What Are the Laity Called to Do? Vocation Beyond the Clergy

Listen to this article


When people hear the word “vocation” within the Catholic Church, their thoughts often drift towards the priesthood, religious life, or maybe the diaconate. While these are certainly important vocations, the laity—the ordinary folks in the pews—also have a crucial role to play. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life” (CCC 899). So what exactly are the laity called to do? This article delves into this topic, considering the universal call to holiness, the lay person’s role in the Church, and their duty in society.

The Universal Call to Holiness

What is Holiness?

Holiness is the goal for every baptized person, not just for priests or nuns. But what is holiness? Holiness is essentially a profound relationship with God, becoming more like Jesus Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Catechism states, “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (CCC 2013). This means that holiness isn’t limited to monasteries or the pulpit. It’s for everyone.

Scriptural Foundations

In his first letter, Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9). This speaks to the dignity and vocation of every Christian, not just the ordained. Similarly, Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), are directed at all His followers.

The Role of the Laity in the Church

The Vineyard of the Lord

The Church isn’t just built by bishops and priests; lay people also have an active role to play. The Catechism states, “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will” (CCC 898).

Different Roles, Same Mission

The laity are called to be leaven in the world, transforming society from within. In certain situations, they may also collaborate in the pastoral ministry when circumstances require it, such as catechesis, the liturgy, and works of charity (cf. CCC 910).

Evangelization and Apostolate

It’s not just the clergy who are meant to spread the Good News. The laity, too, are called to evangelize. “Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization” (CCC 905).

The Lay Vocation in Society

As Salt and Light

Jesus tells us, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). This applies universally to all disciples, not just clergy.

In Family Life

The laity often live out their vocation most profoundly within the family, which the Catechism calls the “domestic Church” (CCC 1655-1657). Parents, for instance, have the first responsibility for the education of their children in the faith (CCC 2223).

Professional Life

The laity also have a special role in their professional lives, where they must strive to enact justice and live out the Gospel values. The Catechism stresses, “Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth” (CCC 2427).

Living a Sacramental Life

The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are essential for the lay vocation. The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It nourishes the laity and empowers them to live out their mission in the world.


The laity are called to holiness and have important roles both in the Church and in society. The universal call to holiness, expressed in the Gospels and Church teaching, makes it clear that each of us, regardless of our state in life, is called to a profound relationship with God and a life of charity. Far from being second-class citizens in the Church, the laity have an indispensable role to play in bringing the Gospel into all areas of life.

Indeed, “it is laymen, especially, who are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world” in their family, professional life, and social engagements (CCC 899). Thus, the vocation of the laity is not “secondary” but is essential to the Church’s mission and to the transformation of the world in Christ.

🙏 Your PayPal Donation Appreciated

Select a Donation Option (USD)

Enter Donation Amount (USD)


As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you.

Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scroll to Top