Praying for a Christ-centered laity Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Sep. 30, 2010 -- 12:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

The Apostolic and state visit of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to the United Kingdom must be considered a very hopeful victory for Christ. This seems to be the general evaluation of those precious four days that many say have changed Great Britain.

As one very learned and close friend of mine summed it up, “a reading of the after-event reports indicates that most seem to be in-tune with the pope’s logic at least. They listened. They found his world intelligible, if not yet digestible.” We should all, on our knees, express our deepest gratitude to the Lord for making His victory in Christ manifest in Great Britain.”

Of course, the Holy Father was in Great Britain for the beatification of the now-Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman — who will, in due time, be canonized as a saint. Cardinal Newman is very much a saint for our own time. His volumes are seemingly endless and diverse, so that Pope Benedict had to choose very carefully the particular passages from Blessed John that he chose to use in this most significant occasion. One very important passage which our Holy Father included was the following:

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (“The Present Position of Catholics in England,” ix, 390).

Laity that knows the Church

That laity are the same laity to whom the Second Vatican Council spoke in clearly entrusting into their hands the mission of transforming the world more and more into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Second Vatican Council frequently calls upon bishops to listen carefully to the laity, having this notion of laity clearly in mind. Blessed John Henry Newman truly was a harbinger of the authentic Spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

I daresay there isn’t a diocese in the United States where the laity in general can be so described, and that is the loss, sad to say, of the last 50 years. But, as the saying goes, “it is what it is,” and now is not the time for looking back or placing blame. All of the actors in our Church in the past 50 years have acted with sincerity, according to their convictions, and placing blame for anything is simply not the name of the game. As I said, “it is what it is.”

Another commonly used expression these days is, “let it go, and move on.” The idea of letting go and moving on can be a very difficult conception of change and often involves push-back, some of which can devolve into genuine conflict. But we are called to move forward and to forgive. So much of our efforts in the past 50 years have been spent in debate over Church teaching and discipline rather than transforming our world and our culture in the name of Jesus Christ. Again, let’s let it go, and please, let’s move on.

Following the path of Christ’s mission

Pope John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict have given us a marvelous and clear direction for the accomplishment of Christ’s mission to us, both now and into the future. As I experience the regional Confirmations around our diocese, there is no question that our young people, our newly confirmed, want to follow Pope John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict, the successors of St. Peter. There is no question that our seminarians want very much to follow their pastoral lead. And there is no question that many of our priests are ready to let go and move forward.

Let us all then, especially the laity of the Diocese of Madison, consider how each one can move forward and become more the layperson described by Blessed John Henry Newman above. Let us take that description to prayer and let us make real a Church in which that vision of laity is real, concrete, and widespread, realizing that that is the very vision which Christ has in store for us as we cooperate with His Grace.

Thank you for reading this. God bless each one of you. Please pray for me and for each of our priests as we undertake our annual assembly at Chula Vista this week, that the Holy Spirit will shower generously His blessings upon us and fill us with His presence. Praised be Jesus Christ!