Friday, October 28, 2005

The Specific Difference Between Laymen and Priests

The Ecclesiology of Vatican II

It seems that the rush to ministries and calling unordained laity “ministers” is the revival of the anachronism of a clericalized church. Such a church imagined sacramental power politically and located in descending order: Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests and finally, in the last place, the laity. The laity, for centuries, were “`to hunt, to shoot, and to entertain’ not to `meddle’ in concerns about Christian mission.”[1] The ministry of the sacrament of Orders where the ministerial priest stood “in front of” the Church was a position of privileged power that was culturally received and perceived as political.

The revolution of Vatican II consisted in revamping that perspective of the Church from a top heavy clerical structure to the radical equality of the People of God who were distinguished within this equality by a functional diversity: hierarchy, laity and religious. This, in turn, was further nuanced into Communio and ultimately into “Person.”

“The Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.”[2]

The most striking characteristic of this development in understanding is the identity of the entire “people of God” as priests, and the essential difference between the “common priesthood of the faithful” and the “ministerial priesthood.” As in male and female, they are equal but not the same. They are equal as priests, but not the same as ministers. In fact, the laity are not ministers at all (pace today’s common parlance), although they can supplement for ministers in limited non-ordained ministries, by deputation and for a period of time. Further, the common priesthood of the faithful, or laity, exercises a substantial priority over the ministerial priesthood because the very existential of the ministerial is to activate and serve the common as the “Church of Peter” exists to serve the “Church of Mary.”[3] This is because the Church of Mary must engender Jesus Christ in themselves in the secular milieu, while the Church of Peter is at the service of that engendering.

John Paul II is the Pope of the Council. Benedict XVI said: “My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his [John Paul II’s] documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure, they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council.”[4] He gave the following graphic, global presentation of the exercise of the ministerial priesthood at the service of the common priesthood galvanizing them into fearlessly becoming themselves. They became themselves by the exercise of their priesthood, not ministry, in the secular world of work beginning the Gdansk ship yards.

* * * * * * * * *

John Paul II: Warsaw, June 2, 1979: “Minister”

With the powers of the ministerial priesthood in summo gradu, John Paul II, stood before the people of Poland and gave them back their identity. “After the proclamation of the Gospel, a deep silence fell over the tremendous crowd. Polish Communist Party leader Edward Gierek watched nervously from a window in a hotel adjacent to the square. He, and millions of others, wondered: What would he say? What could he say?
“Karol Wojtyla looked out at a sea of expectant faces, paused – and then gave what may have been the greatest sermon of his life:”

George Weigel paraphrases/quotes: “The Poles,” he insisted, “had a right to think that, to think `with singular humility but also with conviction’ that it was to Poland, today, that `one must come… to read again the witness of His cross and His resurrection.’ This was no cause for boasting, however. `If we accept all that I have dared to affirm in this moment, how many great duties and obligations arise? Are we capable of them?'

“The crowd began a rhythmic chant, `we want God, we want God…’

“It was,” John Paul continued, “the Vigil of Pentecost, so let us return in our imaginations to the Upper Room n Jerusalem. There, the apostles and Mary waited for the Holy Spirit… Just as the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, had gone from the Upper Room and preached in foreign tongues, so, too, was Pentecost `the proclamation of the mighty works of God in our Polish language.’ The mightiest of those works was the human person, redeemed by Christ: Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ, it is impossible to understand this nation, with a past so splendid and at the same time so terribly difficult. It is not possible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, which in 1944 committed itself to an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own rubble, if one does not recall that under this same rubble there was also Christ with his cross which can be found facing the church of Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaw in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe in Oswiecim, if one does not apply, to them also, that unique and fundamental criterion which bears the name of Jesus Christ.”[5]

As soon as the Poles saw that John Paul II was not afraid, they were not afraid. “Solidarity” was born among the workers of the shipyard Gdansk, marshal law was imposed on them by the Communists in 1981. John Paul II wrote Laborem Exercens on the meaning of human work as the key to liberating the inner dignity of the human person. He was shot. Then, in the fall of 1989, Communism fell without firing a shot or dropping a bomb. It fell under the unbearable weight of denying the transcendent dimension of the human person that was released by “not being afraid.” The common priesthood of Poland was recalled and reactivated by the service and daring of the ministerial priesthood of John Paul II “standing before” her making his gift of self to her. It was the service of the Church of Peter to the Church of Mary.

A similar, but even more dramatic call and affirmation to Europe as a whole was given by the Pope to the bishops of Europe in “A Declaration to Europe” on November 9, 1982 from Santiago de Compostela:

“(A) huge vacuum… awaits credible heralds of new proposals of values capable of building a new civilization worthy of man’s vocation.
“There is a need for heralds of the Gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of present day man, participating in his joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with god. For this we need new saints. The great evangelizers of Europe have been the saints. We must beg the Lord to increase the Church’s spirit of holiness and send us new saints to evangelize today’s world.”

He concluded:

“Therefore, I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation which has always considered itself European by its origins, traditions, culture and vital relationships, Slavic among the Latins and Latin among the Slavs:
I, Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, a See which Christ wished to establish in Europe and which he loves because of its efforts for the spread of Christianity throughout the whole world;
I, bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love:

Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents. Rebuild your spiritual unity in a climate of complete respect for other religions and other genuine liberties. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God… You can still be the guiding light of civilization and the stimulus of progress for the world. The other continents look to you and also hope to receive from you the same reply which St. James gave to Christ: POSSUM. I can.”

God and the world are still waiting for Europe’s response.

John Paul II did the same to the United States in 1995, and the world is still waiting for us.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Josef Ratzinger

“The Nature of Priesthood”

Ministerial Priesthood as Ontologically Radical

The ultimate “novelty” in the world: Jesus Christ, God-man: “If we seek the true novelty of the New Testament, Christ Himself stands before us. This novelty consists not so much in new ideas or conceptions – the novelty is a person: God, who becomes man and draws human beings to Himself.”[i]

“I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30).
“The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28).

Reason sags under the load and tension of these three affirmations of Jesus Christ. If I and the Father are one, and yet the Father is greater than I, how can Christ be one with Father (and therefore equal) and yet be less than the Father? This was the struggle of the Council of Nicea in 321. The Church (struggling against the reductionist rationalism of the Judaizers) formulated the Nicene Creed where Christ is “God from God” and “one in substance with the Father.” The intelligence shatters on a being that is equal to another yet not the same, i.e., different as engendered. Nevertheless, we experience the reality of this constantly in sexuality and sonship. We understand it without being able to conceptualize it today[ii]. Male and female are equal without being the same. The son is equal to the Father as man, yet subordinate as engendered son.
The solution is moving from an epistemology of concepts (symbols) to an epistemology of experience and consciousness. In this “horizon,” to be = to be for. The Church formulated this in the three councils (Nicea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon) from 325 to 451. Only now are we beginning to forge a metaphysics of being as resonating between substance and relation thanks to the application of phenomenology and a metaphysics of esse to the believing subject. This was the great intellectual contribution of John Paul II.

This Christological anthropology is the explanation of the Person of Christ and the meaning of priesthood. What is new here is Vat II’s affirmation that Jesus Christ is the revelation not only who God is, but who man is.
Jesus Christ as man is priest. Priesthood means “mediation,” and in Christ this mediation is intrinsic, not extrinsic as in the ancient Jewish and the pagan. Christ, as pure relation to the Father, subdues His human will (laden with sin [2 Cor. 5, 21]) and obeys to death with it: “I have not come to do my own will…” He mediates between Himself and the Father for us. He is Priest of His own existence.

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”(Jn. 20, 21).

a) “As the Father has sent me:” This is the ontologically radical profile of the Being of the Son.

As seen above, the Being of a divine Person is intrinsically relational. That means that to be = to be for (another). The Being of the Son is obedience and glorification of the Father. To be One with the Father means “My doctrine is not mine… (Jn. 7, 6). Ratzinger comments:

“Jesus has nothing of His own except the Father. His doctrine is not His own, because even He Himself is not His own, but in His entire existence He is, as it were, Son from the Father and directed towards the Father. But for the same, because He has noting of His own, everything that the Father has belongs to Him as well: `I and the Father are one’ (Jn. 10, 30).”[iii]

b) “Even so I send you:” The Mission of Christ = the Ministry of the Apostles: This way of being of Christ as God-man is passed on to the Apostles intrinsically. Since He is “one with the Father,” the Son can do nothing without the Father. Therefore, the Apostles can do nothing without the Son. “The Son can do nothing of His own accord” (Jn. 5, 19-30); “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15, 5). Ratzinger says: “This `nothing’ which the disciples share with Jesus expresses at one and the same time both the power and the infirmity of the apostolic ministry.”[iv]

c) From Ontology Comes “Power:”

“This `nothing’ which the disciples share with Jesus expresses at one and the same time both the power and the infirmity of the apostolic ministry. By themselves, of their own strength, they can do none of those things which apostles must do. How could they of their own accord say, `I forgive you your sins’? How could they say, `This is my body?’ How could they perform the imposition of hands and say, `Receive the Holy Spirit?’ None of those things which constitute apostolic activity are done by one’s own authority. But this expropriation of their very powers constitutes a mode of communion with Jesus, who is wholly from the Father, with Him all things and nothing without Him. Their own `Nihil posse,’ their own inability to do anything, draws them into a community of mission with Jesus. Such a ministry, in which a man does and gives through a divine communication what he could never do and give on his own is called by the tradition of the Church a `sacrament.’
“If Church usage calls ordination to the ministry of priesthood a `sacrament,’ the following is meant: This man is in no way performing functions for which he is highly qualified by his own natural ability nor is he doing the things that please him most and that are most profitable. On the contrary – the one who receives the sacrament is sent to give what he cannot give of his own strength; he is sent to act in the person of another, to be his living instrument. For this reason ho human being can declare himself a priest; for this reason, too, no community can promote a person to this ministry by its own decree. Only from the sacrament, which belongs to God, can priesthood be received. Mission can only be received from the one who sends – from Christ in His sacrament, through which a person becomes the voice and the hands of Christ in the world. This gift of himself, this renunciation and forgetfulness of self does not however destroy the man; rather, it leads to true human maturity because it assimilates him to the Trinitarian mystery and it brings to life the image according to which were created. Since we were created in the image of the Trinity, he who loses himself will find himself”[v] (underline mine).

The logic of this is inexorable. As things stand terminologically, all are priests by baptism by insertion into the one priesthood of Christ. The People of God is a “priestly people” exercising the priesthood of Christ. This is mediation in the “new sense” of mediating between self and God forming a communio with others that we call church. A distinct sacrament, Orders, revealed by Christ, inserts some of the baptized into the priesthood of Christ as “ministers” in an “essentially different” way to do what Ratzinger has described above: the humanly impossible. All the baptized can perform “functions,” but only those ordained by Orders can “dare” to consecrate and absolve from sin. If all are priests, and the ordained are “ministers,” to confuse the terms, as is happening with the neologism “lay ecclesial minister,” is to wreak havoc with this reveled ontology, and give us a new and mistaken notion of Church. The Church will cease to be a Communio-People of God to be dumbed down into a clerical-political structure.
With grave consequences: Clerical function will trump ontological reality. The priesthood of both laity and minister is emptied of its ontological status. One does “church” things as extrinsic performances rather than exercise the priestly anthropology of intrinsic self-giving (mediation). The secular becomes “secularized” in the pejorative sense (no God), and the Church becomes clericalized. The life of holiness is removed from both.

e) Transition from Apostolic (Gospels) to Post-Apostolic Period (Paul): Essential Difference (sacrament) Between Baptized Faithful and Ministers:


Scripture Basis: In the face of a de facto burgeoning plethora of “ministries,” it is important to see the essential difference not only between the Apostles as ministers and the baptized faithful, but also how this essential difference appears in the immediate post-apostolic period. Ratzinger refers to the “specific difference” that Scripture makes between the “apostolic ministry” and “the common gifts of Christian existence.”

1) “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5, 20)

Ratzinger comments: “God exhorts through the Apostle who is the ambassador of Christ. Here clearly appears that nature of the apostolic ministry which we have already learned constitutes the essence of `Sacrament’ (my underline). This structure of speaking and acting not in one’s own name, but from divine authority appears again where Paul says: `As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way’ (2 Cor, 6, 4).”

2) Paul’s apostolic ministry is referred to as the “ministry of reconciliation” that has been given to him (2 Cor. 5, 18). “Reconciliation with God emanates from the cross of Christ and for this reason it has a `sacramental’ nature… The death of Christ as a historical event is past; it becomes present to us in `sacrament.’” He is referring, of course, to the “ministry of reconciliation” that takes place in the sacrament of Penance that can only be administered by one who has received this “ministry of reconciliation” by Orders.”
Ratzinger concludes the point of apostolic succession: “In the light of these observations, it is clear that the apostolic ministry is clearly distinguished by the apostles in the Scriptures from the common gifts of Christian existence. With great clarity this specific difference also comes to light when Paul says in the first Letter to the Corinthians: `This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God’ (4, 1). This specific difference logically implies the authority of the Apostle with respect to the community which he frequently expresses even in vehement terms when for example, he asks the Corinthians, `Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?’ (421). On the basis of this authority the Apostle may even make use of excommunication, `that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus’ (5, 5).”

St. Paul: Acts with an Authority not His Own:


“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. He also it is who has made us fit ministers of the new covenant… (2 Cor. 3, 6)

Ratzinger: “We see the same sacramental structure which is made known to us from the words of the Lord: The apostle acts from an authority which is not his own, he acts from the authority of Christ, not as a member of the community, but as one who stands before the community and addressing it in the name of Christ. This dialogical structure pertains to the essence of revelation. Faith is not something which man thinks up on his own; man does not make himself a Christian by his own meditation or by his moral rectitude. Conversion to the faith always comes from without: it is a gift which always comes from another, from Christ, who comes forward to meet us. Where this `divine outside’ is obscured, an essential structure of the Christian faith is in danger.” [vi]

The ambiguity of the term “minister” applied to almost any church function obscures, and therefore, damages this dialogical structure of faith and the very sense of authority sacramentally imparted by Christ to the Church. It totally obscures the meaning of person as intrinsically relational with the Christological anthropology of priesthood (mediation by self-gift). “Minister” in the sense that it is being used today is “function” and therefore presupposes no intrinsic identity (because there is no sacramental bridge) with the novelty that is the Person of Christ as intrinsically relational.

Absent the sacramental bridge across this ontological divide, the faithful never “stand before” each other, but rather “with each other.” Since faith is always received “from outside” because of the ontological “novelty” that is Christ, where there is no sacramental ministry of Christ, there is no “standing before,” and therefore no “hearing” or receiving in the ontological sense of self-gift that is the reception. It loses the spousal/sexual dimension – and therefore, the communio - that is at the root of the relation of the revealed God to man. Revelation is God’s spousal self-gift in the Person of the Son to man. Faith is the active self-giving reception of the Word into the self (as our Lady, “`kept’ the word and `pondered it in her heart’ [cf. Lk. 1: 38, 45; 2:19, 51) and by means of her whole life accomplished it.”[vii]


After St. Paul?

The ministry of priests and bishops = the ministry of the apostles.

St. Paul to the “presbyters” – “overseers” – “bishops”

“From Miletus, however, he sent to Ephesus for the presbyters of the church; and when they had come to him and were assembled, he said to them: …

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [bishops]. Be shepherds of the Church of God which He bought with His own blood” (Acts 20, 28).

Ratzinger: “Two notions which up until this point were unconnected, that is, `presbyter’ [Jewish converts] and `bishop [pagan converts],’ are here equated; the traditions of Christians stemming from a Jewish background and those of Christians who entered from paganism coalesce and are explained as a single ministry of apostolic succession.”

Therefore, two conclusions: 1) "there is a sacrament involved in the succession since “the Holy Spirit has made you bishops” and 2) the traditions of Jewish and Gentile Christians coalesce. Ratzinger: “Because this gift is conferred by the Spirit it has the dignity of `sacrament.’ The duty of the Apostles to feed the flock of Christ is thus continued. The apostolic structure sends us back to the mystery of Christ, the true Shepherd, who bought His flock `with His own blood.’ In these words not only do the traditions of Jewish and Gentile Christians coalesce, but above all – and this is of even greater importance – the ministry or priests and bishops as to their spiritual essence is clearly shown to be the same as the ministry of the apostles.”

Therefore: There is not such thing as a "Lay Ecclesial Minister:” There is No Sacrament to be such: “It must be said, therefore, that towards the end of the apostolic era in the writings of the New Testament an explicit theology of New Testament priesthood appears. This theology is entrusted to the faithful hands of the Church and constitutes the inalienable core of every theology of Christian priesthood for the rest of time.”[viii]


The Relation of the Ministerial Priesthood to the Common Priesthood of the Lay Faithful


In the Old Testament priesthood, “The essential function of the kohanim (hiereis, priests) is this: to keep the people aware of its priestly character and to labor that it may live as such and glorify God by it whole existence” (J. Colson).[ix]

John Paul II: Christ is to the Church as the Bridegroom is to the Bride. The minister who has been ordained to act in the Person of Christ “stands `before’ the Church and `nourishes and cherishes her’ (Eph. 5, 29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community… In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love and thus be capable of living people with a heart which is new, generous and pure…”[x]

[i] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[ii] Which is why we cannot make an adequate defense of heterosexuality in the secular forum nor now the ministerial priest as male Bridegroom and common priesthood of the laity as Bride.
[iii] Op. cit.
[iv] Op. cit.
[v] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[vi] Op. cit.
[vii] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #20.
[viii] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[ix] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[x] Pastores Dabo Vobis, #22.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Relation of the Ministerial Priesthood to the Common Priesthood of the Lay Faithful


In the Old Testament priesthood, “The essential function of the kohanim (hiereis, priests) is this: to keep the people aware of its priestly character and to labor that it may live as such and glorify God by it whole existence” (J. Colson).[14]

John Paul II: Christ is to the Church as the Bridegroom is to the Bride. The minister who has been ordained to act in the Person of Christ “stands `before’ the Church and `nourishes and cherishes her’ (Eph. 5, 29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community… In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love and thus be capable of living people with a heart which is new, generous and pure…”[15]


The Primary Mission of the Common Priesthood of the Lay Faithful: the “Secular” World – Served by the Ministerial Priesthood:


Daniel Cere on Cardinal Newman and John Paul II:

“`Rouse Yourselves’ Towards a `High’ Doctrine of the Laity[16] (Selections):

1. “Newman wants us to aim high: “I want laity…who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand…I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity…I mean to be severe, and…exorbitant in my demands.” (Newman 1889: 390)
“Newman was severe and exorbitant. In delineating the standard for Christian formation, he draws attention to our call to participate in the threefold mission of Christ as priest, prophet, and king" (“The Christian Ministry” Newman 1997: 420). Newman states that “all His followers in some sense bear all three offices.” Though they are “earthen vessels,” nevertheless they are called to “show forth according to their measure these three characters,—the prophetical, priestly, and regal…” (“The Three Offices of Christ,” Newman 1898: 55). “Not the few and the conspicuous alone,” Newman states, “but all her children, high and low,” are bound to “walk worthy” as priests, prophets and kings of Christ and his Church. (Newman 1898: 62)….

2. “The Priestly Vocation and Mission:” “The laity rarely give much thought to their priestly identity. Martin Scorsese, director of the Last Temptation of Christ, once thought that he had a “religious” calling: “I wanted to be a priest. However, I soon realized that my real vocation, my real calling was the movies.” (Graham, 314). Scorsese places priesthood, vocation and calling on a floor with work in the movie industry—he opted for movies. Scorsese’s curious remarks about his “calling” make sense in a culture which has gutted “priest” and “vocation” of any real meaning beyond that of career.
“Clericalized views of the laity try to color in “priestly” tones to lay existence by blurring the essential distinction between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood. We are being priestly to the extent that we share in the activities proper to ministerial priesthood.
“Careerist and clericalized views of the priesthood skew the message of Vatican II and its most outstanding interpreter, John Paul II.. One of the most original contributions of Vatican II was its profound emphasis on the “two” modalities of Christian priesthood: the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood. Vatican II attempted to rouse the laity to a more profound and enriched sense of their participation in the priesthood of Christ.
“It also drew attention to the profound complementarity between the common and ministerial priesthood in a way that moved the common priesthood to center stage.(Rosato) According the John Paul II, the core mission of ministerial priesthood is to maintain and develop the common priesthood. (1980: 227) The ministerial priesthood is ordered to the common priesthood: “the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1547).
“The common priesthood is part of the “mystery” or ontology of the human person. (John Paul II 1979: ch.15) This priestly dimension is not just a question of tasks or functions to be performed; it defines the very nature and stance of the human person before God. John Paul II states that it “expresses in a particularly intimate but fundamental way the existential essence of faith.” The essence of faith is a primordial priestly act of sacrifice or self-giving in which the human person make a gift of himself to God—“commits his entire self to God.” “This commitment, contained in the very essence of faith, is realized most fully in the attitude which derives from sharing in the priesthood of Christ.” (John Paul II 1980: 223-25) John Paul II constantly returns to a pivotal passage in the Vatican II documents: “It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.” The Pope states that “when man gives himself to God in this way, he rediscovers himself most fully.” (John Paul II 1980: 225)

The Gift of Self to God: Priesthood expresses the fundamental human vocation—the gift of self to God. In this sense, our participation in the priesthood of Christ is the most primordial of the threefold missions of Christ“the simplest and profoundest expression of faith.” The priestly dimension of human personhood “contains within itself the authentic Christian relationship with God.” “This attitude also expresses the vocation of the person in its existential nucleus.” It is this primordial experience of vocation “to which we must constantly return.” (John Paul II 1980: 224)…

3. “The Prophetic Vocation and Mission:

In his encyclical on faith and reason, the Pope warns that there has been a dumbing down of human thinking in the modern age. The modern mind seems to be systematically begging “the radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence.” The prophetic call lifts the human mind on the “twin wings of faith and reason”.(John Paul II 1998)

“The prophetic mind does not drift into blind faith (fideism) or a narrow rationalism. John Paul II insists that, “the boldness [parrhesia] of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason.” He quotes the words of St. Augustine: “If faith does not think, it is nothing.” “It is an illusion,” the Pope writes, “to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition.” On the other hand, faith should be a goad to thought: “reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.” Faith incites and challenges the human mind to remain open to the ultimate concerns. “It is faith,” John Paul II states, “which stirs reason to move beyond all isolation and willingly to run risks so that it may attain whatever is beautiful, good and true. Faith thus becomes the convinced and convincing advocate of reason.” (John Paul II 1998)
The goal of serious lay formation is to awaken this prophetic identity and mission….

“Prophecy demands fearless and creative engagement of culture. Prophetic thinking invites us to step out of the ideological matrix of our world structure and to critically assess or challenge the dominant cultural trends (Ardener 1989). Young people with little or no connection to Catholic faith, or even outright antipathy, are often fascinated by the critical cultural commentary generated by Catholic faith perspectives. Prophetic thinking is “purgative” (a faith-informed critique of culture) as well as “illuminative” (a constructive presentation of Catholic faith). We must learn the way of the prophet; to speak, to proclaim our faith intelligently, shrewdly, imaginatively. We want, in Newman’s words, “to learn to swim in troubled waters” and to “direct the current.” (Newman 1982: 177, 179)

4. The Kingly Vocation and Mission: “ Participation in Christ’s kingly mission involves a transformation of self-identity. Young lay men and women are not just mundane folk who must fit into the groveling slot that the world has prepared for them. They are men and women who have “the royal blood of the Second Adam” flowing through their veins. Cognizant of “the majesty of that new nature which is imparted to us” they are able to stand aloof from the “ordinary objects which men pursue—wealth, luxury, distinction, popularity, and power” as “mean-spirited and base-minded.” The Spirit of God “stands by us to strengthen us and raise our stature, and, as it were, to straighten our limbs, and to provide us with the wings of Angels, wherewith to mount heavenward” (Newman 1898: 145)
Students of the lay vocation must be educated in the royal nature of their call and become apprentices in the arts of kingship.

“Self-Governance: John Paul II states that kingship is “not the right to exercise “dominion over others.” “It is a manifestation of the “kingly character” of man.” (John Paul II 1979: 138) It involves a regal maturity and self-governance in the private spheres of life.
“ Newman warns that “nothing great or living can be done except when men are self-governed and independent.” (Patterson: 15) The transformation from adolescence to adult lay life involves at least three fundamental tasks of self-governance: choosing an occupation or life-work, making a marriage decision, and finding a social milieu or community. Lay formation must be based on a concept of the human person that celebrates responsible self-governance and self-possession.
“Education in the arts of kingship also involves a call to active involvement in the public sphere. The laity, Newman said, need to learn how to “trust themselves,” to work together, to “fall back on themselves” for support and assistance [secularity is autonomy of self-determination]. (Newman 1889: 388, 391) We are called, in the words of the Holy Father, to “assume leadership,” to build, to rule, to administer, to make a difference in the world. We need strong lay leaders. In so many critical sectors of their apostolate the laity have little in the way of meaningful resources. Where are the robust lay institutions and resources needed to engage the major ethical, legal, and political issues which bear directly upon crucial aspects of our live? We need kings, leaders, politicians, CEOs, who can make “good” things happen in a complex and often bad world….

4a. “The Church, Secular Universities, and Lay Formation:

“Newman puts it simply: “Seminaries are for the education of the clergy; Universities for the education of laymen.” (Newman 1899 III: 240) The mission of the university is essentially linked to the work of lay formation. It prepares the laity for their Christian vocation in the world just as the seminary prepares the clergy for their unique vocation in the church….
“We lack a coherent vision of the Catholic mission in secular universities. There is no substantive intellectual discussion of this mission. Investment of personnel and resources into building effective Catholic apostolates on secular campuses is minimal. We lack robust institutes and think-tanks dedicated to the exploration of this crucial arena of lay formation.
“There are some fundamental reasons why this situation needs correction. First, there are serious practical considerations. Secular universities are, and will continue to be, the academic setting where the vast majority of young Catholic men and women receive their formation. Our brightest and best students in medicine, law, science, and the arts will inevitably be drawn to the world-class secular universities which excel in these fields. Furthermore, the vast majority of our Catholic scholars work with secular settings. Their formation and mission within the university merits serious attention and support.

“Secondly, secular universities can claim to offer a very rigorous and tough training ground for the laity. If the lay vocation is in the world, then the university must prepare them to enter that world. Secular universities do present a clear and ever present danger for Christian faith. But so does the secular world into which young lay men and women will soon be plunged. Vigorous Catholic apostolates on secular campuses should be prepared to meet this challenge with courage, creativity, and enthusiasm.

“Third, the fact that the lines of demarcation between faith and secular culture are clearly drawn may, as Newman argues, prove to be “a great gain.”

Conclusion: Let us take to heart Benedict XVI’s observation to polish television: “I forgot to mention that many documents that he left us – 14 encyclicals, many pastoral letters, and others. All this is a rich patrimony that has not yet been assimilated by the Church. My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure, they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t. This helps us to be the Church of our times and of the future.”[17]


[1] Daniel Cere, “`Rouse Yourselves’ Towards a `High’ Doctrine of the Laity,” Newman Rambler Summer 2000.
[2] J. Ratzinger, The Ecclesiology of Vatican II, L’Osservatore Romano N. 4 – 23 January 2002, 7.
[3] “This Marian profile is also – even perhaps more so – fundamental and characteristic for the Church as is the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it is profoundly united. …The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculate precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is `holy from out of sinners,’ but also because their triple function has not other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has rightly stated that Mary is `Queen of the Apostles without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers’” Address to the Cardinal and Prelates of the Roman Curia (December 22, 1987); L’Osservatore Romano, December 23, 1987; footnote 55 in Mulieris Dignitatem, DSP 111.
[4] Benedict XVI’s Interview on Polish Television, Zenit, Oct. 16, 2005.
[5] George Weigel, Witness to Hope, Cliff Street Books (1999) 293-294.
[6] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[7] Which is why we cannot make an adequate defense of heterosexuality in the secular forum nor now the ministerial priest as male Bridegroom and common priesthood of the laity as Bride.
[8] Op. cit.
[9] Op. cit.
[10] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[11] Op. cit.
[12] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #20.
[13] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[14] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[15] Pastores Dabo Vobis, #22.
[16] Daniel Cere, Newman Institute of Catholic Studies, McGill University.
[17 Benedict XVI to Polish television on October 16, 2005. Op. cit.


Rev. Robert A. Connor

9 comments:

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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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