The Gardener’s Tale of Major Shifts in the Church

By Charles Avila, Chairman of the Lay Society (LSSSAJ – Lay Society of St. Arnold Janssen)

Within organized bodies such as the age-old Catholic Church, power flows along the lines of two fundamental and concrete issues. The first is authority and the second is purpose.

Authority: who is in command? Who lays down the law as to what Catholics must believe and what sort of morals they must practice? Purpose: what is the purpose of the Catholic Church in this world?

For the longest time, authority to command and to teach descended through a hierarchic structure from Pope to Bishops to priests to laity. As to purpose, again for the longest time  it was solely to make sure that each individual had the means of reaching the eternal life of God after death – an exclusively other-worldly purpose.

Today, after Vatican II’s redefinition of the Church as “the people of God,” a “people’s church” has been evolving, while not abolishing the hierarchic church. And today, too,  the people’s church is of the “Church Militant,” praying and working for the coming of the Reign of God –  the Reign of Love, of Justice, of Peace and of Joy on Earth (in this world) just as it is in Heaven.

John Henry Cardinal Newman, the early philosopher and theologian non-pareil of the development of Christian doctrine, has just been canonized Saint of the universal church – to underscore the ever-evolving character of the church of Jesus Christ.

Five hundred years ago, in the matter of evangelization there was a big shift from the monastic and mendicant orders to the new idea of having a contemplative army –“contemplatives in action.” The torch was passed from the Dominicans and Franciscans to the Jesuit order.

The necessary reform in the divine/human church that was rushed into being by those who preferred to abandon the church of Rome – reformers like Martin Luther, John Knox, Calvin, Henry VIII, Zwingli and others  – was now more than balanced by reformers who preferred to stay within the church, led by Saint Ignatius Loyola and his Society of Jesus. This was the time of the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent. That was 500 years ago – about the time the announcement of the Good News was reaching oriental shores (1521, 1565).

A little more than fifty years ago, the realization became quite acute that the church once again needed a radical updating. Saint  Pope John XXIII called everyone together – more than 2,000 Bishops from all over the globe – and we had the Second Vatican Council. As a result we now live in a new age. A new big shift has happened/is  happening. In God’s good time the torch of evangelization is being passed from the religious to the laity – the real reason for the founding of the Lay Society (LSSAJ – Lay Society of Saint Arnold Janssen). The church is evolving.