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Posted September 28, 2011

Book: Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation
Authors: Michael Novak and William E. Simon
Encounter Books. New York. 2011. pp. 191

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Since 1965 the number of priests in the United States has fallen by some 30,000 while the number of Catholics has risen by about 20 million. And over that same period, more than 30,000 laypeople have come into the employ of parishes and other Church institutions. Laypeople have stepped up to serve in a variety of new ministries, and they are relieving their pastors of many administrative burdens, enabling them to focus on their priestly duties. These laypeople are serving as marriage counselors, financial advisers, liturgical directors, and missionaries to the community. Lay teachers now outnumber nuns, brothers, and priests in Catholic schools by at least 19 to 1. In the history of the Church, laypeople have never been asked to do so much and the opportunities for spiritual fulfillment have never been so great. And so they may benefit from some guidance in order to live out their unique callings in the Church.

Businessman and philanthropist William E. Simon, Jr. and theologian Michael Novak call attention to this great shift in Living the Call. The first part of the book tells the personal stories of nine faithful laypeople now serving the Church in new and diverse ways. How did they find their calling? What do their roles demand of them? How do they serve their communities? These new roles need new knowledge and a new kind of nurturing. In response to this need, the second part of Living the Call offers practical advice and reflections. How can we enter the presence of God? What are the different forms of prayer we can learn to refresh the mind and deepen the soul? What readings can we turn to from Scripture and the sages of the Church to bring ourselves toward holiness?

An Excerpt from the Book:

There is one last prayer we cannot conclude this chapter without. It is a prayer that Michael’s wife liked so much, she had it framed for their front hallway and sent other framed copies to their children. It is a touch prayer. It had to be, because Karen suffered all her life from what Winston Churchill called “black dog: ---- a congenital tendency toward depression, triggered in recurrent cycles by the tiniest of setbacks or failures. She very often was plunged into emptiness, darkness, and even the physical pain of intense despair. Perhaps these few words will help to explain the comfort and guidance that St. John of the Cross often brought to her, as they have to many down the ages.

In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything,
Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
In order to arrive at possessing everything,
Desire to possess nothing.
In order to arrive at what wherein thou hast no pleasure,
Thou must go by a way wherein thou hast no pleasure.

In order to arrive at that which thou knowest not,
Thou must go by a way wherein thou knowest not.
In order to arrive at that which thou possessest not,
Thou must go by way that thou possessest no.
In order to arrive at that which thou art not,
Thus must go through that which thou are not.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Into the World

1. Taking our knowledge and putting it to use in the world
2. Teach our children to follow the right path
3. The child of immigrants gives back
4. A life of service --- not far from home
5. Passing by injustice --- and then stopping to do something about it
6. Parish ministry
7. “This is my perfect job”
8. The business of the Church
9. “My credentials are my baptism
10. Lay ministers
11. Surrounded by poverty, a soul is enriched
12. In love and death, helping others find peace
13. After the waters receded: leading the next generation to shore

Part 2: The Search Within

14. The soul of laypeople
15. First comes Love
16. Looking inward
17. Into the presence of God
18. The sacraments
19. Imbibing the wisdom of the ages --- spiritual readings for the lay Catholic
20. Getting away from it all --- spiritual retreats
21. Are you ready for commitment: A look at Oblates and Associates
22. Single or married – answering God’s call
23. Teach all nations
24. To rebuild all things in Christ