The Council and the Laity | Russell Shaw | Catholic World Report
The teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning the laity was an enormous and lasting achievement. But there is much work to do.
A revolution in the Church’s thinking and practice regarding the Catholic laity has been underway for the past century or more. This striking development in theology and pastoral policy received by far its biggest boost up to now from the Second Vatican Council, although the development itself actually began well before Vatican II, and its full scope and significance have yet to appear.
An incident from the early 1950s helps set the Council’s contribution in historical context. At the time, I was attending a Catholic high school for boys run by a religious order whose members worked hard to attract promising students to the priesthood, especially as priests of that particular order.
In those halcyon days of plentiful clerical vocations, these efforts often met with success. I wasn’t attracted myself, but a number of my friends and classmates went from high school straight into the seminary. Some became priests and have persevered, and some did not.
I take it for granted that similar efforts to recruit for the priesthood and religious life also were going on back then at other Catholic schools. Why not? I hope it’s still like that. But at my school and, I suspect, many others, another form of recruitment—for the lay apostolate—was also underway.
In those years we students were strongly encouraged to attend a week-long program called the Summer School of Catholic Action run by the Jesuits at Fordham University in New York and other Catholic college campuses around the country. In the summer between my junior and senior years, I talked my parents into letting me go. I wasn’t as keen on Catholic Action as on seeing New York, but together with several hundred other boys and girls from Catholic high schools up and down the East Coast, I took in enough of the program that week to get the message.
As best I recall it now, the message was something like this: