Saturday, 31 August 2013

Whose Responsibility is Catholic Community?

I found something interesting on the Venerabile website.

Seminaries still perform the same function, providing intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation for those discerning and preparing for priestly ministry. To those three areas of formation Blessed John Paul II added a fourth in his Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (PDV) - that of human formation. Of course human formation had always gone on in seminaries - living in community provides that to a significant extent, but PDV made it more explicit and hence gave it a greater focus.

But, apparently, a person told me today, that a fifth pillar of training, besides, intellectual, spiritual, pastoral and human formation is going to be added. This fifth area is community building.

I need to find out more about this with a written source. It seems that the problems of the lack of lay involvement in parishes has led to an idea that priests need to learn how to create parish communities. If this is true, this leads back to the older idea, way pre-Vatican II, and not the American experience on the prairies, that it is the priest's duty to create a parish community, making the priest the locus of all activity.

I firmly disagree with this emphasis, and have written about the dire need for adult appropriation of the Faith on my blog over and over. Look under the tag catholic thinking.

In the not-so-distant past, unless the laity organized themselves at the level of the family into the domestic Church, religion did not survive in many countries.

The father as the head of the family, and the religious head of the home who passes on the Faith, with the wife to the children through many means, is an ancient idea. This is a corner-stone teaching in Catholic cultures. The Jews have this ideal as well, and perhaps, my families roots in that religion on one side, added to the awareness of the integral role the father plays in the domestic Church.

Matriarchies do not create strong Catholic families or real Catholic cultures. Our Church is patriarchal from top to bottom and from bottom to top, as created by God Himself in the Old Testament Covenant and in the New, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. To say that Christ was a prisoner of His own culture and time is a modernist heresy, which denies that God created the models of society and the Church.

Now, in this culture in England and in some places in the States, (not Ireland, where youths have fallen away more), one sees a resurgence of the Millennials interested in religion, to the point where many youths are more religious than their Gen-X parents, but have no place to live out that religion in the non-religious homes. Is it the priest's duty to provide a domestic church?

The fact that seminaries may start putting the onus on priests to provide these places for youths is worrying, as a priest cannot be a superman, providing not only what he In persona Christi  needs to provide, but family rootedness in religion as well.

The laity are being massively irresponsible in not passing on the Faith to their own children and providing an environment for Faith to grow. Why should the priest take over what are the duties of the parents? 

The Faith has always been family based, which is why over the centuries, the Popes have taught of the sacredness of family life as against other models, including the evil societal structures of socialism and communism, which undermine that primacy of family life.

Without strong Catholic families, the resusancy times would have seen the end of Catholicism in England. 

The fact that many of the laity do not get involved in parish life, except in the obvious liturgical roles, has baffled me in England. My dad over 40 years ago, was helping with the finances of more than one parish as a volunteer, outside his full-time job with the military. He helped in cub scouts. He was president of Serra Club.  My mother helped in the school and in the woman's club. Both were in the choir. My mom held the choir picnics, and help organize the Christmas bazaar, making things all year round. And, they did other things in the larger community, as well as in the parish, plus raising four children, and sadly, losing four. 

I grew up in a family of active lay people, volunteering for many aspects of parish life. And, lay involvement in my family goes back over 100 years, as my Great-Grandfather, a lay person, was made a Knight of St. Gregory and given other accolades by more than one Pope for his services to the Church.

What has happened is a real weakening of the Church at the base, and what needs to change quickly is the realization that without the domestic Church, there will be no institutional Church.

What happens if the institutional Church is persecuted by fines and imprisonments within our life-times as a result of the legal pressures of many issues regarding religious freedom and freedom of conscience?

Priests in England may be like John Wesley on horseback, moving from parish to parish, being the only sacramental source for hundreds of miles around.

The families broken by divorce are one cause of the demise of the domestic Church, but contraception and apostasy, relativism and consumerism undermine daily Catholic observance. Another huge problem are mixed-marriages, where the parents do not agree or cannot share the Faith. This use to be frowned upon as not viable. There has been in recent times a tremendous laxity in this regard, and poor sacramental marriage prep. 

To expect the priest to be the creator of communities is a false hope and a waste of seminary training time. Priests for centuries in mission countries preached the Gospel, said Mass, performed the sacraments, and it was up to the laity to provide community.

I have brought pies and meals to the ill in my parishes. I have volunteered and done child catechesis, Holy Communion prep, Confirmation prep. Marriage prep, RCIA, I have entertrained groups in my home, and done catering for parish events. I have worked for pro-life and Catholic political issues.

If the lay persons do not learn their Faith and take over the community functions, including teaching, as many priests are not teachers. then the Church will continue to decay, not only from the top down, as in some countries, but from the bottom up.

Whose responsibility is the creating of Catholic community?


  1. You make an excellent point, imho.
    The mistake that is now occurring (AGAIN) was originally made by the clergy in respect of the Lay Apostolate and it continues to be made, especially by those who thinknthat the lay apostolate is alive qand well when they (the clergy) have many lay people performing actions on the altar during the Liturgy. The Lay apostolate pertains to the mission of the laity in the world. Methinks the old saying is a wise one. "Shoemaker....stick to your last"!

  2. Thank you Father EF, the laity do not need to be on the altar, and that is just making us think that in order to be holy we have to be seen in liturgical duties.

    Quite the opposite,as you correctly point out. We re-make the world or not.

  3. Thank you Father EF, the laity do not need to be on the altar, and that is just making us think that in order to be holy we have to be seen in liturgical duties.

    Quite the opposite,as you correctly point out. We re-make the world or not.

  4. Father, you have made some good points on a subject on which I have given much thought. I have a close friend who is, like me, a convert from Protestantism. She is an extraordinary woman of faith--with only a high school diploma she has educated herself so you could homeschool her 6 children (2 are already in college), she took into her home a young girls who was being abused by her father, was an active participant in pro-life activities, and spent a huge amount of energy trying to form the kind of communities that are matter of course in the Protestant denointations. There were play dates, morning rosaries, family potlocks, new mother support groups, a homeschool choir, and an apologetics ministry, All of these activities were successful for a time (they were immensely valuable to me and I'm sure to other families), but the families involved moved away, interest waned, and they never bacame a permanent fixture in the parish. We have talked about this, and we think that it is precisely because these community-based activities never became established under the umbrella of the parish structure, with the participation of the pastor and the support of the Parish Council. They were just not interested or particularly supportive. There is only so much that can be done by one very holy woman. I just want to add that, although I have found a relatively supportive community in my Parish--I sing in the choir of a NO Mass in Latin with gregorian chant, I have been in a health and spiritual crisis for several months and have stopped attending Mass. If this had happened in my old Episcopal church, someone would have been on he phone after 2-3 weeks asking if I were OK and how could they help. No one has called me, no one has inquired. (Yes, they do have my number.) Volunteering is not as easy as it sounds--as a new member of a committee you find yourself stepping on toes if you have a new idea, or being part of a subtle play for power in the community, or even worse part of a program that goes against the teachings of the Church and which is winked at by the pastor. I apologize for the length of this comment, but this issue is hitting very close to home right now.

  5. Thank you Father for your thoughtful comments. You have a good point, although it seems to me you start by saying that, to be successful, it must be the Fathers that create community. Without suggesting that we need to have married priests, I would like to point out that in both the Protestant and Orthodox Churches, it is mainly the duty of the PW (Pastor's Wife) or the Matruchka (little mother) to take a leadership role in the building up of a flourishing lay community. I have friend, a soul mate, who is like me a convert. She and her family are shining examples of lay community building. With only a high school diploma she has educated herself into a superb home-schooler of her 6 children. She has organized homeschool play dates, a choir, also parish family potlucks, an apologetics ministry, a new mother support group. Her husband is a member of the Knights of Columbus, together they took into their family an abused teenager, the are counselors for Natural Family Planning, and as a family they is an activist in the pro-life movement. Yet most of the on-going community groups she has founded have lasted a few years, then died. The children grow up, people move away, new people do not move in to take their places. In discussing this, we think that part of the problem is that, unless the activity or group is part of the officially sponsored fabric of the parish, with clear support of the pastor and with official representation in the bureaucracy of the parish, it will not last. Our attempts were certainly given the "go-ahead" bu the pastor, but nothing else. A final personal illustration--I have been part of a community that attends a Latin NO Mass with gregorian chant, I am a past choir member, known to most of the people who attend. We have a lavish hospitality hour every Sunday, and frequently gather for Sunday dinner to sing compline. I have been going through a crisis for almost a year (financial, medical, and spiritual), which most of the people in this community are aware of. Because of this, I have not been to Mass for about 3 months. In my Protestant church, if I were missing for 2 weeks someone would call to see if I'm OK and offer to help. No one from this community has inquired at all, and yes, they do have my phone number. I have lost 2 spiritual directors this year due to job transfers, feel alone, abandoned, forgotten by my church. I have a young adult roommate who is drifting away because she has no place to go in the church that makes her feel welcome. And I don't know what to tell her. I'm sorry for the length of this response, but your comments hit a nerve. Please think about what I have said and pray with me to theHoly Spirit to unite us in faith and trust. God Bless.


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