Is There a Lay Spirituality?
The word “spirituality” refers to something in the world of experience. It is the life of the Spirit in us (cf. Gal 5:25). But it is something that is not limited to mere personal experience: it also includes reflection on what is experienced. Spirituality, then, is also attentive knowledge of what happens in that life of the Spirit in us. It is “the science of the paths” through which God works in us, and it is also “the science of the means” that help the growth of our spiritual life. Clearly, this path of knowledge has its own structure: it welcomes insights into spiritual processes and at the same time draws inspiration from the riches of biblical and ecclesial tradition.
The lay condition: from what is not to what is
Those who want to take an interest in lay spirituality need to pay attention to the processes that shape the existential reality of the laity. This presupposes a certain awareness of what the lay condition is. The decades leading up to the Second Vatican Council marked a significant turning point, as people ceased to define the lay condition only in a negative sense and began to look at it in a positive sense as well. The laity were seen not so much in opposition to the clergy and religious, but rather on the basis of what is proper to them. The Second Vatican Council’s definition of the laity clearly reflects this development. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, in no. 31, states, “After having been incorporated into Christ by baptism and constituted the People of God and, in their measure, made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, for their part [the laity] fulfill, in the Church and in the world, the mission proper to the whole Christian people” […] “the secular character is proper and peculiar to the laity” […] “by their vocation the laity seek the kingdom of God by dealing with temporal things and ordering them according to God’s will.”