Expecting only those with a “religious vocation”, a miniscule percentage of the total Catholic population, to carry the mission of the whole is a recipe for disaster, writes Sr Christine Burke IBVM in Catholic Outlook.
“We would all love our Church to look a lot more like the face of Christ: to actually be a sign of God’s love in our world,” she continues. “We would like them to change. But this is asking us to change – to listen to those who think differently – to try to understand where they are coming from, with them to seek the best way forward. It is asking that we speak honestly about the build up of barnacles on the Barque of Peter, that we take a hand in scrubbing off the mess. But even deeper than that, it is asking us to risk coming closer to the one we are called to model our life on.”
For 1500 years at least, an attitude has been fostered in our Church which limited the power and responsibility that flows from baptism to a few, to the ones who had “a vocation”. They were not all sleek and well-toned like the stars of the exercise routine, but they were the ones who were committed to really following Christ. In vaunting this more “heroic” following, a shadow message was clearly broadcast: those who chose to marry and have families and/or a profession or trade were the “also-rans”.
There were two clear defining differences: the chosen few gave up the joys and struggles of a relationship supported by sexual intimacy, and they committed to giving time and effort to prayer and action for others. Looking down any list of saints, those who have taken this step outnumber married people about 100 (if not 1000) to 1! The message was clear: if you are serious about following Jesus, priesthood or religious life is the best direction to take.
Expecting a miniscule percentage of the total Catholic population to carry the mission of the whole is a recipe for disaster. Our Church is contemplating the failure of this model: we are seen as irrelevant, disgraced, divided. While the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) noted the split between faith and life (Gaudium et spes, 43), for many younger people, the message of Jesus has been negated by the actions of the Christian community.
Vatican II reshaped the message. All are called by baptism to step up and live out “being Christ” in our world, the life of Jesus as a fully grounded human being – his prayer, his action for justice, and his shaping a community (as priest, prophet and king) is a call to every one of us. Pedestals need to be removed and all must contribute if our vision of a world where reconciliation, care for our planet, and peace is to gain a foothold.
Christine Burke IBVM, Synodality: is it for them or for us? (Catholic Outlook/La Croix International)