What's a Lay Person to Do? Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 23 January 2007 21:07
If you've been wondering what are the presuppositions of many of the contributors to Intentional Disciples, I suggest you read Russell Shaw's book, "Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church." I read it last autumn with great excitement as I discovered, at last, someone who seemed to be speaking the same language, and who had made similar connections between a variety of papal encyclicals and apostolic exhortations as had Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P. and Sherry Weddell. Before you buy the book, however, you can get a taste of it here and by the quotes I offer below.

Mr. Shaw is a layman who has served the Church for many years as a journalist. His book covers the role of the laity in the Church from Apostolic times to after the Second Vatican Council. He also offers some insightful comments regarding the pernicious disease of clericalism, both in clerics and in members of the laity. Most exciting to me, however, is the fact that nearly half of the book is devoted to discussing personal vocation, the laity in the mission of the Church, and the apostolate and spirituality of the laity. In the book, as well as in the article linked above, he describes what the laity "should be doing."

1) Giving priority to lay apostolate in and to the secular world as the preferred, though not exclusive, form of lay participation in the mission of the Church;

2) Cultivating an authentically lay spirituality incorporating central elements of lay life and experience like marriage and work;

3) Discerning, accepting, and living out of the unique personal vocations of lay persons as the essential framework for their apostolate and their personal holiness.

He also advocates the need for promoting a new Catholic "subculture" as a necessary means for supporting the evangelization of the culture. But he's no romantic naively longing for the "good old" pre-Vatican II days. He writes, "Simply returning to the Catholic subculture of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s is not possible, nor would it be desirable if it could be done. Along with its undoubted strengths and virtues, the subculture of that era was triumphalistic, intellectually shallow, and overly defensive. Hardly what is needed now, if the evangelization of culture is the goal.
The new Catholic subculture must instead be built upon an infrastructure of dynamically orthodox institutions, programs, and movements committed to forming and motivating Catholics for the evangelization of the secular world. Here and there, it may be starting to happen. If it is to succeed, lay women and men must play a key role."

Sounds like he's thinking about the Catherine of Siena Institute, doesn't it? I'll have to e-mail him a link to this blog and our website!