I wrote this on a piece of paper the other day after someone shared with me their view of the challenges they face in their Catholic High School of maintaining a Catholic identity. It’s whimsical and free-flowing, but it catches a spark of the vision that boils in me always, mostly in inchoate form.
What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular genius … the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations … in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life … called there by God that … they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. – Vatican II, Lumen Gentium
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I dream of a day when the USCCB will place at the center of its agenda the “secular genius” of the lay vocation, and mandate the creation in every diocese of an Office of Secular Sanctity, dedicated to forming the the 99% of lay faithful called to engage in the Art of inhabiting the secular world with the mind of Christ. Lay Ministry will remain a core concern, but will be seen as the handmaiden of the secular apostolate of the laity.
I dream of a day when Catholic schools stop thinking of Catholic identity as somehow jamming seemingly ill-fit religious language and practices — treated like an ideology — into every classroom, athletic field and music room, and start thinking of it as a way to cultivate a vibrant secular school culture in which students learn first-hand how to “do the world” Catholicly by loving this world with an intensity and passion that even modestly approximates the intensity and passion of God Himself. Our God, who so loves the world, created and redeemed the world for us to co-inhabit, con-celebrate, co-explore, co-steward, co-redeem with Him. God became man not to rescue us from the world as a Condemner, but to rescue the world for us as a Liberator, showing us how to love it into the fullness of life as He does.
Out of such an intelligent, impassioned, mission-driven and Christ-enlightened love will undoubtedly emerge droves of world-lovers who will discover in their school a call from God to become spouses, parents, doctors, nurses, lawyers, mechanics, artists, soldiers, educators, politicians, police officers, scientists, businesspersons, prison guards, technologists, writers, economists, historians, philosophers, therapists, social workers — secular geniuses of limitless variety! They will desire nothing more than to courageously and creatively infuse all of culture with the electric vision of humanity entrusted to the world by Christ. Reason and faith, joy and fun, compassion and culture, virtue and victory, truth and love, prayer and normality, career days and vocation days will finally meet.
And among these young secular geniuses, some will discover a raging fire within calling them to become priests and religious who give their lives to the Sacred in service to these wildly adventurous, bold and courageous Secular Saints who will desperately need visionary leadership and spiritual nourishment to support their mission of healing a land so deeply riven by the split of faith and life. These 99% of the Flock will need you Sacred Saints desperately.
This vision will bring such increase to the number of world-harvesters that the Offertory at Mass will become dangerously heavy, with bread, wine and alms being over-laden with seriously massive amounts of sacrificial material gathered from six days of labor a week. I imagine we will need far more muscular priests, strong enough to bear up such mountainous materials to the Altar of God for their final transformation into the Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.
Please don’t wake me up from this dream about a beauty that will, indeed, save the world.