II's restatement of this teaching in his 1988 apostolic exhortation, Christifideles laici. Through baptism, a person becomes a disciple of Christ, a member of the ecclesial community, and a sharer in Christ's mission. Baptism is the foundation of all other vocations in the Church.

Chapter three analyzes the universal call to holiness and its significance for the lay vocation and mission. The author traces the roots of this teaching in both the Old and New Testaments. Holiness demands an ongoing conversion to Christ and His people throughout one's life.

Chapter four studies the role of the laity in the mission of the Church as described in Lumen gentium, Apostolicam actuositatem, and Christifideles laici. The author refers to Pauline teachings on baptism and the responsibility of the disciple to participate in the mission of the Church. All have gifts to share; the laity, due to the secular distinction of their vocation, can bring Christ to places where clerics and members of institutes of consecrated life cannot venture.

Chapter five reflects on the many ministries of the Christians in the early church. It continues with a review of Sacrosanctum concilium and the variety of ministries open to the laity within the sanctifying function of the Church. [End Page 302] Laity also participate in the teaching function, particularly in catechetics, faith formation, and missionary activity. The author refers to the documents of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calling for ongoing research, reflection and study of lay ecclesial ministry.

Chapter six notes the importance of spirituality for the vocation and service of the laity. It is a spirituality integrated into the life of the lay person and distinct from the spiritualities associated with the clerical and consecrated vocations. Only a deep commitment to the Word of God, the sacraments, personal prayer, and a generous sharing of one's gifts with family, friends and other associates will sustain and strengthen one's intimacy with Christ.

Hagstrom concludes with a summation of the vocation of the laity rooted in baptism incorporating one in the ecclesial community with a sharing in Christ's mission. The laity have a distinct role in the secular world, but some are called to ministerial service in the Church.

This reviewer found the text a bit repetitious at times; nevertheless, it serves the author's purpose and is recommended for those unfamiliar with conciliar texts and the 1988 apostolic exhortation, Christifideles laici. True to her word, the author offers an easy read that will be welcomed by teachers and students alike in the many lay ministry programs throughout the United States.

Rose Mcdermott S.S.J.
The Catholic University of America
School of Canon Law
Washington DC


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pp. 302-303
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