Today I will post a brief talk I gave to the graduating class of Notre Dame Seminary on Wednesday, which was our last day of class. That was also May 1st, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
These men will soon be ordained priests, and many of them I have known now for 6 years. It was very emotional for me, as I have developed a real connection with many of them. These are some absolutely extraordinary men.
I wrote it as a stream of consciousness reflection on our semester course on the lay vocation, and wrote it that morning as I prayed for them and their future. For that reason, it’s flowy and meandering. Like my mind. It’s a bit long for this blog, but just for today. Promise, I’ll get back to short.
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“At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption.” [John Paul II]
Happy feast of the small business owner, the tektōn craftsman, Joseph. He was called by Israel’s God to apprentice his Only Son, Himself the master craftsman and artisan of the whole cosmos, Yeshua bar Miriam.
Happy feast of Joseph the Dreamer
of Joseph the royal son of David
of Joseph the refugee
of Joseph the layman
of Joseph the husband
of Joseph the father
of Joseph, the embodiment of [John Paul II’s] Christifidelis laici 17: “The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unacclaimed by the world, unknown to the world’s great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring laborers who work in the Lord’s vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God’s grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the Kingdom of God in history.”
Yes, these humble and great builders of the Kingdom are the saints you will foster in your ministry. Ours is the mission you will serve, the calling you will preach and teach into, celebrate sacraments for, grow weary over, rejoice in, love to the end.
You will apprentice us in how to build a Kingdom out of rubble, built in harmony with the grain of God. A City built of chrism-stained Christ-wood.
You will be sent to teach us Christ-faithful of the beauty and grandeur of this world; the sacred destiny of the saecula, the secular; the majesty of the mundane; the transcendence of the temporal; the immense dignity of each human person stamped with the image of a holy Communion that is our God. Father, Son, Spirit.
Help us so-love the world
You, other-Christs, will empower us to face our world’s broken, distorted features with the severe mercy of redeeming grace. Show us by example how to live our daily white martyrdom
At every Mass you will pattern for us how to call down Heaven’s Dew on earth’s fleece [Judges 6:36-40], then how to lift earth Upward through, with and in the Son of Man to glorify of God the Father. And how to feed the world with our offering
You will enlighten us on how to consecrate what has been desecrated by sin, realigning creation’s twisted contours to flow with the features etched into the Face of Christ crucified
You will show us that words of consecration are to be spoken over crushed, kneaded, fermented and baked sacrificial gifts, cultural artifacts wrought in our toil and labor. Symbols of our bodies, blessed, broken and given up for the life of the world
I beg you to banish forever the anemic, pallid, weak, narrow language of vocation that has a stranglehold on our Catholic culture. Only when we hear Him call our name will we, Christ’s lay faithful, “have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of our personal vocations that commenced the very moment we came into existence
Amo, volo ut sis, “I love you: I want you to be” [St. Augustine]
A vocation infinitely enriched by Baptism. Tell us often of our Baptism, of how it casts us into the labor and delivery room of God himself. For we are the ones who have been “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). Remind us it is for us that all of creation is waiting so it might be set free.
Vatican II says, “The Church will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the whole universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.”
That. Is. Mind. Bending.
Cry out to us our mind-bending vocation:
To be sons and daughters of the Most High God
To be temples of the life-giving Trinity, each of us a hinge, a nexus of heaven and earth, the pivot on which creation returns to God
To be priests of nature and of grace, trembling mediators commanded by His Highness to bring the world to God and God to the world
To be prophetic bearers of truth
To be the ongoing Incarnation of the Word, begotten not made
To be kings and queens co-reigning over a vast and forever peaceful Kingdom built on the foundations of sacrifice
I could go on for hours extolling the super-abundant riches of our Baptismal vocation, which we — and here, brothers, is a great tragedy – which we faithful bear unknowingly
“Do you not know?” (1 Cor. 6:19). No, we do not. Tell us!
In Hosea 4:6 God speaks to us, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
It should not be so!
I say it again, proclaim to us the world itself is destined for re-creation, and WE are its prime locus of transformation. We are its transactors and co-builders. We are its priestly servants, co-effecting the transfiguration of time and space, of marriage and family, of culture and economics, of business and politics, of the environment and education, of the past, the present and the future.
Say, O lay faithful, “all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:22).
And be sure to look at our hands — and kiss them — when we bring up our bread, wine and alms, and do not make us feel ashamed that our hands are marked, injured and filthy from our toil
ONLY then, when we finally learn Christ, learn to know and pray and labor and love and repent and suffer within this titan vocation – ONLY then will we be able to discover which state in life offers us the finest opportunity to complete this ONE and already-complete vocation
Yes, the only one, complete vocation necessary: to have become the saint I alone can be
To become a plot of consecrated earth, a relic
Then, and only then, can the new evangelization begin
Only when you, Fathers, convince us laity of our dignity will you finally carry out your apostolic mandate from the God-made-flesh
Be the men Christ is now asking you to be, for us men and for our salvation. “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17)
Cast Heaven’s Pentecostal Fire everywhere you go, enact God’s scorched-earth policy by empowering God’s holy people to do the same
At the end Mass, command us:
GO! BE SENT! Go to cast fire on the earth! In the world!
Go out into a world that secularizes without God, we don’t need you to effect a Catholic withdrawal into enclaves. We need missionaries, and missionary minded families, who relentlessly love the world more than the world, as God does – the God who so-loved the world that he handed over his only begotten Son so that this world might live.
Go out and be the best secularists around, not leaving the worldly world to the atheists while we remain in church
Go out and incarnate our vision of a world made of love, built on justice, overflowing with mercy
The vision’s name is Jesus, the Lion of Judah, and He who was slaughtered on the altar of the world, for the world, longs to be let out of His cage into the world
Satisfy the longing of the Lion to see the Burning Bush — His divine Heart — finally overtake the whole of creation, consuming all in a death-destroying holocaust, as an eternal offering cast into the Furnace that burns forever in the hearth of New Jerusalem
In these ways, form a laity who can finally bring to pass these prophetic words of the Book of Revelation: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever’”
[Then I showed them these two videos and said, diagnosis, remedy. If I had not run out of time, I would have shown a third video, prefaced by this von Balthsar quote: “And the saints are humble, that is to say, the mediocrity of the Church does not deter them from
expressing once and for all their solidarity with her, knowing well that without her they could never find their way to God. To bypass Christ’s Church with the idea of making their way to God on their own initiative would never occur to them. They do battle with the mediocrity of Christ’s Church not by protesting but by enkindling and encouraging the better. The Church causes them pain, but they do not become embittered and stand aside to sulk. They form no dissident groups but cast their fire into the midst.”]