Priest, Prophet, and King

Following Baptism, a Catholic endeavors to be a true disciple, a student, of Jesus. The believer seeks to follow the example and teaching of Jesus. Catholics believe that God works actively in the world. Catholics grow in grace through participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and through prayer, works of mercy, and spiritual disciplines such as fasting and pilgrimage.

All baptized members of the Catholic Church are called faithful, truly equal in dignity and in the work to build the Church. By virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism, all are called to share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal office. While a certain percentage of the faithful perform roles related to serving the ministerial priesthood (hierarchy) and giving eschatological witness (consecrated life), the great majority of the faithful perform a specific role of exercising the three offices of Christ by “engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will…to illuminate and order all temporal things.”

These are the laity, whom John Paul II urged in Christifideles laici “to take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church,” for they not only belong to the Church, but “are the Church.” (Italics in the original)

Equipped with the common priesthood in baptism, these ordinary Catholics –e.g., mothers, farmers, businessmen, writers, politicians — are to take initiative in “discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life.” They exercise the priestly office by offering their works as spiritual sacrifices, the prophetic office by their word and testimony of life in the ordinary circumstances of the world, and the kingly office by self-mastery and conforming worldly institutions to the norms of justice.

This theology of the laity, called a “characteristic mark” of Vatican II by Paul VI and John Paul II, was complemented, and in some cases influenced, by the rise of many lay ecclesial movements and structures in the 20th century.