Tag Archives: Christifidelis laici

Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter

I’ve mentioned a recently published book, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter by Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran. I am in the process of digesting the content of the book. I find it helpful, realistic and spot-on in many ways. AND, I am persuaded by the indications of the authors based on their own parish experience and expectations. Obviously, you can read the book and see your parish, school, religious order/monastery in what White/Corcoran say. They don’t pretend to have all the answers and nor do they think that their method of rebuilding the parish is going to work everywhere. In fact, their method is not applicable in many Catholic institutions. What the authors offer is a possible (hopeful?) lens and a reasonable path forward in what the Lord means by the seeking the hundredfold. Their questions and concrete experiences are hard-hitting and I think are meant to make substantial change from consumer Catholics to disciples of the Lord. I think the honesty and keen observations of White and Corcoran will help to evaluate and to ask the right questions.

As Catholics we want to be students of the Lord, to be disciples (Matt 22 and Matt 28); we neither want Catholics to be consumers nor to passive in the journey of faith, of building up of the Kingdom and confessing the central fact of faith that Jesus Christ is Lord. In other words, we are meant to be mature, that is, adult Christians per Saint Paul the Apostle.

If we continue in a “Catholic” consumer mentality we as a Church will be become even more irrelevant than we already are in some places in the world, even in the USA. Does salvation matter? Does living as we are meant to live, that is, as a happy, healthy and mature Catholic man or woman? Does Church matter? Does my religious order or monastery matter?

It is clear that White and Corcoran are enamored by the Protestant mega-church experience. There is much to appreciate about these mega-churches on the levels of statists, programming and personal engagement. But it must be said that this approach is not going to be sufficient for Catholics if there is no correspondence with Catholic sacraments and sacramentality, lectio divina, solid catechetics for children, youth and adults and a cultures of service and study. For example, I would be suspicious of any Catholic renewal without Eucharistic and Marian devotions and no intellectual and spiritual formation. Hence, there has to be a vigorous liturgical observance. To do otherwise is a truly ecclesial contraception.

I recommend reading Rebuilt with the following texts as material for an examination of conscience of self, and for those involved in parish/religious ministries:

+ John Paul II, Christifidelis laici
+ George Weigel, Evangelical Catholicism
+ Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly catechetical addresses, the Year of Faith addresses, and his three encyclicals.

Sit before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, examine your way of proceeding, AND listen to colleagues and with various constituencies. Focus on your concrete experience. The parish/religious order is not an island unto itself; a parish/religious order is really a vital collaborator with someone greater (God) and with others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. To allow a parish to become irrelevant and later die because of inactivity is criminal and sinful. Ask the Holy Spirit.

To live your faith in a more mature way, then I would get a copy of Rebuilt.

More resources are found here given by the authors.

A radio review of the book can be found here.

Benedictine spirituality for the laity

Oblates Vows at St MeinradThe charism (the gift given by the Holy Spirit) of Saint Benedict, a layman, who is known as the Father of Western Monasticism, was to provide the Church a method and ultimately a culture by which we all can meet the Triune God. The central aim of the Rule, however, is to encourage the adherent to focus attention on seeking God at all times and educate to maturity the person who desires to know and love the Lord in this life, and in life eternal. Benedict’s holy Rule has been a source of inspiration, guidance, self-examination since the sixth century.

It is very true, Benedictine spirituality isn’t just for monks. The laity since the beginning have oriented themselves to the life of a monastery while keeping their secular vocation intact. This vocation of the baptized person in the Catholic Church is fittingly explored in a church documentby John Paul II in Christifidelis laicior more recently in an essay by Father Julián Carrón, “Life as Vocation” (you can select the text in various languages).

Among the many things that the laity have experienced and been educated to, are things like praying in common the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours), the practice of lectio divina — or sacred reading of Scripture — a theology and practice of work, and a method for ongoing conversion to Jesus Christ. Like the monks and nuns, the lay person is given instruction in the Rule of St. Benedict, the guiding principle behind Benedictine life, but the lay person is given a way of thinking that is oriented to life precisely as a lay person. However, secular priests are also Oblates. A good example may be the steps of humility of chapter 7 of the Rule are lived differently by a lay person than by a monk or a nun without reducing the content.

There is more to being an Oblate that is beautiful and fitting for many people can be said at this moment. It is , indeed, a proposal that we ought to make to others because it is a source of inestimable graces. In a recent article on Benedictine Oblates connected with the Illinois monastic community of St Bede, opens a door, “‘Monks Outside the Walls’ Oblates bring monastic spirituality to secular life.” In the article we learn that,

The interdenominational group [of oblates] boasts a membership of about 100 from across Central Illinois and the Chicago suburbs, with an average of 20 attending the meetings each month. The most recent numbers from the Vatican’s website for International Benedictine Oblates from 2008 indicated there were 25,481 oblates in 50 countries, with 42 percent of those in the U.S., and the numbers are growing.

The orchestra and church: encountering similar problems today

kalda orchestraI found this article by reading the well-situated blogging priest Fr John Zuhlsdorf  (Fr Z) over at What Does the Prayer Really Say? who wrote about Philip Kennicott’s essay “America’s Orchestras are in Crisis” (New Republic online, 25 August 2013). The essay identifies the crisis found in music today as a radical change in Western culture. Music as a necessary component to the health of the soul is being radically altered for the negative. Reading Kennicott is a good examination of conscience, especially if you are trying to honestly ask the essential questions of art, faith, society and Christian living. Mr Kennicott is the Art and Architecture Critic of The Washington Post.

Fr Z writes, “The deadly erosion of the vestiges of decorum continues apace. With the erosion of decorum comes the erosion of beauty and of truth.” And he’s right. In view of adult faith formation, the new evangelization, and the Year of Faith, we have to look at how we propose and re-propose the faith as beautiful, good and true. Many have settled for Christian immaturity, versus being an adult Christian.

More precisely in my mind, what Kennicott says about the crisis in the orchestra (and he speaks about the Church since Vatican II in the article) is rightly said about the Church: secularism (not to be confused with secularity) is infecting the whole life of Catholic faith today: praying the Liturgy, scripture study, pastoral authority, discernment of spirits and conscience, social concerns for those who illiterate, poor, sick the elderly, vocations, etc. In short, everything is affected. We’ve moved more-or-less from the bunker mentality to cultural marxism; in many ways we’ve fulfilled what Friedrich Nietzsche said of God being dead. In my mind God is dead for those whose hearts and minds are closed to grace; for those in open rebellion to Divine Revelation, the sacraments, wisdom of the Church Fathers & Mothers and saints, and the pastoral authority of the Church. And I am thinking about this on the feast of two great saints: Saint Hildegard and Saint Robert Bellarmine.

When I read Mr Kennicott’s essay I found that you can replace the terms for the artistic world with the appropriate ecclesial terms and get a similar conclusion.

Mass with Benedict XVI USAI’ve read George Weigel’s recent book Evangelical Catholicism and I am in the process of reading Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter (by Fr White and Tom Corcoran).

I have to say, I am impressed by Weigel’s analysis and hope, and the White/ Corcoran approach to what and how the parish ought to educate the heart and mind of the Christian. I think we’ve come to the point in dealing with the problem having a Catholicism be treated as a bureaucracy and as a commercial enterprise and not a community faith walking, building and confessing Jesus Christ.

I would recommend this exercise: closely read what Pope John Paul, Benedict and Francis have said about the nature of the Church and the ministry of priests coupled with Christifidelis laici AND then read the Weigel-White-Corcoran books.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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