Friday, April 19, 2002

Catholic Secularity

Reflections on CFL: Paragraph 15

(JACK: Sorry about the heavy reliance on quotes this time. This feels like one of those sections you just have to chew on yourself to get something out of it. As always, I welcome your thoughts.)

Secular. For most Christians, it is a dirty word. Yet, here is an entire section of CFL devoted to the secular character of the laity. Why?

Based on our modern parlance, when we hear the word "secular", we think of secularism. "Worldly rather than spiritual. Relating to or advocating secularism." Thus, we fear the Christian runs the risk of turning from God if he is immersed in the secular culture. And it's a legitimate fear.

JPII is picking up on a different facet. Worldly, yes, but not in the notion of rejecting God. Worldly, as in not of eternity. An age or period. Now. The pope seems to be taking an incarnational tack:

"[T]he Church "has an authentic secular dimension, inherent to her inner nature and mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Word Incarnate, and which is realized in different forms through her members.
The Church, in fact, lives in the world, even if she is not of the world. She is sent to continue the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which "by its very nature concerns the salvation of humanity, and also involves the renewal of the whole temporal order."
As the members of the Church on the front lines, we find ourselves in all the nooks and crannies of the world:
"[T]he lay faithful "live in the world, that is, in every one of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very fabric of their existence is woven." They are persons who live an ordinary life in the world: they study, they work, they form relationships as friends, professionals, members of society, cultures, etc."
Instead of seeing the negative of this, the Church focuses on a big positive -- because we are already there, the laity can play a large part in Church's mission to establish "the proper scale of values on the temporal order and direct it towards God through Christ." This viewpoint seems deeply rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation. "[T]he Word made flesh willed to share in human fellowship.... He sanctified those human ties, especially family ones, from which social relationships arise, willingly submitting himself to the laws of his country. He chose to lead the life of an ordinary craftsman of his own time and place."

"The "world" thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ. ... The lay faithful, in fact, "are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others." We are to be the salt, light and leaven by "deep involvement and ... full participation ... in the affairs afiars of the earth, the world and human community," but with the purpose of "spreading ... the Gospel that brings salvation".


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