The third and final post on the missing piece in the effort to attract priestly vocations. Part one is here and part two can be found here.
Implications for Priestly Vocations Why am I so interested in the image of the priest portrayed in vocational materials? I believe that some young men may not consider a vocation to priesthood if a critical aspect of priestly life is not lived fully by most priests and is not "advertised" in vocation promotional materials. That part of priesthood has to do with the royal ministry of Christ; that ministry of forming others, of governing the charisms of the laity and coordinating their use within the parish and in the mission of bringing Christ to the world.
Some young men may well be primarily attracted to the idea of bringing Christ to the faithful through the prayerful celebration of the sacraments. Others may feel called particularly to instruct the faithful through creative and insightful homilies, classes on Scripture, and through the proclamation of the Gospel in the RCIA process, for example. I know priests who would fall into those categories, and they're wonderful ministers. There are priests who spend as much of their time and energy as they can in pastoral counseling to individuals. They enjoy getting to know their parishioners, and there is a wonderful affection and even love shared between these pastors and the people they serve.
But is it not possible that there are men who are gifted by God to help form others – and who feel called to do so? These men could embody that part of fatherhood that calls forth the best from others and empowers them to take their place in the world and in their unique vocation. Many young Catholic men want to make a difference in the world. Some are called to do so directly, through working in the business world, in politics, in the fields of law, medicine, scientific research, agriculture, the arts, and more. But I believe there are also men who want to make a difference by empowering others to make a difference in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. They dream of seeing others realize their potential, and can imagine a multiplying effect as those enthusiastic disciples of Jesus touch the lives of those who have not yet met him and transform the worlds of business, politics, law, medicine, science, the arts – in short, the temporal world. Some of them may rightly discern a call to marriage, in which that empowerment will be directed toward their spouse and children.
But some might be delighted to find that dream fulfilled as a priest – if only they knew the whole story of what it means to be a priest.
While I enjoy teaching and am often awestruck at the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments with God's beloved people, I find my priesthood is not complete unless these help transform people into active disciples of Jesus who long to discern his will for their lives and use their gifts in his mission to the world. When that happens, it's a beautiful experience, and I know my priesthood – and thus my life - is bearing fruit.
By the way, if you are a lover of history and food, run, do not walk, to the Food Timeline.
On the day before Thanksgiving, what better way to begin the day but with a mug of java and the contemplation of historic Thanksgiving menus:
"Our modern holiday fare bears little resemblance to the food eaten at the three-day 1621 harvest celebration at Plymouth Colony, the event now recalled as the “First Thanksgiving.” The Wampanoag and Plymouth colonists often ate wild turkey, however it was not specifically mentioned in connection with that 1621 harvest celebration. Edward Winslow said only that four men went hunting and brought back large amounts of “fowl” – more likely from the scenario to be seasonal waterfowl such as ducks and geese.
And what about the stuffing? Yes, the Wampanoag and English did occasionally stuff the birds and fish, typically with herbs, onions or oats (English only). If cranberries were served at the harvest celebration, they appeared in Wampanoag dishes, or possibly to add tartness to an English sauce. It would be 50 years before an Englishman mentioned boiling this New England berry with sugar for a “Sauce to eat with …Meat.” In 1621 England, sugar was expensive; in 1621 New Plymouth, there may not have been any of this imported spice at all.
Potatoes, which had originated in South America, had not yet made their way into the diet of the Wampanoag in 1621 (though the Wampanoag did eat other local varieties of tubers). By 1621, potatoes, both sweet and white, had traveled across the Atlantic to Europe but they had not been generally adopted into the English diet. The sweet potato, originating in the Caribbean, was cultivated in Spain and imported into England. It was a rare dainty available to the wealthy, who believed it to be a potent aphrodisiac. The white potato was virtually unknown by the average early 17th-century Englishman. Only a few gentlemen botanists and gardeners were trying to grow this colonial oddity.
But surely there was pumpkin pie to celebrate the harvest? Pumpkin -- probably yes, but pie – probably not...The typical menu of Thanksgiving dinner is actually more than 200 years younger than that 1621 celebration and reflects both the holiday’s New England roots and a Victorian nostalgia for an imaginary time when hearth and home, family and community, were valued over progress and change.
But while we have been able to work out which modern dishes were not available in 1621, just what was served is a tougher nut to crack. The only contemporary description of the event by Edward Winslow tells us that they had seasonal wild fowl and the venison brought by the Wampanoag and presented to key Englishmen. The same writer is eloquent about the bounty of his new home (items in bold were available in the early autumn).
"Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels ... at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will; all the spring-time the earth sendeth forth naturally very good sallet herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspas, etc. Plums of tree sorts, with black and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red, and damask; single, but very sweet indeed… These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us."1
Another source describing the colonial diet that autumn said “besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had … since harvest, Indian corn.”2 Though not specifically mentioned as a food on the menu, corn was certainly part of the feasts. Remember that the harvest being celebrated was that of the colorful hard flint corn that the English often referred to as Indian corn. This corn was a staple for the Wampanoag and soon became a fixture in the cooking pots of New Plymouth. The English had acquired their first seed corn by helping themselves to a cache of corn from a Native storage pit on one of their initial explorations of Cape Cod. (They later paid the owners for this “borrowed” corn.)
It is intriguing to imagine how the English colonists processed and prepared the novel corn for the first time in the fall of 1621. One colonist gave a hint of how his countrymen sought to describe and prepare a new grain in familiar, comforting terms: “Our Indian corn, even the coarsest, maketh as pleasant a meat as rice.”3 In other words, traditional English dishes of porridge and pancakes (and later bread) were adapted to be used with native corn. ...
In September and October, a variety of both dried and fresh vegetables were available. The produce from the gardens of New Plymouth is likely to have included what were then called “herbs:” parsnips, collards, carrots, parsley, turnips, spinach, cabbages, sage, thyme, marjoram and onions. Dried cultivated beans and dried wild blueberries may have been available as well as native cranberries, pumpkins, grapes and nuts. While many elements of the modern holiday menu are very different from the foods eaten in 1621, the bounty of the New England autumn was clearly the basis for both." ---Partakers of our Plenty, Kathleen A. Curtin, Plimoth Plantation
"Bill of Fare of Thanksgiving Dinner in Connecticut, Nov. 1817.
Geese 50,000, Turkeys 5,500, Chickens 65,000, Ducks 2,000, Beef and Pork, 25,000 lbs, Potatoes 12,000 bu, Turnips 14,000, Beets 4,000, Onions 5,000, Cheese 10,000 lbs, Apple-Sauce 12,000 gls, Cranberry do. 1,000, Desert. Pump. Pies 520,000, Apple Pies 100,000, Other pies & Puddings 52,000, Wine, gls. 150, Brandy, gls, 150, Gin, gls 120, Rum, gls, 1,000, Cider, Bran., & Whiskey, 6000. Which would take 650 hhds, of strained pumpkin; 81 do. molasses; 4060 lbs. ginger; 7000 lbs. alspice, 86,666 lbs. flour; 43,333 lbs of butter or lard; 325 hhds. of milk of 100 galls each; 1000 nutmegs; 50 lbs. cinnamon; 43,5000 dozen eggs--all which would weigh about 504 tons, and would cost about $114,000." ---Times [Hartford, Ct.] December 30, 1817 (p. 3)
I particularly like the prospect of 43,000 pounds of lard. Presumably not all at one sitting. Back when $114,000 really took you somewhere.
One of the classic phrases regarding the longevity of this particular food was coined in 1983 by Russell Baker: "Fruitcake is forever."
"Thirty-four years ago, I inherited the family fruitcake. Fruitcake is the only food durable enough to become a family heirloom. It had been in my grandmother's possession since 1880, and she passed it to a niece in 1933. Surprisingly, the niece, who had always seemed to detest me, left it to me in her will....I would have renounced my inheritance except for the sentiment of the thing, for the family fruitcake was the symbol of our family's roots. When my grandmother inherited it, it was already 86 years old, having been baked by her great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington, with his high-flown view of ethical standards for Government workers, sent it back with thanks, explaining that he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter...There is no doubt...about the fruitcake's great age. Sawing into it six Christmasses ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City."
---"Fruitcake is Forever," Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6 (p. 10)
And in case you just had to know, the oldest continuously operating fruitcake bakery in the US is here: Corsicana, Texas
The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake can be found here.
And you are always welcome to end your Christmas season by attending the annual Manitou Springs, Colorado fruitcake toss, just 25 or so minutes from us. Get that date on your calendar now: January 5, 2008.
Fruitcake categories include the ugliest fruitcake, the most creative use of a fruitcake, and the longest distance that a fruitcake is hurled. The all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record is 1,420 feet, set in January 2007 by a group of eight Boeing engineers, who built the Omega 380, a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air, pumped by an exercise bike. They outlawed such tosses since.
All Fruitcakes will be examined by the “Fruitcake Toss Tech Inspectors.”
2. A limited number of fruitcakes will be available to rent for $1.00 if you were not fortunate enough to receive one of your own or if you were unable to find the time or recipe to bake one.
Standard & Super Heavy Weight Division for distance - You must use a 2 pound cake for the Launch or Hurl Division for the standard weight distance competition and a 4 pound fruitcake for the Pneumatic Division to qualify for the Super Heavy Weight distance competition.
But it's the day before Thanksgiving, 22 degrees and snowing here in Colorado Springs. Which means its fruitcake time! Because if you are going to make it this year and have time for it to age beautifully in that bath of brandy, you have to start thinking about it now.
First of all, we must deal with the great, universal fruitcake question.
The answer seems to be that human beings just like what happens when you stuff a cake full of fruit and nuts. From the History of Fruitcake:
The oldest reference that can be found regarding a fruitcake dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds. Pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.
1400s - The British began their love affair with fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterranean first arrived.
1700s - In Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest and saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest, hoping it will bring them another successful harvest. After the harvest, nuts were mixed and made into a fruitcake that was saved until the following year. At that time, previous year's fruitcakes were consumed in the hope that its symbolism would bring the blessing of another successful harvest
In the early 18th century, fruitcake (called plum cakes) was outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe. These cakes were considered as "sinfully rich." By the end of the 18th century there were laws restricting the use of plum cake.
Between 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was extremely popular. A Victorian "Tea" would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread. Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.
It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.
Those of you who don't like fruitcake can be consoled by the knowledge that it was once outlawed.
It was only in the 13th century that dried fruits began to arrive in Britain, from Portugal and the east Mediterranean. Lightly fruited breads were probably more common than anything resembling the modern fruit cake during the Middle Ages. Early versions of the rich fruit cake, such as Scottish Black Bun dating from the Middle Ages, were luxuries for special occasions. Fruit cakes have been used for celebrations since at least the early 18th century when bride cakes and plumb cakes, descended from enriched bread recipes, became cookery standards. The relationship between fruit breads and fruit cakes is obvious in early recipes, such as those given by Eliza Smith  which include yeast...
Making a rich fruit cake in the 18th century was a major undertaking. The ingredients had to be carefully prepared. Fruit was washed, dried, and stoned [taking the pits out] if necessary; sugar, cut from loaves, had to be pounded and sieved; butter washed in water and rinsed in rosewater. Eggs were beaten for a long time, half an hour being commonly directed. Yeast, or barm from fermenting beer, had to be coaxed to life. Finally, the cook had to cope with the temperamental wood-fired baking ovens of that time. No wonder these cakes acquired such mystique..." ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 321-322)
Archbishop Bruno Forte, who is a member of the International Theological Commission, has recently issued a pastoral letter on Baptism that I found encouraging and challenging: (via Zenit)in light of all the work we have done over the past year in preparation for Making Disciples.
Proclamation of Christ is essential: (ok, you knew this was coming)
The proclamation of the Gospel, he said, is a necessary requisite for baptism, even though in past years this duty of the baptized "was almost discounted and the importance of preparation for baptism was rather neglected." "In the complex society in which we live, multireligious and multicultural, the urgency of proclaiming the faith and of Christ's call to conversion shows itself in all its necessity," observed the 58-year-old prelate.
And I love this consoling thought:
"He who receives baptism is not alone: God who is love will guard you always."
"Thanks to the gift of baptism," said Archbishop Forte, "we have the certainty of belonging always to God, and we can experience the sweetness of being in the hands of one who will never betray us."
Sweetness indeed for those of us who are seeking God but struggle with hope or scrupulosity or depression or abandonment issues.
Some implications re: salvation and the Church
He continued: "This definitive relationship with God consists fittingly of the 'character' imprinted by baptism, the bond with him, which thanks to his fidelity cannot be canceled, will unite us always to his family, the Church."
Sherry's note: As the Catholic Encyclopedia has noted, theologians have speculated that baptized human beings can bear their baptismal character into hell itself. Literally nothing we can do, no sin, no apostasy, can erase the mark of baptism. Just as obviously, if we can bear, in some unfathomable way, our baptismal bond with God and his Church into hell itself, being marked with this character is not a guarantee that we will reach our ultimate happiness and spend eternity with God.
I sometimes wonder if we have not inverted the meaning of baptismal character. I am simultaneously running across Catholics who, caught up in the culture wars mindset, act and talk as though liturgical preferences or doctrinal differences or open dissent or indifference can make a person cease to be Catholic and many lapsed Catholics who assume they can just jettison their baptismal identity any time they choose. At the same time, we have noticed a near universal pastoral practice that de facto assumes that all the baptized are “saved” by the sheer fact of their sacramental incorporation into the Body of Christ regardless of their personal response to the grace they have received.
The Catholic belief is: Once a Christian, always a Christian but not “once saved, always saved.” We could still end up spending eternity apart from God. Because, as St. Augustine observed, God will not save us without us. One really challenging ecumenical implication of “once a Christian, always a Christian”:
For this reason, the archbishop wrote, "there exists among all the baptized [...] a communion stronger than their differences, which -- although it exists in different degrees -- is the basis of the ecumenical commitment, conducive to overcome the historical divisions among them."
The "passion for the unity that Christ wants," confirmed Archbishop Forte, is therefore "inscribed in the same baptismal grace."
This same mark, which cannot be erased even in hell, creates a communion stronger than our differences. This is true even though the communion exists in different degrees.
The Archbishop seems to be saying that Even the most distant baptismal communion between Christians is stronger than the differences between us.
Appropos of Fr. Mike's series on priesthood, here is a video of three of the four Dominicans ordained this past August for the Western Province (of which the Catherine of Siena Institute is an apostolate.) They were interviewed two days before ordination. The background gives you some idea of the beauty of the church at St. Dominic's in San Francisco, where Dominican novices spend their first year and where our Bay area Called & Gifted team is located. Hat tip: Amy Welborn
This is a continuation of a post I made yesterday about priestly vocations websites.
The Obligations and Rights of Clerics The Code of Canon Law mentions that priests are to "acknowledge and promote the mission which the laity, each for his or her part, exercise in the Church and in the world." Can. 275 §2.
Several descriptions of the life of the priest that I read on diocesan and archdiocesan vocation pages were drawn from canon law's description of the obligations of a pastor. Yet when it comes to describing the office of the pastor and how he expresses his priestly, prophetic and royal ministry, it is hard to see the relation between these aspects of his office and the promotion of the mission the laity have in the world. Here's what the Code says:
Can. 528 §1. A pastor is obliged to make provision so that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish; for this reason, he is to take care that the lay members of the Christian faithful are instructed in the truths of the faith, especially by giving a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation and by offering catechetical instruction. He is to foster works through which the spirit of the gospel is promoted, even in what pertains to social justice. He is to have particular care for the Catholic education of children and youth. He is to make every effort, even with the collaboration of the Christian faithful, so that the message of the gospel comes also to those who have ceased the practice of their religion or do not profess the true faith.
§2. The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy …
This canon describes the pastor's prophetic and priestly function for the Christian community. The two paragraphs of canon 529 describe his royal function in an interesting way: Can. 529 §1. In order to fulfill his office diligently, a pastor is to strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care. Therefore he is to visit families, sharing especially in the cares, anxieties, and griefs of the faithful, strengthening them in the Lord, and prudently correcting them if they are failing in certain areas. With generous love he is to help the sick, particularly those close to death, by refreshing them solicitously with the sacraments and commending their souls to God; with particular diligence he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, those exiled from their country, and similarly those weighed down by special difficulties. He is to work so that spouses and parents are supported in fulfilling their proper duties and is to foster growth of Christian life in the family. §2. A pastor is to recognize and promote the proper part which the lay members of the Christian faithful have in the mission of the Church, by fostering their associations for the purposes of religion…
The first paragraph emphasizes the need for the pastor to know the lay faithful who have been entrusted to his pastoral care, and that certainly is a beloved image of the priest: one who is with his parishioners in the most significant moments of their lives. But how is one to interpret the job of "prudently correcting them if they are failing in certain areas"? If that correction had to do with matters of doctrine, I would expect it to appear in the section on the pastor's teaching function (Can. 528 §1). Since the second paragraph focuses more specifically on the proper part of the laity in the mission to the world, I would suggest that at least one "area for correction" would be those situations in which the laity are neglecting - or even denying - that mission.
Canon law does not exhaust the Church's instruction on what it means to be a priest. In addition to sharing the lives of his parishioners, a priest is called to acknowledge and discern the spiritual gifts they have been given, and help them recognize them, too. Priests are called, in fact, to recognize, uncover with faith, acknowledge with joy, foster with diligence, appreciate, judge and discern, coordinate and put to good use, and have “heartfelt esteem” for the charisms of all the baptized. (cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 30; Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests, 9; I Will Give You Shepherds, 40, 74; Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 32) This is an incredibly important aspect of what it means to exercise pastoral governance, the heart of a priest's royal ministry.
Of course, that's a bit complex to demonstrate in the context of a short video, especially since very few lay people have experienced a priest who has assisted them in discerning their spiritual gifts, much less consciously coordinating them for the mission to the local culture.
As beautiful as "Fishers of Men" is, a vital part of the priest's vocation is absent. We priests are not simply teachers and sacramental ministers. If we are to truly act in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the Head), we must not only teach and heal as he did, we must also form and prepare (lay) apostles to take the Gospel to the world!
The descriptions of the life of a priest that I read on the internet features the priest as the minister and everyone else as the recipient of ministry. The image of a priest as an animator of a community of fellow disciples preparing for an exciting mission to the world is absent. Pope Paul VI's The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests and Pope John Paul II's I Will Give You Shepherds describe more of the collaborative relationship between cleric and lay person. These documents call the priest to cooperate with the laity in mission to world, listen to the laity, recognize lay expertise, awaken & deepen lay co-responsibility for the Church's mission, confidently entrust duties to the laity, invite lay initiative, help lay people explore and discern vocation, and form and support secular apostles. Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests, 9; I Will Give You Shepherds, 59; 74
More tomorrow - the implications of all that I've written above in regard to priestly vocations.
Susan's comment below and my response reminded me of something I wrote years ago.
I thought that I would share a few excerpts from a presentation I gave in Seattle in 2001 which has since been published as one of our little $2 vision booklets: Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles.
"Another essential aspect of adult formation that we haven’t given much attention to is the task of helping lay men and women develop a truly Christian worldview. All of us work out of a set of assumptions about life and reality, whether we are conscious of those assumptions or not. These assumptions make up a worldview that determines how we understand the meaning of our daily lives, how we relate to each other, and is the basis upon which we make those daily decisions that affect the world around us.
Adult Catholics are regularly exposed to worldviews that are destructive of the dignity and happiness of human beings and contrary to the faith. Being formed as a Christian adult enables the teaching of the Church to make visible and challenge many of the assumptions that we have picked up just by living in this culture.
Unfortunately, we have tended in recent years to look upon wrestling with the content of the faith as an optional form of self-enrichment for the few lay people who are so inclined. The intuitive, heartfelt, and experiential have been regarded as sufficient foundation for the majority of lay people while ideas, doctrine, and thought are assumed to be the province of bishops and theologians. We have confused being an intellectual with understanding and discerning the real life implications of fundamental truths.
Few Catholics are gifted intellectuals but all of us need to be familiar with the essential of the Church teaching because through her we have access to revelation. Revelation contains truths that God must reveal to us because we human beings could not discover them on our own. These truths are beyond the grasp of our reason, intuition, and experience and yet they are critical to our happiness and destiny as human beings. Most of us will never read St. Thomas Aquinas for fun, but we can still ponder the significance of St. Thomas’ insistence that the ultimate destiny of human beings is perfect, eternal happiness. You don’t need an Ivy League education to ask “Is this true and if so, what does that mean for me and those I love?”
The lives of many remarkable Catholics testify to the liberating power of Christian revelation: A wonderful example is Henriette DeLille who was born in antebellum New Orleans to a free family of mixed race. The women of her family were expected to become the elegant mistresses of wealthy white men who were usually already married. When 14 year old Henrietta began helping a religious sister teaching the catechism to slaves, she recognized for the first time that a very different life was possible for a woman. Before the Civil war and in the face of strong family opposition and repressive racial laws, Henrietta founded an order of African American sisters that identified with and ministered to slaves and the poorest of the poor in the black community.
Encountering the truths of revelation often moves individuals to address critical issues that we have not yet recognized as a community. Such was the case of Bartholomew De Las Casas, a young grandee who was perfectly comfortable with the 16th century Spanish practice of enslaving the native peoples of the “new world” until he heard a Dominican preach against the whole system of slavery. That sermon was the initial spark that enabled De Las Casas to see the cruelty of slavery and changed the course of his life. He became a Dominican and spent the rest of his long adult life advocating ceaselessly for the recognition and protection of the human rights of native peoples.
Both Bartholomew and Henrietta were cradle Catholics who already had access to the sacraments but it was exposure to the teachings of the Church that enabled them to recognize and live truths that contradicted the assumptions and values of the society in which they lived. Exposure to Christian revelation liberates us from the peculiar blindnesses of our own culture, time, and place, and opens up huge new vistas of who we are as human beings, what our destiny is, and what our lives can be about. Being steeped in Christian revelation gives us a trustworthy standard by which to evaluate the torrent of half-baked assumptions, complex ideas, and contradictory choices presented to us every day.
To make the essentials of the Church’s teaching available to lay men and women at the parish level will require a great effort but it is worth it. We need a remedy that will clear our minds and open our hearts to realities that we could not have guessed. The ability to critically evaluate the truth and implications of a proposed idea or action is particularly important for American Catholics because of the power that each of us has to influence the world around us. We elect our own leaders, form our government, determine our social policy and shape the future of our nation and the world. We are the apostles to this world, and we stand in Christ’s place. We must see our world as he does. As C. S. Lewis observed: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Weight of Glory, “Is Theology Poetry?” 1944, p. 92)
The nagging fear that lay Catholics will be bored to tears by doctrine has never been borne out in our experience. Over the past 10 years, we have taught over 27,000 adult Catholics how to discern the gifts and call of the Holy Spirit in live workshops across North America and in Australia,Indonesia,and Kenya. When we first offered the Called & Gifted workshop, we too were afraid that participants would be bored by the theology of the lay office and mission in the Church. Priests were puzzled as to why we would teach lay people concepts that they had wrestled with in seminary. Parish leaders would tell us that six hours of solid content was asking too much of those who attended. To our constant delight and astonishment, many attendees have told us that the theological portion of the workshop is the best part and a number have even informed us that the weekend is too short!
Our teachers have consistently found that if we present the essential truths of the faith with clarity and conviction, people do not find the Church’s teaching mystifying but compelling. The central doctrines of the faith are not abstractions for would-be scholastics longing for a return to the middle ages. The truths of revelation are alive and they speak profoundly to the hunger of 21st century hearts.
I was vividly reminded of this a couple years ago when my husband and I hosted a group of a dozen adults who were studying Josef Pieper’s wonderful book on the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. I was touched to see deeply introverted men weep, so moved were they by the Church’s teaching on the virtue of love.
The same heart-felt reaction occurs regularly in our workshops. When Catholics first realize that they are apostles in their own right, that they are "sent ones" who literally stand in the place of Christ in the world, they are not bored, they are absolutely electrified. As one participant put it so beautifully: "I used to think that I was not worthy to kiss the sandals of Jesus. Now you're telling me that I'm to put them on and walk like they fit - that I stand in His place with my daughter, at work, with my friends. This is revolutionary!”
As I write this, I am listening to the beautiful soprano voice of Kathleen Lundquist, one of our contributors here at ID. Kathleen is a professional musician and singer and has a wonderful Advent/Christmas cd Light in Our Darkness.
Visit Kathleen's website here and listen to some of the tracks: I especially enjoy Of the Father's Love Begotten and All this Night My Heart Rejoices (which I rarely hear but is exquisite). Oh - and I really like Down in Yon Forest (a cheery medieval sounding number) and the Wexford Carol. I love encountering carols and other songs that are not often heard.
Listen and then pick up a copy. Kathleen's music makes a wonderful companion as you ease into Advent.
One song that Kathleen sings is of recent vintage (2004) and was written by Paul Cross
Mary the Dawn
Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day; Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!
Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine; Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread; Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!
Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood; Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the temple, Christ the temple's Lord; Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven's Rest; Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the mother, Christ the mother's Son By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.
And now I think I'll listen some more while I make the morning espresso and watch the sun rise.
The vocations video, "Fishers of Men," produced by Grassroots Films for the USCCB, first came to my attention a few weeks ago when it was shown after Masses at a Church where I had helped present a Called & Gifted workshop. I was not able to watch it at that time, but I made a mental note to look for it. Shortly after I returned to Colorado Springs I was sent a link to the eighteen-minute long video in an e-mail from a friend.
It's a well-made video, with a stirring soundtrack, good production values, and wonderful comments from priests young and old who have joyfully embraced their vocation. It depicts priests being ordained, seminarians in the classroom and the chapel, priests engaged in pastoral counseling and presiding over celebrations of the sacraments, particularly the eucharist. But there's a crucial aspect of priesthood that's missing, and not only is it missing in the vocations video, it's missing from the ministerial lives of many, many priests.
Before I discuss what's missing in "Fishers of Men," I will take a look at some of what the Code of Canon law has to say about the obligations and rights of all Christians, of the laity in particular, and of priests.
The Basic Obligation and Right of all the Christian Faithful Whether one is lay, religious, or ordained, we all have a common basic duty and the right to pursue that duty: the spread of the Gospel in obedience to Jesus' command to "go and make disciples of all nations…" (Mt. 28:19) This basic obligation is found in Canon 211 All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land. I would argue that this canon captures the reason for the Church's existence, and thus is at the heart of the mission and ministry of the priest. The vocation video title, "Fishers of Men," is a powerful image in conveying the mission of the whole Church.
The Obligations and Rights of the Lay Christian Faithful For the lay Christian, the focus is particularly on the fish who have not yet been caught! The lay faithful are also called upon to improve the general health of the sea in which the fish live. Canon 225 deals with this in two beautiful paragraphs:
§1. Since, like all the Christian faithful, lay persons are designated by God for the apostolate through baptism and confirmation, they are bound by the general obligation and possess the right as individuals, or joined in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation is made known and accepted by all persons everywhere in the world. This obligation is even more compelling in those circumstances in which only through them can people hear the gospel and know Christ.
§2. According to each one’s own condition, they are also bound by a particular duty to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the gospel and thus to give witness to Christ, especially in carrying out these same affairs and in exercising secular function.
The lay person, whether a streetcleaner, businessperson, attorney, housewife, or rancher, is bound to help every person on the face of the earth encounter the risen Lord and help transform the temporal society so that it reflects God's purposes and the dignity given each human by the Creator.
An important question – the question that is behind this article – is, "How will this happen without a proper formation – that is, a formation that is suited to the complexity of temporal society and the tremendous variety of situations a lay person will encounter throughout their life?" The code begins to answer that in Canon 229 §1. Lay persons are bound by the obligation and possess the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate.
So a part of the formation of the lay person is an appropriate understanding of Christian doctrine. This ties in with the prophetic, or teaching, role of the priest in his ministry. But the understanding of Christian doctrine is also gained through the participation of the rituals that surround the sacraments. An appreciation for, and experiential knowledge of Christ is gained when we encounter his healing in the anointing of the sick and his power to forgive in reconciliation, for example. In the sacraments of vocation (Matrimony and Holy Orders), we experience his self-giving love and the call to lay down our life for others (cf. John 15:13) But knowledge of Christian doctrine, whether through experience or proclamation and catechesis is crucial if the lay person is to engage in the apostolate described in Canon 225 above.
This is where "Fishers of Men", and each vocation website I examined in preparation for this post, is lacking. The priestly, and, sometimes, the prophetic aspects of a cleric's life are considered, but without any real acknowledgment of that mission to the world in which the laity play such a crucial part. In other words, the royal ministry of the priest, which has to do primarily with equipping the laity for their mission to the world, is absent. Yet the successful engagement of that mission by the laity is a sign of the fruitfulness of the priest's sacramental and teaching ministries!
I'm back from our Making Disciples workshop, a Called & Gifted workshop in Eugene, OR and a short personal retreat at St. Benedict's Lodge, the Dominican retreat and conference center in McKenzie Bridge, OR. Time to do a little blogging. I thought I'd share with you some reflections on priestly and religious vocations websites that I've been looking at recently. This is a rather long reflection, so I'm going to post it in several pieces over the next few days. If you find it interesting, and would like to read other articles on lay people living their Christian vocation in the world, laity using specific charisms (gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the baptized for the benefit of other people), and the Church's mission to the world, consider subscribing to the e-Scribe, a bi-monthly e-newsletter published by the Catherine of Siena Institute. In addition to articles, it also has the Institute calendar of upcoming events, interesting websites to visit, and other goodies. Contact us at
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If you have time, try to read them all and comment. This is all very pertinent to a consideration of the complexity and critical importance of our mission as lay apostles to evangelize the cultures and structures of the human society.
As C. S. Lewis once pointed out somewhere, our motto is not"Be good, sweet maid, and let those who will be clever". It is "Be good, sweet maid, and remember that means being as clever as you can."
It is a struggle: personal, intellectual, spiritual, and often relational - to identify the good in the midst of a very complicated world and then to determine how best to pursue it and to do so while knowing that other Christians, who are just as faithful, can honestly and legitimately disagree with us. It is not for the faint of heart or the lazy of mind and spirit.
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