Thursday, 19 January 2012

From one mother to another

Simcha Fisher who writes for the National Catholic Register is always worth reading. Today she speaks To the mother with only one child. Her advice is drawn from her own experience of being a mother of one child - but also from her present experience of being a mother of nine. (Mothers of nine were all at one time mothers of one.)

Her article is a master-class of what the Fathers of Vatican II referred to as the lay apostolate. This was not invented in the 1960s; before then there was a thriving lay apostolate in the Church. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it was, to a large degree, emasculated after the council, in favour of lay ministry.

The difference is this: as a priest, I can distribute Holy Communion, I can read out the scriptures, I can celebrate the Liturgy. If lay people do these things, they are essentially helping the priest.

As a priest, I cannot campaign in a trade union for the social teaching of the Church, I cannot gather employees of a bank to say the Rosary during the coffee break, I cannot run a business that gives its employees decent conditions of work. Only lay people can do those things - and there would be many more (and probably better) examples to lengthen the list.

And I cannot tell a mother from experience, about the joys and trials of bringing up children - only a lay woman can do that. As Pope Benedict said (to the Scottish Bishops on their 2010 ad limina visit):
Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest's role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council's vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church's mission to sanctify the world. A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give a strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.
Simcha Fisher has given a fine example of the lay apostolate that Pope Benedict was encouraging.
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