The Personalist Project

Love determines our direction

The person moves in the direction in which love calls him.

Karol Wojtyla, The Way to Christ

A couple of particulars from today's first reading from Acts 15.

Some of the Jewish Christians were claiming that gentile converts would need to be circumcised to be saved. 

Because there arose no little dissension and debate, by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question. They were sent on their journey by the Church". 

Who is the subject of the verb "sent" here? Is it not the body of believers, the People of God, i.e., the laity, acting as a corporate subject? Paul and Barnabas are effectively the leading clergy in that community. And yet, they are the ones sent by the believers of that place. They are, in this case, the objects, as it were, of the laity's agency.

Now look a couple verses further down. [my bold]

When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the Church, as well as by the Apostles and presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them.

There is a distinction between the Church and the Apostles and presbyters. What does that mean?

If you ask me, we are looking at complementary reciprocity between priesthood and laity at the very origins of ecclesial history.

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A constitution is the founding document of a formal association. It lays down fundamental principles; it defines "a people who are collectively sovereign." In other words, it forms a corporate subject. It turns a collection of individuals into a deliberate, distinct people.

In late 18th century Poland, for example, a new constitution was drawn up, part of whose aim it was to "elevate the status of the burghers" as over and against the monarchy. Learn all about it in this short video clip that came up in my Gab feed this morning:

What I'm trying to say is this: The laity of the Church need a sort of constitution. And by Church I here mean not the hierarchy centered in Rome but the body of believers, the people of God centered in any given place. We need to embody ourselves as a definite corporate subject that can relate itself to our priests as such. Not adversarially, but spousally—as complementary opposites, ordered toward mission, i.e., new life.

I'll say again what I've said many times before: I'm not talking about abolishing the priesthood or the hierarchy. Nor were the Poles of that trying to get rid of the monarchy. Rather, they were about a re-distribution of social and economic power to better reflect modern "discoveries" surrounding the rights and dignity of the individual.

Similarly, the structural changes I'm calling for are about re-distributing "power" in a way intended to reflect organic theological, philosophical and experiential developments of the modern period, including especially those regarding the dignity of women, the subjectivity of the person, the nature of marriage, and the value and distinctness of the lay vocation. 

(I put quotes around power because the kind I'm talking about is only analogously related to power in the secular sense. "Power" in the Church is deeper and more comprehensive, and it's suffused with divine grace. Call it agency or authority or decision-making or charism. Or help me find a word that comprises all of those things.)

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Why are the neo-marxist globalists pushing masks, despite the ever-mounting evidence indicating that while they are no use against a respiratory virus, they are profoundly harmful in many other respects?

I say it's for the same reason Islamists push the burqa, viz., the devil hates the human face, which reflects God. He also hates the interpersonal-gaze, which is the experiential ground of true communion, the human image of the Holy Trinity, the seed of love. So, whatever disrupts that is right up his evil alley.

(Painting by Mary Cassatt)

“All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

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Tonight we're getting together with some friends to discuss the first two chapters of Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. It draws lessons from the stories of those who lived under the domination of Soviet communism. I've only just begun reading it, but already a bunch of things jump out, including this: 

A Belgian priest named Joseph Cardijn, whose father had been killed in a mining accident, started a lay movement to do this among the working class. These were the Young Christian Workers, called “Jocists” after the initials of their name in French. Inspired by the Jocist example, Father Kolaković adapted it to the needs of the Catholic Church in German-occupied Slovakia. He established cells of faithful young Catholics who came together for prayer, study, and fellowship. The refugee priest taught the young Slovak believers that every person must be accountable to God for his actions. Freedom is responsibility, he stressed; it is a means to live within the truth. The motto of the Jocists became the motto for what Father Kolaković called his “Family”: “See. Judge. Act.” See meant to be awake to realities around you. Judge was a command to discern soberly the meaning of those realities in light of what you know to be true, especially from the teachings of the Christian faith. After you reach a conclusion, then you are to act to resist evil.

Anyone who has studied the life and thought of Karol Wojtyla will recognize the similarities: the stress on the working class as over and against the elites in power; small groups meeting privately, the theme of freedom and responsibility. Now check this out:

Václav Vaško, a Kolaković follower, recalled late in his life that Father Kolaković’s ministry excited so many young Catholics because it energized the laity and gave them a sense of leadership responsibility.

It tracks with what I have been saying for the last couple of years. We are depressed and unfruitful as a church, because the laity are disempowered. Change that, and we'll see Christianity come alive again in our time.

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From the first reading for today's mass, a line jumps out. It's St. Paul writing to Philemon from prison. [my bold]

I'm sending [the former slave, Onesimus], that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the Gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced, but voluntary.

Goodness entails freedom. Solidarity entails subsidiarity. Decision-making power belongs to human dignity and is the sin qua non of authentic community. Legitimate human authority comes first from God and secondly from the consent of the governed.

This basic truth is unrealized in Catholic parish life today. (Again and always, I'm speaking of matters within the competence of the laity, not things that belong specifically to the Petrine ministry.) The Church is hobbled and impotent because of it.

Many years ago I came across a passage in Raissa Maritain's journal that stays with me. When suffering is thrust on us against our will, we render it fruitful by making it voluntary, by giving it our fiat.

That's one mode of spiritual triumph. Another is to extend liberty, consent, and self-determination to those who might not otherwise have it—to divest ourselves of power or privilege for the sake of empowering others. That's what Paul is doing in this passage. 

I'd love to see the clergy do it much more widely—hand over responsibility; let go of ownership and control, so that freedom and goodness can abound and former slaves become "more than brothers."

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