The Personalist Project

Accessed on June 08, 2023 - 10:59:00

What can energize the laity?

Katie van Schaijik, Nov 13, 2020

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.