Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Church and Lay Communities


Mark and I attended a conference this past weekend on "Community and the [Catholic] Church." It dealt with the role of private lay associations and ecclesial communities in the Church. The first talk covered (then) Cardinal Ratzinger's Pentecost address, The Ecclesial Movements: A Theological Reflection on Their Place in the Church (1998), (the picture is of that day, '98,) and subsequent talks drew heavily from JP II's Christifideles laici (1987). Ratzinger posited that these 20th Century lay movements are the "fifth wave" of the Holy Spirit, referencing Missionary Monasticism, The Cluniac Reform, The Mendicant Orders, and Missionary Expansion as the 4 previous "waves" of the Holy Spirit through history, all following a similar, recognizable pattern. The conference also covered Canon Law, the nature of the Church (e.g. there’s more to her than parishes), the role of the Bishop, and more. It was really fascinating material, and especially helpful for me, as I have wrestled with the very issue of where "Community" fits, not realizing that Popes have spoken extensively on the subject. Praise the Lord!

There were so many quotes on the conference; it’s hard to choose which to include, so in case you need some good bathroom reading material, you can print these off: :)

Ratzinger - '98
"...It should be said quite clearly that the apostolic movements appear in ever new forms in history - necessarily so, because they are the Holy Spirit's answer to the ever changing situations in which the Church lives...A retrospective glance at the history of the Church will help us to acknowledge with gratitutde that, through all her trials and tribulations, the Church has always succeeded in finding room for all the great new awakenings of the spirit that emerge in her midst. I therefore recommend that the new ecclesial movements be spread, and that they be used to give fresh energy, especially among young people, to the Christian life and to evangelization..."

JP II - '87
“Since the Church’s task in our day is so great, its accomplishment cannot be left to the parish alone… There are many other places and forms of association through which the Church can be present and at work. All are necessary to carry out the word and grace of the Gospel and to correspond to the various circumstances of life in which people find themselves today.”

"In recent days the phenomenon of lay people associating among themselves has taken on a character of particular variety and vitality. In some ways lay associations have always been present throughout the Church's history as various confraternities, third orders and sodalities testify even today. However, in modern times such lay groups have recieved a special stimulus, resulting in the birth and spread of a multiplicity of group forms: associations, groups, communities, movements. We can speak of a new era of group endeavors of the lay faithful. In fact, alongside the traditional forming of associations, and at times coming from their very roots, movements and new sodalities have sprouted with a specific feature and purpose, so great is the richness and the versatility of resources that the Holy Spirit nourishes in the ecclesial community, and so great is the capacity of initiative and the generosity of our lay people."

(Back to me...) As a last note, before you get the idea that the place of lay associations within the Church is all ironed-out, I should add that the Church recognizes the current tension that exists as she seeks to find each movement’s place within the structure of the Church. On that note, some quotes from the outline by Fr. Bob Oliver, STD and Canon Lawyer, who was the main speaker at the conference:

"At the present time the Church is still developing canonical forms for lay movements. Such forms will (eventually) address many of the practical issues that the members of our communities face in living the life of the Church and participating in its mission."

"Lay ecclesial movements are a relatively new gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. The ecclesiastical hierarchy has endorsed, encouraged and validated these movements, but not without controversy and not in an unqualified manner."

Our community in St. Paul, for example (the Community of Christ the Redeemer), has overwhelming support from, endorsement from, and a close relationship with the local Archbishop, Coadjutor Archbishop, and Auxiliary Bishop. (The latter also happens to be the President of SPO’s Board, and therefore indirectly Mark's boss!)

1 comment:

Karen said...

Nice post, but it lacked the material everyone has been waiting for... Boy or Girl? Make sure to send out an email :)