As I depart Philadelphia for Boston (actually made my train, this time), I am reflecting upon the great experience I had at the Society for Catholic Liturgy’s annual conference. Presenting a paper and discussing theology with numerous scholars is always fun and exciting, but this conference went a bit deeper.
I am not a stranger to Philadelphia; as many of you know, I began my undergraduate experience at a college seminary down there. After leaving seminary formation in 2016, I have been wrestling with the question: “How am I now to serve God, the Church, and the world?” This conference helped confirm a lot of what I have learned since leaving the seminary.
Between my time at Boston College and living with the Assumptionist community in Brighton, I have come to realize that the future of the Church is largely dependent on a collaborative effort between ordained/consecrated religious and the laity. Yes, we need good & holy priests and consecrated religious… but we also need holy laymen and laywomen. But here’s the thing– they already exist.
At BC, I have met a ton of folk who are far more spiritually advanced, mature, and self-sacrificing than I am… and most do not wear a priestly collar. That’s not to discredit the many holy priests and bishops I know of, but in my experience, I always viewed “holiness” as something belonging to the clerical/religious state. Yet, since I have been at BCSTM and even by attending the conference, I am blown away at the many devout Catholic men and women who serve the Church in numerous ways. At the conference, I met Catholic theologians both on academic/pastoral tracks, musicians, architects, artists, and parish employees/volunteers, all who are striving for holiness, living out lives of love of God and neighbor in the various roles they have. Some were mothers/fathers of 5 children, others were single lay parish volunteers, but all were on fire with the Holy Spirit and were single-minded in their mission to make Christ known and loved, especially through the Sacred Liturgy.
The most impressive example of this, however, is in the hospitality and kindness shown to me by a former seminarian brother of mine, Brian. Brian and his roommates throughout the years have not only provided me shelter when I have been in Philly over the years, but they have put forth an amazing example of what it means to ‘be’ Church in 2017. Brian, especially, has proven to be a good example of how to live the Gospel. Whether it’s in his work with the underprivileged and needy, his efforts on the streets to help those most in need, or even just living a life of faith, hope, and charity, Brian and countless others have demonstrated that following Christ takes on many forms.
I am still unsure of the future (who isn’t?) and what I am meant to do in life, but I feel rejuvenated and inspired by the numerous folks I met these past 2 years, including this past weekend. I am thankful that this conference provided me not only with an opportunity to present a paper in an academic forum, but also to show how the Christian life takes many shapes and forms, and one needs not to be in the clerical state to make a difference in the Church.
Anyhow, I am thankful for all of your prayers and support over these years, especially to those who have been very patient with me even when I have been a jackass! I’ll close by sharing this poignant passage from Lumen Gentium.
“The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished.Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself “according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal”. (LG, #33).