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Monday 16 January 2012

APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM and the dumbing down of lay expectations

Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity  click here

On another blog, there is a discussion on the laity. Fr. Blake has started an important conversation about those who know the Faith and those who perhaps do not. I have a great memory of the document on the laity which came out in 1965 and challenged an entire generation of us youth to look at ourselves in a new and exciting manner. Pope Paul VI taught us lay people not only our responsibilities in the Church, but challenged us to meet those, not as clericized lay people, but as people who are to bring the Gospel into the world. I have written on this earlier here on this blog and in the past. The laity of 2012 in too many places have accepted no responsibility for their own growth in the Faith and have not grown up to take ownership of their own consciences.

To blame priests, or bishops for not leading is a lame excuse for not being a saint. See my post almost two weeks ago on this point. What has arisen on Fr. Blake's blog is the question of maybe a two-tiered Church, of those who know or are in the know and those who are not.

We have only ourselves to blame for a lack of knowledge. And the document clearly sets forth the idea that we all have different talents to use within the Church, which we know from St. Paul's great letter, First Corinthians, Chapter 12. The problem is not a recognition of gifts, but an acceptance of responsibility.

Look at one of the sections of this document, which I studied in high school and college, and which my parents studied in an adult faith formation group in their parish in the middle to late 1960s.

Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity's living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord's words, "He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy.(5) These are to be used by the laity in such a way that while correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate union with Christ from their life but rather performing their work according to God's will they grow in that union. In this way the laity must make progress in holiness in a happy and ready spirit, trying prudently and patiently to overcome difficulties.(6) Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be irrelevant to their spiritual life, in keeping with the words of the Apostle, "What-ever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col. 3:17).
Such a life requires a continual exercise of faith, hope, and charity. Only by the light of faith and by meditation on the word of God can one always and everywhere recognize God in Whom "we live, and move, and have our being" ( Acts 17:28), seek His will in every event, see Christ in everyone whether he be a relative or a stranger, and make correct judgments about the true meaning and value of temporal things both in themselves and in their relation to man's final goal.

Read the entire link above, as this is a great motivational document. Now, what happened? How is it that this clarion call was not heeded except by a few?

I blame the same educational dumbing down which happened in all the schools as connected to this phenomenon of the laity not taking responsibility for learning the Faith and acting out that Faith in the market place. When expectations for learning were destroyed by a false egalitarianism, when no one was allowed to be better than anyone else in the classroom, when mediocrity won the day (my famous story of all the kindergarten children-all-getting awards on award day so that no one would feel left out), when the kids' baseball team stopped having try-outs, when tracking in schools was stopped so that no one would be hurt by being in the lower tracks, and so on, the laity got used to being lazy about the Faith. The message of one of my favorite plays which I used to teach, Amadeus, is that mediocrity wins over excellence in these times. The Salieris have killed the Mozarts.

As a teacher and a lay person I can say that the most rewarding times I have had in catechesis have been when I have taught the Mystagogia, or Mystagogy classes after the RCIA first or second year, which were absolutely not required but attended by those who wanted to grow in the Faith. What a fantastic experience it was to teach those who wanted to learn more about the Mysteries of the Faith. All the laity should want to do this, and it was free!

So, why are people "too busy", "too tired", "too stressed" to take advantage of Adult Faith Formation when offered? Is it offered everywhere? As I have noted elsewhere, Bishop Finn in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has a wonderful program. This type of thing could be happening everywhere.

One of the problems is the emphasis by some on experiential religion alone. We are in an Age of Anti-Intellectualism, see below again....I personally blame the over-emphasis on feeling (see Picard below) and the seeking of comforts from God-wanting the lollipops and not the meat. St. Paul in the same epistle mentioned above states that he wants to give meat to the people but they can only take milk and milk is baby food. Adult Catholics must decide to start eating meat and give up the bottle. This is our responsibility and not the priest's. If there is a two-tiered system of Catholics, we have only ourselves to blame.

Wow, from Rorate Caeli today--direct quote and see side link

For the first time in decades, a cerimoniere pontificio - Monsignor Marco Agostini, an official in the State Secretariat who has also been since June 2009 in the staff of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, headed by Mgr. Guido Marini - celebrated the Traditional Mass publicly. It took place yesterday in the Personal Parish of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, the parish entrusted to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) in the Diocese of Rome.

[Source & tip: Osservatore Vaticano blog]

An Unusual, Controversial Catholic Subject-Celibacy in Marriage

Now, I am not married, but I live a celibate life-style. However, I have an increasing number of friends, traditional Catholics, who have opted for celibacy in their marriages. This is not a new ideal in the Church, and although Christ wants most married couples to be fruitful and multiply, that is, to have the wonderful children God desires them to have, there have been and are couples, who for the sake of the kingdom, have chosen a different way. Of course, the norm, having children as God gives, creates saints, such as Blessed Louis and  Blessed Zelie Martin, Blessed Karl and Empress Zita, SS. Joachim and Anna, SS. Isidore and Maria (who vowed abstinence later in their marriage), and so on. This is not an exhaustive list.

However, the emphasis on celibacy should be rare, but seen as a call within a call. I also think there has to be good reason for not having children. The grand example are two of my favorite Catholics, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, who on the Isle of Wight, as Benedictine Oblates, took a vow of celibacy "for the sake of the Kingdom". Raissa writes in her diary, which I practically have memorized, that it was difficult for her, but she could see that Jacques was called to be in the world and she was his prayer backup, companion in holiness, and confidant, as well as best-friend. They shared philosophy, theology, and the dedication to bringing the Gospel into the workplace in the extreme. God called them to this.

I first met celibate married couples about twenty-five years ago. The first couple I met were in their forties and had a close relationship with the Church and the priest who was the pastor. They were very active in the Church, but did not have normal marital relations. They had chosen that way and had married later in life. The man had been in the Jesuit seminary for years, but left, as he did not think he had a priestly vocation. He found a wife who would support him in his spiritual walk. The second couple I met were in their early sixties. They had decided that past child-bearing age, they would make a celibate commitment. Since then, I have met another couple who have decided the same thing. Their "extra" time is spent in good works, praying and fasting. Obviously, these couples have spiritual directors. This call within a call is, also, obviously, by mutual consent.

Those with a worldly mindset and even some good Catholics may find this call repelling or unnatural. I would say that this call is rare, but not unnatural. I think that those who decide to live in the world, or are called so by God to remain among the laity, can exhibit a variety of calls "for the sake of the Kingdom". And, to be in a relationship which is celibate may be a sign of contradiction to the world as well as giving two people the necessary, daily support a brother and sister in Christ may give to each other. Intimacy has many faces, and the physical side of intimacy is only one aspect of relationship. I have written this to support my friends who have chosen this way and to encourage those who feel the need for companionship without sex to be comforted in that they are not alone. We are all called to be saints, and there are many ways, in Christ, through Mary, to be saints.

In addition, God did not intend people to live all alone. The fact that there are so many single, lonely individuals needs to be addressed by the Church. Those who for whatever reason cannot be a priest or nun or sister, have some options, but loneliness should not be the norm. Church communities have failed, especially in America, to support their singles. Many Catholics are singles for many reasons. There exists a judgmental attitude, which excludes those singles from the larger interaction in the Church. And, for those who desire celibacy in the world, that is an option, but it does not have to equal loneliness. I am very fortunate, as I do not experience the gnawing type of loneliness some do. I may miss my dear friends when apart from them, but that is different than the vague experience of loneliness many feel. We all need to reach out to those who feel this need, pray for them, and include them in our busy lives. To do otherwise is not to be Christian.