Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rita Larivee on Being "Authorized by Baptism"


Along with U.S. Catholic, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and Commonweal, the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) is a publication I support via subscription.

In the latest issue of the NCR, publisher and editor-in-chief Rita Larivee, SSA, has a great editorial that provides a powerful yet succinct overview of the current state of the Catholic Church – along with an empowering reminder of the authority of our baptism. It’s a must-read.

Following is an extended excerpt.


Lately, we’ve been speaking with many of our readers about their concerns for the church. Pat Marrin, an NCR editor, said it best: “These are difficult days for those of us who have invested our hopes and labors in the unfolding of the kind of church we thought was mandated by the Second Vatican Council. More than 40 years since the close of the council, whose keynote was “full, conscious and active participation by all the baptized,” we are witnessing an institutional retreat into clericalism and theological absolutism. For many progressive Catholics, the options seem dismal: wait out this ‘last hurrah’ or drift away from a sadly dysfunctional church to find life elsewhere.”

Yet Dennis Coday, another NCR editor, reminds us that we are not the only generation to face institutional intransigence or failed leadership. One of the lessons of the past is that those who wait to be told what, when and how to live, quickly themselves become part of the lethargy and discouragement they are trying to get past.

And so we are invoking Dorothy Day as model and mentor to us because she trusted in the power of her baptism, the promise of the Spirit to give her the charism she needed to accomplish the works of justice and mercy she saw all around her waiting to be taken up.

“The biggest mistake sometimes is to play things very safe
in this life
and end up being moral failures” – Dorothy Day

As co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, she once said she never needed a bishop to tell her how to live her Christian faith. Her point was not that we should ignore the hierarchy, but that we don’t need to wait for an authority figure to tell us to pray, find community, consider the gospel command to love and serve others in our own circumstances.

What authorizes us is baptism. Be open, welcome the stranger, share what you have, be grateful. This is Day’s message to all of us; this basic self-authorizing approach that led her into the more mature works of protest and service that characterize the Catholic Worker movement, rising up out of the hardest years of the Great Depression and within a monarchical church that often ignored or resisted her controversial stands on pacifism, social change and lay empowerment.

She was both deeply spiritual and realistic. She drew inspiration from the Eucharist and from Catholic social teachings, and she drew from the works of the great Russian novelists Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, whose words inspired the title of her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes in community.”

Day found here a description of the human journey we all make if we take seriously our own baptismal promise. God calls us out of isolation into relationship and into community for the sake of service. This journey makes us church in its simplest terms. And this becomes the place from which we move the world.

Rita Larivee, SSA
National Catholic Reporter
August 17, 2007

Image 1: Andrea Sansovino, “Baptism of Christ” (1502-05). Marble, 282 and 260 cm with bases; Florence.
Image 2: Robert Shetterly (from his Americans Who Tell the Truth collection).
Image 3: Dorothy Day facing her last arrest for civil disobedience during a demonstration organized by the United Farm Workers in Fresno County (1973). Photo by Bob Fitch.

Recommended Off-site Links:
National Catholic Reporter
The Catholic Worker Home Page
A Brief Introduction to the Catholic Worker Movement
A Radical Lay Catholic: An Introduction to the Life and Spirituality of Dorothy Day

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Holy Spirit Absent in Attempts to Revert to Latin Mass
Joan Chittister on the Restoration of the Tridentine Latin Mass
James Carroll on Pope Benedict’s Mistake
Making Church Reform Optional
Chris McGillion Responds to the “Exacerbating Actions” of Cardinal Pell
Beyond Papalism
Authentic Catholicism: The Antidote to Clericalism
It’s Time We Moved Beyond Theological Imperialism
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Question of an “Informed” Catholic Conscience
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs


crystal said...

I really like the Florence statues.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Crystal,

Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, the Florence statues are very beautiful, aren't they?

I was lucky enough to visit Florence in the summer of 2005, but unfortunately, I don't recall seeing these particular statues.

Anyway, take care!



Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I think that you would enjoy John eldrigde's 'Waking the Dead'. When I see your love of story, tied in with the way this woman's words reach you with regard to finding community and so forth, I just think you'd probably really like it. I just finished it books-on-CD. It was a good 'read'.

All the Best, B

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hey thanks, Winnipeg Catholic, I check this book out.