In light of the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II's conclusion AND what Scott Eric Alt rightly calls "Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome," it seems important to reiterate the great evangelical call Vatican II issued. The Holy Spirit calls the Church out into the world to proclaim the Good News. This requires clergy, women and men religious, and, yes, the laity. Everybody has a role to play, and, yes, some or perhaps most of us will fulfill these roles working with non-Catholic others. Not everybody, though, of course: some are called into an apostolate of prayer that staggers the minds of many, including many Catholics. For the rest of us, though, as St. Josemaria taught, it's out into the world we go.
The beginning, though, features some impromptu remarks about my 2002 book Saving the Heartland. Having grown up in the rural Midwest, I had found every American religious history course and text unsatisfying. The only times my region appeared involved either some hideous, reactionary, anti-Catholic movement or a brief recognition of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination now headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. The reality I knew was much different and much more diverse. I had seen black churches in Springfield, German Lutherans and even Waldensians near Monett, and, and this is where my book takes its roots, all sorts of Catholic Churches. While driving around with my dad I used to ask him "Where'd this church come from? Where did that one?" Finally, frustrated with my constant questioning, he said "Why don't you look it up at the library?????" Several years later, while pondering the direction of my doctoral studies with my advisor, the mercurial James T. Fisher, I was given roughly the same answer. In response to my questions about Catholics living in rural America, Jim charged me: "It's your region of the country, you write the history!"
There's a lot more to that history, but at least I contributed a small part. And visiting UMary last year reminded me again of all that. Earlier this year in a post about Catholic higher education I mention my impression of attending a campus Mass there. Far from the usual poor attendance with daydreaming and smart-phoning students, Mass at Mary practically crackled with spiritual profundity. It was also packed; I stood should-to-shoulder with students along the back wall. So in these days of great consternation we should take, as Benedict XVI did when elected in 2005, comfort in the prayers and support of the Church's youth. The Gospel springs ever anew with the joy of the Resurrection.