Sunday, February 3, 2008

SELF-IMPROVEMENT: AN END IN ITSELF?

A friend of mine had an axe to grind with a certain “lay movement.” One of his problems was that they did aggressive recruiting, but they “never did anything.” That was Regnum Christi. Another friend, had no axe to grind, but told me the reason he did not join a certain “lay movement” was that he saw that when a certain country’s government was being taken over by Marxists, the movement’s members would gather in knots and whisper, but never took action. That was Opus Dei.

What if the purpose of a “movement” is to make its members better people and not “conquer kingdoms, administer justice…. escape the edge of the sword…and route foreign enemies”? Is this a worthy end or does there need to be more? Should individual improvement be combined with group action? Is it better to have both or better to have only one?

8 comments:

Jared said...

Civis said:

What if the purpose of a “movement” is to make its members better people and not “conquer kingdoms, administer justice…. escape the edge of the sword…and route foreign enemies”? Is this a worthy end or does there need to be more? Should individual improvement be combined with group action? Is it better to have both or better to have only one?


My response:

I depends on what "never did anything" means. I think if it helped the member to grow in holiness then it did something. That is what OD is about: the sanctification of work and the fulfillment of one's ordinary duties.

Perhaps the axe grinding friend was thinking organized apostolic work when he said "never did anything." From what little I understand, RC is "contemplative and conquering", which means that it offers spiritual formation and organized apostolic endeavors through its structure. The comtemplative aspect is designed to help the member grow in holiness by assisting the member in better personal prayer and seeing God present in their everyday realties. The conquering aspect constitutes apostolates designed to help others become more informed and formed as Christians. The conquering aspect doesn't have to be formal, however; RC encourages the age-old method of person to person apostolate that all of us are required to do as Catholics. Some organized apostolates are K4J, Conquest, Familia, and Challenge. The thing about organized apostolates is that at times it requires extra time in addition to your primary vocations as a lay persons: 1) God; 2) spouse; 3) kids; 4) work; 5) friends. So if the axe grinding friend doesn't see anything being done such as organized apostolate it might be because the member is working on the first four and doesn't have as much time to do anything else. And that is okay; if you don't have time you tell RC you can't do it. No threat of hell or excommunication will come from RC if you tell them you can't. Yes, you are called to be generous for God, but there must be balance and priorities. There is the problem with the lady who goes to daily mass by herself and doesn't help her kids get ready for school by preparing lunches, breakfast, etc. If she feels God is telling her to go to daily mass, that's great, just go at a different time, get up earlier, etc. Faithfulness to one's vocation is faithfulness to God. Participating in a lay movement is to help you do the things God already calls you to better. By doing so you might can then know what God wants you to do lead an organized apostolate.

If you want to exclusively do group action, join the Knights of Columbus. From what I know, that is what they exist for: to do charitable work as an organization. The few lay movements I have been exposed to don't emphasize that first is group action. The first thing is holiness. If in your journey you feel God calling you to do apostolic work that is organized, join it, or, heck, start it. If you want to topple a Marxist regime, work at being a saint and then see if you're called to join a union, start an apostolate to help others be saints, start a solidarity movement. What action is the friend wanting the OD members to do? Join an army? Start an underground theatre preserving their countries heritage and culture?
Work on your relationship with God, then he'll show you what action he wants.

Civis said...

Jared,

Boy! you said a mouthful! Thaks for posting.

I probably shouldn't have said the names of the lay movements since I was more interested in the answering my question. I'm not trying to pick apart any lay movement--not here anyway heh heh.

I am kind of wondering if the criticisms of my friends could---maybe they are asking the wrong questions about lay movements.

Jared said...

I think my comments can apply to many lay movements and not just the two discussed. I thought I did answer your questions. If not, here are the short versions of your four questions:

1) to make them better (i.e., saints). Part of being a saint in the middle of the world is to evangelize.
2) worthy end in itself.
3) if that helps with your individual improvement.
4) the Church seems to think it's good to have one of either or both. Look at all the different works it supports and acknowledges. Regardless of where you "fit", the Church wants each person to be a saint.

Civis said...

Nothing wrong with your answers. Just wanted to be clear that I wasn't trying to knock anybody.

Jared said...

I knew you weren't trying that. I just felt like talking. you brought up talking points that interested me.

Civis said...

My thoughts:

This is a thorny question. On the one hand, I think too many people spend too much time in front of the TV and not enough time in the community. On the other hand, others spend too much time in the community and not enough time with their families. Also, there are people who are considered “holy” because they go to a dozen “spiritual groups” and will pull a Rosary out of their pocket on the slightest provocation. On the other hand, there are champions of social justice who don’t know their faith and end up in weird places. In the Good Book, when the sheep are separated from the goats, it is what they did that counted: “I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water….” Yet, “Mary chose the better part.”

Rodak said...

I think that "self-improvement" can be "an end in itself"--or, rather, the sole, or primary, focus of a life (the end being salvation)--for persons called to a certain kind of ascetic sainthood. Clearly, very few people have that kind of vocation.
Every person is given certain talents. We either waste them, or use them. In the end, if "self-improvement" is not central to a person's life project, something else will be...

jessicarosy said...
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