Lay renewal movements must emphasize service vocation
By Father R. William Peckman
For many decades now, the Catholic Church has experienced an explosion of renewal movements within the laity designed to help lay men and women live their lives as authentically Catholic as they are able.
Renewal movements such as Cursillo, Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), Residents Encounter Christ (REC), Awakenings, Marriage Encounter, Engaged Encounter and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal - to name only a few - have been a regular part of the Catholic landscape for many years. New to our diocese are Christ Renews His Parish, and ACTS.
Each of these renewal movements, though aimed at a particular group, has the same end fundamental purpose: to help form faithful laypeople who will see their part to play within the Body of Christ and embrace that role with joy and vigor. Each movement has as a foundational goal an understanding that a Catholic person's role in the Church is always one of selfless service.
It was never the goal of these movements to form groups seeking to wield power. In essence, the various movements encourage a vision of Church in which all members of the Church have a crucial and necessary part for the general welfare and the Church's long-term mission. All of these movements point out that the sacraments are essential to the sustaining of Christian service. Thus, they must have an element that encourages not only the participation in but the perpetuation of the sacraments until Christ returns in glory.
Since we are a sacramental Church, there should be an active encouragement in each of these Catholic movements to pray for, encourage, recruit and support priestly vocations. Each movement understands the importance of the whole Body of Christ and the need for all members of the Body of Christ to be bolstered and cherished. These same movements retain at their hearts a counter-cultural aspect that always has been present in the Gospel of Christ, namely to be in the world but not of the world.
The Priesthood and religious life are and always have been the most profoundly visible aspects of the counter-cultural nature of the Body of Christ. Thus, the idea that each baptized Catholic should look to God's unique calling for him or her should be a natural component of every Catholic lay movement. It must be a given that Catholics - lay, professed and ordained - are "all in this together" and that the Church needs both an active and faithful clergy and laity.
Why emphasize this a point within all these "lay" movements? The answer is very simple: No cleric or religious is born to that state. Each priest, sister or brother begins in the lay state and grows through his or her formative years. All priests sat out in the pews as parishioners. From the laity come forth all priests and religious. The pool from which will be drawn draw the next generation of priests and religious will be the children will be born of those who go on Engaged Encounter and Pre-Cana retreats. That point should be made clear that such calls are options for those children.
The pool of potential priests and religious will also include the children of parents who become involved in Marriage Encounter, Cursillo or the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Future priests and sisters will also come from among the youth and college students who go on TEC and Awakenings retreats.
The prayer warriors in the endeavor to create a vocation-friendly culture include our men and women who have REC experiences while in prison. If vocations are treated seen as an essential message of these spiritual retreat or are not even mentioned, the result is a waste of prime encouragement opportunities that could have helped solve the vocation crisis that has been dogging the Body of Christ for a long time.
In no Catholic environment should an attitude be fomented in which the clergy and religious are seen as a dispensable "them." In fact, such an attitude would antithetical to these movements. Mutual service only serves to build up the Body of Christ. While encouraging selfless service in the name of Christ, why not make sure all options are open?