success stories

Posted April 8, 2004

Book: The Laity and the Life of the Counsels: The Church’s Mission in the World
Author: Hans Urs von Balthasar
Communio – Ignatius, San Francisco, CA, pp. 304

An excerpt from the Jacket:

Overcoming the dualism between the Church and the world requires a decisive engagement: the yeast must disappear into the dough in order to become bread, but this bread must in turn be consecrated to God. With his characteristic theological depth and historical breadth, von Balthasar discusses the development of secular institutes — groups of lay people who live the life of the counsels, poverty, chastity, and obedience, in the world — as a response to the problems of our time. In the process, he sketches the outlines of a theology of states of life in the Church, presents a fascinating account of the development of vows and the religious life in the history of the Church, and compares the new secular institutes with other lay movements in today’s Church. This book, which is a collection of essays von Balthasar wrote over a period of forty years, makes apparent like no other the historical and theological significance of secular institutes, and their fruitful potential.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Movements have different structures. No movement can exist without a minimum of structure: one needs a formulated goal, precisely defined expectations of the members, meetings that are announced in advance, and so forth. Now, there are a number of strong movements that have gathered entirely around the personality of the founder and have organized themselves according to his directives. These can attain a marvelous flourishing, but if their internal structuring remains at the minimum, they run the risk of falling apart when the leading personality dies. It may be that providence intends precisely this; but it may also be the case that providence desires the movement to persevere, and this can be made possible if some institutional structures are set up in time. These structures would include not only organizational regulations, but certainly also directives that tap into the spiritual depths and look beyond what is relevant specifically t the present day. Sometimes the excessively central role of one particular personality, who has been able to fascinate a great number of young people, has hindered the continued existence of a genuine charism.

But open movements cannot be forced into a closed system of ideas. They can be fully justified in the diversity of their provenance. Some are formed simply because a need for social improvement becomes visible somewhere in the world. There is no point in looking for a properly supernatural charism here, since the common activity of Christians corresponds straightforwardly to their sense of responsibility in a specific situation. Others come into being through the charism of a founder; still others — like the charismatic movements — through a general impulse of the Spirit, which need not be bound to one particular personality. But the variety of these origins is no argument against a closer or looser collaboration within the sphere of the Catholica and in her spirit.

Table of Contents:

a. Life Held in Readiness for God: On the Meaning of the Consecrated Life Today

1. He called to himself those whom he wanted

2. The Christological foundation

3. The life of the Counsels.

4. Distinguishing the forms of life

Part One: The Layman and the Life of the Counsels

1. The limitations of Catholic action

2. The lesson of history

3. The demands of the present day

4. Concrete forms

5. Women and the state of the counsels.

Part Two: The Evangelical Counsels in Today’s World

1. The Essence and Significance of Secular Institutes

1. The fundamental idea

2. The layman in today’s church

3. The analogy of the state of the counsels.

4. Significance for a theology of the church

5. The layman in the state of the counsels and the layman in the married state

II. On the Theology of the State of the Counsels.

1. The scope of today’s theological evaluation

2. The gospel and the counsels.

A. Theology of the states of life

B. On the concept of “counsel”

C. The multiplicity of the counsels

D. The individual counsels

E. Vows and office: the immeasurable mystery of the church

3. The counsels and human thinking

4. The situation today

III. The Evangelical Counsels in Today’s World?

1. The urgency of the question

2. Biblical foundations

3. A few consequences

4. Secular institutes

IV. Lay Movements in the Church

1. The situation of the Catholic lay movements today

a. On the origins of lay movements in the Church

b. Lay movements and the ecclesial “states of life”

c. Reasons for the development of lay movements today

d. The movement and the Church

e. The movement and the world

f. Reciprocal relationships among movements

First Publication References

Other works by the author on the state of the counsels.

Other works on the same theme.