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Should the Parish and Laity Cooperate with the Lay Movements Approved by the Church?


Rev. C. John McCloskey - published on 12/07/14

These popular movements and parish life have complementary roles to play in evangelization.

Some years ago I preached a retreat to a group of parish priests and suggested to them that they might consider, if they became pastors (as was likely at some point), an opening homily on what a parish is about. It is not about the school or the CYO or paper drives, and the priests could even assert that there is no need to become “involved” in the parish!  You can imagine the confusion…

But it is an act of truthfulness on the priest’s part to insist that the purpose of the parish is for the parishioners to receive the sacraments of the Church and to hear the word of God so that they, like the first Christians, can then go out to set the surrounding pagan world on fire with the love of Jesus Christ and his Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in pt 2179 that:

A parish is a definite community of Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop. 

It is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration, it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.

That constitutes the Catechism’s description of the parish’s role in the Church. Without doubt, parishes perform a necessary function for the faithful, being a conduit of sacramental graces and sound teaching. In addition, the parish is the primary way of sharing our faith with fellow believers and supporting our neighboring faithful. However, we all should also be sharing our Catholic faith with daring among everyone we come in contact with, as Pope Francis constantly reminds us.

In support of personal conversion and spiritual development and in pursuit of this evangelical mission, many of today’s faithful choose to join one of the array of Catholic movements. Strangely enough, there is nothing I could find on the Catholic movements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, although with time I imagine that will be rectified. However I did find this on Wikipedia:

Movements in the
Catholic Church are groups of church members following a specific spirituality given to them by the founder of their movement. In the case of officially recognized movements, this specificity never finds expression in rejection or overemphasis of certain teachings of the
Magisterium but constitute a specific way of…Christian life.

Church Movements include:

From other sources I have found dozens more movements where the laity may find a spiritual home inside the Church that helps them grow in holiness under an approved spirituality and at the same time remain a part of a parish—though not necessarily “involved” more deeply than by helping sustain the parish financially.

In short, as Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have taught, all Catholics are called to spread the faith through prayer, holiness of life, words, and action. All, without exception—and that means YOU!—in your parish, yes, but also (and much more importantly for the evangelization of the world) in your workplace, among family, and with friendships. Indeed, there are no boundaries. Souls are at stake. What a privilege to assist the Holy Spirit in the work of saving souls!

To examine in greater detail where viewers might find a spiritual home as a member of one of the movements, in 2010 I hosted a 13-episode EWTN series on them that you can download from the EWTN website for free as MP3s. (Or order the DVDs at EWTN: 1.800.854.6316.)

Special guests on my series were Cardinal Stafford and Archbishop Charles Chaput—then archbishop of Denver, now archbishop of Philadelphia, where he will be hosting the papal visit of Pope Francis early in the coming year. I hope you will be there in Philadelphia with dozens of family and friends and, yes, fellow parishioners and/or members of your movement. There, after receiving a revelation of truth by the presence of the Vicar of Christ in our country, May you be further inspired to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Fr. C. John McCloskeyis a Church historian and Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, DC.

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