By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
JEFFERSON CITY — It’s very important to go to Mass. Only you can bring your unique gift of yourself to the altar. No one can do that for you.
That is one of the key teachings of the Second Vatican Council that many Catholics seem to have forgotten or perhaps never even learned, said Dr. Lawrence Feingold, associate professor of philosophy and theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.
“Christ does not want to be offered alone,” Feingold said Oct. 3 in his keynote address at the annual Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly in the Missouri State Capitol building.
“He wants our little sacrifices of fidelity to the Christian life, of our work and family life, our joys in friendship and recreation, our conversion and repentance after our falls, and all our trials and joys to be united with his sacrifice and offered with him,” Feingold said.
“If I don’t bring that, nobody can bring it for me,” he said.
Nearly 600 Catholics from all four of Missouri’s dioceses attended this year’s 20th Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly to spend a day learning how to become more effective daily messengers of the Gospel’s mandate to love and to serve.
The theme of this year’s Assembly was “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Closing of Vatican II.”
Feingold drew heavily on the documents of the council, telling his audience that we, as church, have a long way to go in fully implementing the vision of the world’s bishops, some five decades ago.
He quoted Pope Benedict XVI, in one of his last public addresses, who said there were two councils — the one that actually happened, and the one reported by popular media where stories were filled with politics and conflict.
“The Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not of the Fathers,” Pope Benedict said.
“The Council of the Fathers was conducted within the faith . . . seeking to understand the signs of God at the time, seeking to respond to the challenge of God at that time, and to find in the word of God a word for today and tomorrow,” the pope said.
“For the media, the Council was a political struggle, a power struggle between different trends in the church,” he said.
Because of the wide accessibility of the media, “this was the dominant one (Council), the more effective one, and it created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy, and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape,” Pope Benedict said.
“As Pope Benedict emphasizes, the work is not finished,” Feingold said. “It is your task in this Year of Mercy and for decades to come, to implement the true message of the Council and thus truly renew the church.”
Feingold focused on three key themes of the Second Vatican Council – the universal call to holiness, the mission of the laity, and the Eucharist as the “source and summit of Christian life.”
“Holiness is one of the four indefectible marks of the church, for she is washed by the blood of her divine spouse and made pure,” Feingold said.
“This holiness of our Mother the church, which is the life of Christ, must be received and lived by her children who are members of Christ’s body,” he said.
“All are called to live this life of Christ, for in the church all receive superabundant means to achieve it, especially through the sacraments,” Feingold said.
But that holiness is not for the sake of the church, Feingold said.
He quoted the Council document, Lumen gentium: “By this holiness as such, a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.”
“In other words,” Feingold said, “the holiness is the church and the beneficiary of that holiness is the whole world. The modern world depends on the members of the church living the Christian vocation to the full.”
The call is universal, Feingold stressed, and not just for a select few. It is absolutely essential that the laity respond to the call of holiness because the church is made up vastly of lay people.
“Just the fact that the laity make up numerically by far the greatest part of the Body of Christ lends their mission in the church incalculable importance,” Feingold said.
But against that, he said, “is an increasing tendency today, extending over centuries, of passivity, to think the burden falls on someone else, and to separate faith from ordinary life,” he said.
“The participation of the laity is to occur through their conditions of life in the word, transforming the world from within as leaven, on the model of Jesus Christ during his hidden life of 30 years, a life made up of family, work and worship,” Feingold said.
“Each member in his own way contributed to the building up of the Body of Christ. Each has a fundamental dignity in the church, deriving from Baptism, the source of supernatural life in us,” he said.
“The prophetic mission of the church is proclaimed first through the lives of each one, making us witnesses,” Feingold said.
“The first place where we learn to be witnesses is in the family. The sanctification of marriage and family stands at the heart of the witness of the lay faithful,” he said.
Marriage is “best understood and explained in the light of the total and mutual gift of self,” mirroring the sacrifice of Christ, Feingold said.
“For this reason, marriage must be monogamous, faithful and indissoluble. Otherwise, the gift of self would not be total,” he said.
“For the same reason, it is called to be complementary, such that the total gift of self includes the complementary gifts of maternity and paternity in openness to life,” Feingold said.
“Satan hates marriage and the family because he hates love,” he said. “It is obvious that the defense of marriage and the family is going to be a key issue for all of us and central to the church’s mission in the contemporary world.”
Central to the call to holiness and mission is the Eucharist, Feingold said.
“Another great theme of Vatican II is the call for the laity to share more deeply in Christ’s priestly office by joining their whole lives to the offering of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Altar,” Feingold said.
He again quoted Lumen gentium: “Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, (the faithful) offer the divine victim to God and offer themselves along with it.”
“Do most of the lay faithful know, experientially, that in the Mass they offer God to God, and offer themselves and their Christian lives in with the offering of Christ?” Feingold asked.
“We should bring everything we have to the Mass, except our sins,” he said. “And the big thing to bring is our dreams for a better society. If we were to do this, the world would be changed.
“If the Catholic laity were to live this teaching of the Second Vatican Council intensely, the situation of the church, world and the New Evangelization would radically change for the better,” Feingold said.
“We need to bring our society with all its aspects of home and tragedy to the altar to offer up to the Father with Christ who offers himself, and is offered by the priest and the whole church,” he said.
“He gave his sacrifice to the church so we could add our lives, our dreams, our efforts even when they end in apparent failure and the cross, our loves and sorrows, our humiliations and trials, our forgiveness and acts of mercy, to be placed on the altar with him and be offered to the Father with him,” Feingold said.
“We need to wake up what we call the sleeping giant,” he said.