Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Lay Apostolate - Fr. Michael Sweeney OP

Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP

Once again, our friend Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, the president of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, provides wise counsel on the question of the role of the laity in the Church. With the deftness of a man steeped in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, he threads the needle, beginning with the principle problem: "Catholics tend to speak of the Church as something other than themselves."

In the course of his exploration, he quotes John Paul II's encyclical, Redemptor Hominis:
The Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth (13).
The lay vocation, Fr. Sweeney goes on to point out, is precisely to the secular world: "the task assigned to the layperson is the fundamental work of the Church, which is the work of Christ himself to redeem the world."

Inasmuch as the prevailing understanding of the word "secular" -- a word given philosophical significance by the Church's recognition of its value -- is a shrunken parody of what it once meant, some clarification is necessary. Citing John Paul II again, Fr. Sweeney points out that the barren separation of faith and public life is "one of the greatest evils of our age." It is necessary, Fr. Sweeney insists, "to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ -- to proclaim the good news -- to a world in which any claims to truth are regarded as hostile to public life."

(If you doubt that, take a look at this piece by William Murchison on the Battle of the Textbooks.)

This distorted secular intolerance in the name of tolerance, Fr. Sweeney argues, is the formidable task facing the Church, the task for which the laity is uniquely qualified.

Read Fr. Sweeney's whole article here.

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