I dream of a day

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.

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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.

This entry was posted in Faith.

23 comments on “I dream of a day

  1. Jennifer says:

    Amen! Amen! Amen!

    “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.”
    Faint!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Having been revived from my fainting spell… some more thoughts…

    Is it taught or is it caught?
    Do we need to start ripping up mission statements?
    Here are four front page results from googling “Catholic school mission statements”

    —“St. ABC school is dedicated to the development of 4th – 12th grade students through academic excellence and Christ-­centered values, rooted in caring discipline, compassion, and zeal.”

    —“St. DEF School is a community which celebrates our Catholic faith and spirit by accepting the challenge of living the Gospel.  As partners in learning, we will dedicate ourselves to developing the necessary skills and attitudes that will enable us to contribute to the well-being of our local and global community.”

    —“St. GHI School, a Eucharistic Community, educates students spiritually, intellectually, physically, and morally to reach their full potential through Christ.”

    —“The mission of Saints JKL and MNO Catholic School is to provide the opportunity for our students to obtain a distinctive, faith-based education centered on the teachings of Christ while providing the foundation for every student to achieve academic excellence and the opportunities for success. We strive to instill in our students a strong love of learning as they develop academic and life-long skills.

    How about this instead: “We are dedicated to infusing our students with the desire to know, love, and serve God in this world so as to share in His everlasting happiness in heaven. We are dedicated to sharing Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the teachings of the Catholic Church with our students so they may learn to know, love, and serve God; on that foundation alone, we are dedicated to the development of these Christ bearers in all their capacities that they may fully participate in God’s saving redemption of the world.”

    • tmm says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Considering your gold medal response: “We are dedicated to infusing our students with the desire to know, love, and serve God in this world so as to share in His everlasting happiness in heaven. We are dedicated to sharing Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the teachings of the Catholic Church with our students so they may learn to know, love, and serve God; on that foundation alone, we are dedicated to the development of these Christ bearers in all their capacities that they may fully participate in God’s saving redemption of the world.”
      A touchdown, home run, slam dunk, and a TKO, purr-fect! A wise surmise, yes 💟💟💟 it!

      ❓Puzzled about how to succeed
      With the Lord God ever at our side is da way to go indeed
      Da Eucharistic banquet allows Him 2 come in as we drink da Precious Blood & on His Precious Body feed
      The real spiritual food dat gives life, helping to meet every single need

      \😇/
      |
      / \ http://gigapostolate.weebly.com tmm/PTL

    • Jennifer
      I shared your comment with a number of educators who found it really incisive. I think I will take your lead and work on some mission statements with some interested principals
      And I am so glad you joined my faint!

    • Brian says:

      Jennifer — Love it! I wish my kid’s school had this mission (and it is a mission, after all).

      • Jennifer says:

        Thanks, Brian! Feel free to share it with your school if you think it would spark conversation/reflection/change. Meantime, let’s both live it at home!! That’s what I realize I am a million miles from doing well but am aiming for. God bless you and your family!

  3. Katy says:

    Jennifer, that last one is a winner!! Thanks for taking the time to write it!

  4. Nos. says:

    Thomas I’m confused… I thought a catholic education steeped in church history fortified by the sacraments and fed with the Eucharist is what separated catholic education from the “secular school culture “

    • Jennifer says:

      It depends, there certainly are some fantastic Catholic schools, but many are not much different from the secular schools these days. The curriculum in many schools (at least in Canada where in some provinces the Catholic education is publically funded) is the same as the secular schools, just an attempt to make connections to faith, painted over top of that. |In my experience, students are taught to love Jesus’ values, to imitate him, as an after thought almost, but not taught to become radical disciples, who having been transformed by Him not have to rely on imitation but let him live through them. Not all schools: my little school I used to work at here is, in my opinion, doing a fabulous job of focussing on the kids’ spiritual life and seeing all other educational aims as for the glory of God and the salvation of men.

    • Without becoming too verbose, as I usually do, I will simply say this. I began my post with a quote from Vatican II using the word secular the way the church does. Christians invented the word secular to refer to the world God made it all its beauty and goodness and truth, and which he has made us stewards of. All of the realities of this world, and all of the professions that dedicate themselves to the good things of this world all constitute the secular. We believe as Catholics that most of the faithful are called to dedicate their lives to the things of this world; things that all of the professions that I listed, including marriage and family life, are fully immersed in. Then some, like priests religious, are set aside and dedicate their lives to the sacred, the things of God, heavenly realities; what we might also call religious things or churchy things. Most of the laity become saints by dedicating themselves to the secular world, while priests and religious, along with some of the laity become saints by dedicating themselves primarily two things sacred and religious and churchy for the sake of those who live and work and serve in the world. In the secular. Unfortunately, because humanism and atheism have excluded religion from consideration of the world, of the secular, they have taken the word secular hostage and made it into a negative, anti-religious term. The mission of the church, and of the laity is to reclaim the word secular as a beautiful term that describes all of the realities of this world, and the ways that we can immerse ourselves in those things of the world in the manner got wishes to consecrate and sanctify the secular to God. So the very fact you assumed the word secular was a negative and hostile term shows how much we have allowed atheists and humanists to steal it from us. To steal the world away from Christians and leave us only with heaven. It is what led Carl Marx to say: Christians are so heavenly minded there of no earthly good. But this is not true! We have two 2.2 billion play men and women in the world called by God to be secular saints. And you were one of them! Along with your wife and your children. Of course that was verbose! And it was all voice to text because I only have my phone right now and it would’ve taken me 12 hours to type that out. I hope it brings a little more clarity and that there were not too many typographical error’s. God bless you my friend

    • PS! One last thing. So my point was this. The vast majority of students in Catholic schools will be called by God to dedicate themselves to living and working in the secular world as spouses, parents, doctors, lawyers, nurses, janitors, mechanics, politicians, educators, scientist, etc. If they do not learn in the school how to live in the secular world in a way that is appropriate as a Catholic, in a way that expresses God’s will for the world, for the secular, then they will never know how to carry out their mission to consecrate that secular world to God. To make out of that workplace, their neighborhood, their city, their nation, their bedroom, their kitchen, their bank account God’s world, claimed by his love and mercy and justice and peace and grace and generosity, etc. The school has to be a place, along with the home, where they learn to be in the world, to do the world God’s way, to be secular rightly. To reclaim the word secular back for the church and redeem it and make it beautiful and powerful. That’s the idea

  5. Nos says:

    Thank you Thomas…that’s why your the dochtah and I’m not.I got back on to ask another ,now meaningless, question and was treated to your ever wise and compassionate explanation. Your patience with this simple lay catholic fills me with such love for you my brother in CHRIST… P.B.W.Y.A.A.

    P.s.”small scale ” J thank you for the insight kiddo.

    tmm,thank you for the “puzzled about how to succeed ” thought , so so true . . .

    • Truth was, you were exactly right that I had to define my terms better, nos. Your instinct of concern was exactly right. I’ve never known your gut to be off target. Or your tile laying skills!
      Happy Thanksgiving to your awesome family
      Godspeed!

  6. Blake says:

    Dr. Neal, great stuff as usual on this topic.
    Have you ever considered writing a book on the lay vocation? I think you should 🙂

  7. Blake says:

    Great to hear!

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