Vatican II and the Theology of the Laity

JPI 980

The aim of this course is twofold: First, students will gain a deeper understanding of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which John Paul II (Novo Millenio Ineunte, 57) described as "the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century . . . [and] a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning." Secondly, the course will familiarize students with the specific vocation and manner of life of the lay faithful. In Christifideles Laici, John Paul II observed that "in responding to the question 'Who are the lay faithfull?' the Second Vatican Council went beyond previous interpretations which were predominantly negative." Instead, the Council affirmed that the laity have a specific vocation which consists in representing and embodying the mystery of the Church within the temporal or secular order--stated differently, the lay faithful are called to order the world from within to the kingdom of God; to bring the world into communion with the body of Christ. At the heart of the authentic "secularity" proper to the lay vocation is an acknowledgment that creation itself, as well as each distinct aspect of human culture (science, economics, politics, etc.) has been endowed by the Creator with a certain "rightful autonomy." The key question, then, is what sort of autonomy? And how is this autonomy related to the mystery of Christ and the mission of the Church? This course will explore these questions in the context of interpreting the major texts of the Second Vatican Council.

Course Texts for Fall 2016

  • Hans Urs von Balthasar. Explorations in Theology, Vol. II, Spouse of the Word (Ignatius Press, 1991).
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar. The Laity and the Life of the Counsels (Ignatius Press, 2003).
  • Joseph Ratzinger. The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000).

Associated Faculty

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