Halving Two Shirts

As I was preparing the reading list in July for a class I was to teach at the seminary, Spirituality of the Laity for the Parish Priest, what became even more clear to me was this well-known truth: at the core of the lay vocation is the call to translate the vision of this world found in Catholic Social Teaching into the exigencies of life in every nation. This revivified insight made me wildly aware that these future priests, and the laity they will be called to love, must be deeply formed in this teaching.

Worldly Holiness

It is at the heart of Vatican II’s teaching on the laity that the essence of the lay vocation/mission is to govern the ‘temporal order’ according to the will of God, which means that the core-path to holiness for the laity is to be wholly engaged in the ‘temporal duties’ secular world. Hence, the Council could even make so bold as to say that “the Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation” (GS 43).

Lay saints rejoice in the endless variety of mundane activities that characterize life “in the world,” and see in their faithful execution a “liturgy of life” by which all things around them can become a living sacrifice to God. The drudgery of work, the struggles of being an active part of a an increasingly non-Christian culture, the daily challenges of marriage and family life, the burdens of economic hardship, as well as the innumerable joys of sharing in the celebration and creation of the good things in one’s social/cultural world all constitute, for the lay Christian, the substance and summit of sanctity. The combined forces of heavenly faith and earthly labor together serve to crush both wheat and grape, preparing this world as gift to be taken up into God’s transforming Fire.

This means that if my participation in the Eucharistic Liturgy at my parish on Sunday does not lead me to discover in my weekday cubicle at work, or my kitchen at home, a glorious Cathedral, then I have failed to “discern the Body of Christ” in its fullness.

The laity’s spiritual keynote is found in the last phrase of the Mass of the Roman Rite, Ite, Missa est, ‘Go! Be sent.’

Or we might translate that Latin more accurately as Jersey friend of mine used to say it to me, ‘now git outta here and do’s somthin’ ’bout it!’

Solar Plexus Punch

As I was reading the endless articles and books written on Catholic social teaching and the lay vocation, I happened on an especially striking quote by Fr Robert Barron which I will share here to end my musings with a punch that knocked the wind out of me. And it fits perfectly with today’s Gospel:

Thomas Aquinas teaches that ownership of private property is to be allowed but that the usus (the use) of that privately held wealth must be directed toward the common good. This is because all of the earth and its goods belong, finally, to God and must therefore be used according to God’s purpose. Pope Leo XIII made this principle uncomfortably concrete when he specified, in regard to wealth, that once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest of what one owns belongs to the poor. And in saying that, he was echoing an observation of John Chrysostom: ” If you have two shirts in your closet, one belongs to you; the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.

2 comments on “Halving Two Shirts

  1. Anthony says:

    Dear Tom,

    Great post, as always. I’ll be brief, because a certain little boy is giving me a plaintive “play with me” look. 🙂

    1) I forget who said this, but I heard it on our local Catholic radio station; that to the layman, his desk is not unlike an altar on which he offers his work. I try to keep that in mind at work each day.

    2) I have such a crush on Leo XIII. I’ve read quite a few of his encyclicals. He was so awesome. Kinda sad he’s not a saint or at least a blessed. Le sigh.

    • What a fantastic image that placed in my imagination!!! 1. Perfect metaphor. 2. Leo was a genius and holy, though I also never understood the reserve on his cause. Thanks always for writing and commenting. Blessings on all of you.

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