Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

2/3/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It is our charge to work toward establishing or restoring all things in Christ

As Blessed John Paul II put it in stark terms in speaking to the bishops of the Antilles on May 7, 2002: "In a time of insidious secularization, it could seem strange that the Church insists so much on the secular vocation of the laity.  But it is precisely this Gospel witness by the faithful in the world that is the heart of the Church's answer to the malaise of secularization."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/3/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: new evangelization, laity, prophetic office, charity, beauty, restoring all things in Christ


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In a notorious and highly critical letter to Cardinal Manning written in 1867 about John Henry Newman's recent article in the magazine Rambler entitled "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine," Monsignor George Talbot (1816-86) snorted: "What is the province of the laity? To hunt, to shoot, to entertain." 

To some extent, poor old Msgr. Talbot, a converted Anglican priest who had been selected by Pope Pius IX as one of his chamberlains, has unfairly been made a pre-Conciliar whipping post or characterized as monstrous example of clericalism gone wild.  He was, perhaps, too much a man of his time.  Perhaps his judgment was already then in question since in 1868 he was dismissed from the Roman curia and was placed in a mental institution near Paris, where he died eighteen years later in 1886.

Certainly, Msgr. Talbot--who in the same letter characterized Newman as the "most dangerous man in England"--if not then suffering the beginnings of insanity was certainly shortsighted, at least when looked at in hindsight.  Newman was later (1879) created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII, and he was declared a beatus by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.  Blessed Newman's philosophical, theological, moral, historical, apologetic, homiletic, and literary works are a most important addition to the Church's most marvelously rich patrimony.  There is no educated Catholic who should not have read at the very minimum his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and his Idea of a University.  A man is poorer for each work of Newman's that he has not read.

To be sure, Msgr. Talbot's restrictive view of the laity must be rejected.  There is a charge which is imprudent words failed to recognize.  And that is a charge that traverses the expanse between clergy and laity, between the teaching Church the ecclesia docens and the taught Church, the ecclesia docta.  And that charge is the traditio Evangelii, the transmission of the Gospel.  That charge is one given every Christian and comes directly from Christ's prophetic office to all of us.

None of us are exempt from it.  None of us can be dispensed from it.  None of us can evade it.  In fact, none of us should want an exemption or dispensation from it, or seek to evade it.  Why?  Because the Good News ought naturally to flow over from our own encounter with Jesus Christ.  It should be irrepressible, and if it is not irrepressible, then there must be something wrong with our encounter with the Lord.

As Vatican II's Lumen Gentium (No. 35) puts it: "Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of his Father both by the testimony of his life and the power of his words, continually fulfills his prophetic office (munus propheticum) until the complete manifestation of glory.  He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in his name and with his authority, but also through the laity whom he made his witnesses and to whom he gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech (gratia verbi instruit) so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life."

While perhaps the means the prophetic office is fulfilled or expressed  is different in the clerical state than in the lay state (or the religious state, for that matter), the prophetic office calls us all to spread the Gospel, to be evangelists in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  In ancient Greece, the evangelist (euaggelistes) was the envoy chosen by the victorious army to carry back the good news, the euangelos, to be the herald of good news to the Greek king, that the battle had been won and the king victorious. 

Which one of us does not have good news to tell about the Lord? Which one of us does not have someone about us who has not heard the good news of the Lord's victory in us?

The heart of the Gospel is not merely a series of rules, doctrines, philosophical presuppositions, traditions, rituals, moral norms--what we might call Catholic practice--as important as the entirety of Catholic practice is.  Catholic practice, while certainly important, involves the many spokes of a wheel all of which revolve around, point to, and are joined with, the hub that is the person of Jesus Christ.

At the core of the Gospel is a person, the God-Man Jesus, the Lord, who seeks an intimate relationship with every single human person in the world.  This is not a distant Lord, but rather a Lord who wants an intimate union with each one of us.  He wants to establish a friendship with us.  It is one of the most remarkable and unique features of Christianity relative to other religions.  Jesus is the pearl of great price.

The laity must "declare," as St. Peter put it in one of his epistles, "the wonderful deeds of him who called you of darkness into his marvelous light."  1 Pet. 2:4-10.  How could this be otherwise? 

The love of Christ certainly urges us on to let others know of the Lord: caritas Christ urget nos.  (2 Cor. 5:14).  As Pope Benedict XVI stated in his recent Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (No. 7): "it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize.  Today, as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth."  (cf. Matt. 28:19)

But if the love of Christ urges us to shout out from the housetops and from the highways of the world, so equally does his beauty compel us not to hide our light under a bushel basket.  As Pope Benedict XVI put it in his Inauguration Homily on April 24, 2005: "There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.  There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him." 

How is a priest ever to bring the Gospel, either by word or deed, to our fellow co-worker at a refinery, packing plant, grocery store, engineering firm, oil company, stockbroker's office, or bank?  How will Christ and his Gospel of Life ever find their way into our law, unless Jesus is first found in the chambers of our legislatures, our courts, and in the offices of our executive branch brought there by politicians, lawyers, and judges that are also evangelists? 

Is a soul to be lost for want of a priest?  While priests, in their manner, share in the prophetic office of Christ, the laity does also, and God, we must remember, is able to raise up evangelists from the stones of the laity as easily as he can raise up children of Abraham (Matt. 3:9).  We are then Christ's living stones. (1 Pet. 2:5)

Without doubt, the laity must avoid a clerical model in exercising its calling to spread the Gospel, and thus not succumb to the problem of what has been called the "clericalization of the laity."  That, in fact, can only be a temptation on the part of the laity to avoid its calling.  It is, in a sense, an implosion, when what is required is an explosion.

As Blessed John Paul II put it in stark terms in speaking to the bishops of the Antilles on May 7, 2002: "In a time of insidious secularization, it could seem strange that the Church insists so much on the secular vocation of the laity.  But it is precisely this Gospel witness by the faithful in the world that is the heart of the Church's answer to the malaise of secularization."

St. Josemaría Escrivá, a Monsignor with greater foresight than Monsignor Talbot, put it this way in his Conversations (No. 9): "The layman's specific role in the mission of the Church is precisely that of sanctifying secular reality, the temporal order, the world, ab intra [from within], in an immediate and direct way."  An explosion of the Gospel, and not an implosion.

Yet he also warns that it must be done in such a manner as never to lose the intimate tie to Christ's Church.  "To concentrate solely on the specific secular mission of the layman and to forget his membership in the Church would be as absurd as to imagine a green branch in full bloom which did not belong to any tree.  But to forget what is specific and proper to the layman, or to misunderstand the characteristics of his apostolic tasks and their value to the Church, would be to reduce the flourishing tree of the Church to the monstrous condition of a barren trunk."

No.  Neither liberalism nor conservatism is the order of the day for Catholics: instaurationism is.  In our modern age, the only real difference between political conservatism and liberalism is the velocity at which our civil and political society is going down the wrong path.  There is not enough in our social, civil, and political institutions that we can be satisfied to conserve.  The Christian capital that once was there is spent.

Those social, civil, and political institutions must be restored.  The order of the day is the same today as it was when Jesus first established that order and the Apostles proclaimed it: we are instaurationists.

It is our charge to work toward establishing or restoring all things in Christ, instaurare omnia in Christo (Eph. 1:10), and the most fundamental part of this charge is to bring others to a one-and-one encounter with the Lord.

Pope Benedict XVI has been insistent regarding this theme.  In his inauguration mass, the Pope stated that "the Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance." 

The Church as a whole, in need hardly be said, includes the laity.

What is the province of the laity?  In a time of insiduous secularization, it is to spread the Gospel, which is the only cure for the malaise that comes with that secularization.  Through means of the Gospel, we hope to restore all things in Christ.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Living Faith

Andrew M. Greenwell: St. Bonaventure and the Fear of the Lord Watch

Image of You want God's mercy?  Here is St. Bonaventure's advice: avoid sin and develop a healthy fear of the Lord.- Andrew Greenwell

By Andrew M. Greenwell

The Church teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given us as part of sanctifying or habitual grace.  If we are in a state of grace, these gifts are present.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are similar to supernaturally-infused virtues in that they ... continue reading


Mustard Seed Faith and Living as a Christian in the Real World Watch

Image of The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened. (Matt. 13: 31 - 33)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

All the images Jesus uses in these parables concern the spreading of the kingdom or reign of God. They are meant to bring home the new reality that comes when we choose to live our call to discipleship and truly begin to cooperate with grace in our daily lives. ... continue reading


VATICAN HELPS THE HOMELESS, plans to provide free showers, haircuts and shaves near St. Peter's Square Watch

Image of Rome's homeless can receive free haircuts, shaves and showers beginning February 16.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican will begin providing homeless people in Rome a place to not only shower, but to also receive haircuts and shaves starting next month, according to Pope Francis' charity office. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - St Peter's Square will open with the ... continue reading


The forgotten plight of Native Americans

Image of

By Tony Magliano

When it comes to the harsh difficulties many Native Americans face every day, the saying "out of sight, out mind" hits home. Many people have only a vague sense of the serious past and present injustices suffered by Native Americans.From the very beginning, starting ... continue reading


Play with your children, Pope Francis commands fathers Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While some of his comments have provoked controversy, Pope Francis in a private audience this week said something that very few people would argue with. The Pope commanded that all fathers take time to play with their children - and not be so absorbed with work ... continue reading


Archbishop reprimands Catholic lawmaker, says no true Catholic can dissent from church teaching on abortion Watch

Image of Archbishop Cordileone said in a written statement, that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a press conference on January 22 at the Capitol, was asked twice whether an unborn child 20 weeks into pregnancy is a human being. Pelosi finally replied that a woman has "the right" to abort her child. Archbishop ... continue reading


Religious persecution uniting Christians worldwide in 'Ecumenism of blood,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"In this moment of prayer for unity, I would also like to remember our martyrs, the martyrs of today," Pope Francis said as he was speaking to members of a number of Christian Churches. Gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls this past weekend, ... continue reading


Andrew M. Greenwell: Jesus is the Heart and the Marvel of the Gospel Watch

Image of Since the incarnation of the Word, the

By Andrew M. Greenwell

If pursued, and pursued rightly (that is, without moral or intellectual prejudice), metaphysics leads us to a threshold, a threshold we might call the limina fidei, the threshold of faith.  Reason takes us to a place where we know God--that He is.  But ... continue reading


Who Are My Mother and Brothers? We are the Family of Jesus Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Through our Baptism, we are invited into the very family of God. When we choose to respond to grace and live in obedience to the will and the Word of God; we enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually become a part of ... continue reading


St Francis DeSales Challenges Us to Live a Life of True Devotion Watch

Image of Today in our Liturgical calendar in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we remember St Francis DeSales (1567-1610). The Saints are all given as examples to emulate. They are our companions on the journey, men and women like us who responded to God's invitation to become like Jesus. They pray for us because we are joined with them in the eternal communion of love. They also put legs on the Gospel, showing us what holiness looks like.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 10:32-39
32 Remember the great challenge of the sufferings ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40
3 Put your trust in Yahweh and do right, make your ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:26-34
26 He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 30th, 2015 Image

St. Aldegunais
January 30: Virgin and abess, also known as Adelgundis, Aldegonde, or ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter