Sunday, June 01, 2003

Culture Wars

Fr. Rob over at Thrown Back has written a couple of good posts concerning the effect of culture on our faith, and vice versa. I'm not writing this as a criticism of what he has written, but rather to point out another way of looking at the question.

Fr. Rob had someone post a comment rejecting the idea that the laity bears any responsibility for the current state of the culture we live in. Fr. Rob posted a response to these comments to the effect that both laity and clergy bear significant responsibility for the problem and this is true. However, I think he is being too nice to those of us in the laity because I would say that, indeed, the laity bears, by far, the greater portion of guilt for the sorry state of the society we live in.

I say this based on the definition, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church of the term vocation. This definition reads:

“The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness. Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness. The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation.”

According to the Catechism, it is the laity that has the vocation to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. We are the ones charged with making the society we live in Christian, not the clergy. The duty of the clergy is in service of the Church -- to support our efforts in bringing Christ to the marketplace. I would also say that, based on this definition, we the laity have failed miserably.

It should be evident to all that, rather than converting our culture, instead of transforming society, we are the ones who have been transformed.

It may be true that in the last 30 years or so we have not had the greatest support from our priests and bishops, but I would agree with Fr. Rob that this is more our fault than theirs. To paraphrase Barzun, perhaps we have the bishops we deserve.

We are not victims. We, as laity have failed our vocation because we have allowed the culture to overwhelm us. I don't think many of us could say that our lives look any different than those of our pagan neighbors, that we actively and unabashedly live our faith.

While it is true that many of the bishops we have are a somewhat sorry lot, we have no business whining and complaining about them -- our track record is no better. The priests and bishops of the Church cannot live out our vocation for us, they cannot do what we have the responsibility to do.

The solution to the problem, I think, is for us laity to admit there is a problem. There are a great many things we can do, once we have taken this fundamental step. We can begin taking our faith seriously and living as if it really mattered in our lives. We can spend more time in prayer and adoration of the Holy Eucharist, we can pray for our bishops and our priests, we can engage our neighbors in a loving way about the truth of the Church and Jesus Christ. We can, quite simply, be active witnesses to our faith. Who knows, doing this might be a positive influence on our priests and bishops and encourage them to change their ways. It might be the indication they need that there are indeed Catholics who are willing to truly be Catholic.

Until we can say we are doing all we can to live out our vocation faithfully we should not be complaining about what someone else is not doing.

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