Friday, April 22, 2005

I Just Don't Get...

How people can complain about the need for an increased role of the laity in the Church while also complaining that we don't have enough priests (though they conveniently forget that that's only a problem in the West and that in Africa and Asia, vocations are booming). The reason we have lay people as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and in other roles is because there aren't enough priests and religious men and women to fill all those spots. The moment we have an overflow of priests and religious, there won't be as much for the laity to do (of course, I'm talking about in the day to day operations of the Church here, not in things like supporting the Church and her priests with prayers and being a good example of a Christian family in the secular world). This is kind of like people who complain that Pope John Paul II made the papacy authoritarian and then complained that he didn't step in in individual dioceses during the sex abuse scandal.

Priests and religious aren't grown on some priest and religious farm. All of priests and religious formative years are shaped in large part by laity. They come out of regular families - families with 2 parents, single parents, no parents. Families with lots of money, some money, no money. Some are born to their parents, some are adopted by them. Some are good Catholic families, some are not-so-good Catholic families. Some are large, some are small. Some are black, some white. Some from Africa, some from Asia. Some went to Catholic schools, some to public. Some worked in the corporate world, some always wanted to become priests. It really is a diverse group of people.

I was thinking about this watching Pope John Paul II's funeral. During the Presentation of the Gifts, an Asian couple (looked like from Vietnam, possibly, but I'm not sure) who were wearing large scapulars presented gifts to the then-Cardinal Ratzinger. I said, "Oh, maybe they're 3rd Order Carmelites because Pope John Paul was a 3rd Order Carmelite." Then I thought about how the gifts of bread and wine, presented by a lay people - a married couple - on behalf of the whole Church would become the Body and Blood of Christ. In much of the same way, parents of children with vocations to the priesthood and religious life the same thing. They give their children up to God for the good of the whole Church. Their priest sons become another Christ. Their nun/sister daughters become brides of Christ. Lay people take what they've been given - their children - turn them back to God, and then He transforms them into His new life to be of total and free loving service to the Church.