Today marks the feast day in the Catholic Church of St. John Paul II. His pontificate was extraordinary for many reasons, but one thing St. John Paul II understood well was the need for holiness and engagement of culture by and for the laity. In an address he made in 1987 while visiting the United States and Canada, he spoke of this very thing.
It is within the everyday world that you, the laity, must bear witness to God’s Kingdom; through you the Church’s mission is fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Council taught that the specific task of the laity is precisely this: to “seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God” (Ibid. 31). You are called to live in the world, to engage in secular professions and occupations, to live in those ordinary circumstances of family life and life in society from which is woven the very web of your existence. You are called by God himself to exercise your proper functions according to the spirit of the Gospel and to work for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven. In this way you can make Christ known to others, especially by the witness of your lives. It is for you as lay people to direct all temporal affairs to the praise of the Creator and Redeemer (Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 31).
The temporal order of which the Council speaks is vast. It encompasses the social, cultural, intellectual, political and economic life in which all of you rightly participate. As lay men and women actively engaged in this temporal order, you are being called by Christ to sanctify the world and to transform it. This is true of all work, however exalted or humble, but it is especially urgent for those whom circumstances and special talent have placed in positions of leadership or influence: men and women in public service, education, business, science, social communications, and the arts. As Catholic lay people you have an important moral and cultural contribution of service to make to the life of your country. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much (Lk. 12:48). These words of Christ apply not only to the sharing of material wealth or personal talents, but also to the sharing of one’s faith.
Today, we work, in manners both exalted and humble. Today, we engage our culture by witnessing with our lives. Today, we contribute by moral and cultural service. Today, we share the wealth of faith.