Saturday, December 14, 2002

"Revisions in mass worry some Catholics"

That's the title of this story in the Minneapolis Star-Trib last Saturday. It's generally not a bad article, in the sense that there's not too much spin from the author. However, the singular title "Revision in the mass..." may have been better, because the primary focus of the article is the fact that in the new GIRM, extraordinary eucharistic ministers can approach the altar only after the priest has communicated. Here's the paragraph that addresses that focus:

"Specifically, the new rules prohibit unordained Catholics from approaching the altar before the priest has taken communion. In the past, many churches had lay eucharistic ministers who would help prepare the eucharist for distribution to the congregation. Now those responsibilities are the priest's alone."

Now, this change isn't any big deal to me. But it is to some. The next paragraph reads,

"'We're struggling with what this might say and how deeply we might implement it,' said the Rev. Tim Power, pastor of the large and growing parish, Pax Christi Church in Eden Prairie. It was begun as a lay-driven congregation that incorporates many of the teachings of Vatican II in its liturgical life."

A "lay-driven congregation that incorporates many of the teachings of Vatican II in its liturgical life"? Who are they kidding? Pax Christi is by far the St. Paul-Minneapolis parish that diverges most from the Catholic Church's doctrine. A reading of the Vatican II documents wouldn't lead one to imagine a parish like Pax Christi.

What troubles me most about the article, though, is this: Catholics (lay and ordained) continue to misunderstand the role of the laity in the Church, according to Vatican II. The typical Catholic thinks that to be "involved" means to act as a "liturgical minister," i.e. a reader, extraordinary eucharistic minister, an usher, a greeter, etc. Now, those ministries are all valid; I'm not questioning them. What I am questioning is the stereotypical view that serving in one of these roles is what defines the active, involved Catholic, and that is most definitely not the case.

The role of the laity according to the texts of Vatican II is to bring the Gospel to the world in our daily lives. We are the ones who must bring the Gospel into the places we live, work, and relax. We are the ones who must reveal the truth, goodness, and beauty of our faith to others, and hence lead them closer to the Father through Jesus and in the Spirit. The ordained and religious also do this, of course, but look at the numbers: there are far more laity than ordained and religious, and thus we have a greater ability to reach more people, more quickly. The role of the priest is to empower the laity through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments to bring forth the Gospel to a world that is aching for it!

Clericalism is a major problem in our Church today... everybody wants to be one! The laity have been clericalized! But that is most definitely not what the bishops at Vatican II wanted. They wanted to awaken the sleeping giant that is the Catholic laity, to help them become aware of their essential role in the Church's mission.

When will it happen?

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