Archbishop Chaput on the 'Nature of the State, our Christian Faith and the Lay Vocation'
caveat. No bishop, priest or deacon can do the work that properly belongs to laypeople. My job as a bishop is to be a good pastor - in other words, a good shepherd and guide for the people of my local Church. The word" pastor" means" shepherd" in Latin, and it comes from the Latin verb pascere, which means "to feed." My proper work is to teach the faith, preach the Gospel, encourage and console my people, correct them when needed, and govern the internal life of the Church with love and justice.
There may be many times when a bishop or group of bishops needs to speak out publicly about the moral consequences of a public issue. But the main form of Catholic leadership in wider society - in the nation's political, economic and social life - needs to be done by you, the Catholic lay faithful. The key word of course is faithful. We need to form Catholic lay leaders who know and love the teachings of the Church, and then embody those teachings faithfully in their private lives and in their public service. But once those lay leaders exist, clergy cannot and should not interfere with the leadership that rightly belongs, by baptism, to their vocation as lay apostles. Having said this, I want to turn now to those three simple points I mentioned: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation.
Here's my first point: the nature of the state. I said a moment ago that I love this country. I meant it. America is a great nation; a good nation. This is my home, and, I know all of you feel the same. For Christians, patriotism is a virtue. Love for the best qualities in our homeland is a noble thing. This is why military service and public office are not just socially useful vocations, but - at their best - great and honorable ones. Beginning in the New Testament and continuing right through works of the Second Vatican Council, Christians have always believed that civil authority has a rightful degree of autonomy separate from sacred authority. In Christian thought, believers owe civil rulers their respect and obedience in all things that do not gravely violate the moral law. When Jesus told the Pharisees and Herodians to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's:, and to God the things that are God's" (see Mt 22:15-21), he was acknowledging that Caesar does have rights.
Of course, he was also saying that Caesar is not a god, and Caesar has no rights over those things which belong to God. To put it in modern terms: the state is not god. If's not immortal. It's not infallible. It's not even synonymous with civil society, which is much larger, richer and more diverse in its human relationships than any political party or government bureaucracy can ever be. And ultimately, everything important about human life belongs not to Caesar, but to God: our intellect, our talents, our free will; the people we love; the beauty and goodness in the world; our soul, our moral integrity, our hope for eternal life. These are the things that matter. These are the things worth fighting for. And none of them comes from the state. As a result, the key virtue modern political leaders need to learn -Čand Catholic citizens need to help them learn it by demanding it -- is modesty; modesty of appetite, and modesty in the exercise of power. The sovereignty of states is a good principle. But every state is subject to higher and binding truths.
Here's my second point: the nature of our Christian faith. What we believe has consequences. Catholics believe that each human life has a unique but interrelated meaning. We were mlade by God to receive love ourselves, and to show love to others. That's why we're here. That's our purpose. And our purpose has very practical consequences -- including the political kind. The Christian vocation to love each other is never simply an emotion, or it isn't real. Real love is an act of the will; a sustained choice that proves itself not just by what we sayar feel, but by what we do for the good of others. Working to defend the sanctity of human persons and the dignity of the human family is an obligation of Christian love. Therefore, the Church can't be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time. She needs to be a mustard seed i.n the public square, transforming every fiber of a nation's social, economic and political life.
Here's my third and final point: the nature of the lay vocation. In May this year, speaking to a pastoral convention of the Diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI made a comment that many people overlooked. But I think his words have exactly the right spirit to guide us, beginning tonight. He said that the Church needs" a change in mindset, particularly concerning laypeople. They must no longer be viewed as 'collaborators' of the clergy, but truly recognized as 'co-responsible' ...
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Vocations News
- Archbishop JosÚ H. Gomez on Praying for Priests and Promoting Vocations
- COL EXCLUSIVE: Fr. Pontifex - See what this priest does to deliver his powerful message
- Sisters of Bon Secours Host Project Good Help to Assist Underserved in Baltimore
- Benedictine Monks from Oklahoma Move to Ireland's Stamullen Priory
- Benedictine Monks from Oklahoma Become Missionaries to the Irish Church
- Knights of the Holy Eucharist Announce Facebook Page
- Child Casket Fund: Trappist Monks of New Melleray Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy
- Melkite Catholic Church to Ordain Married Men to the Priesthood in the US
- Trappist Monks and Nuns Revive Interest in Monastic Vocations Online
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?