Born 85 years ago, I now realize I was raised and formed as a priest in a world where laity were implicitly taught to “pray, pay, and obey.”

 So, I was amazed to discover a Vincentian born in 1868 who pioneered a thoroughly Vatican II concept of laity.  

In 1919, Thomas Augustine Judge said, “this is the layman’s hour”. What a radical thought more than 100 years ago!

Thomas Augustine Judge

Already in 1909, he had gathered a small group in Perboyre Chapel of what would become the home of St. John’s University. This group became the nucleus of a lay organization that would call itself the “Missionary Cenacle.”  Many know them as Trinitarians

By 1923, he was even more convinced of the role of the laity. He told the nascent organization we know now as Catholic Charities …

 “The bishops are on the eve of their annual meeting. Much of their conferring and resolving can be reduced to one word, the “laity.”

His further thoughts

Father Judge died on November 23, 1933, after a life championing the role of laity. A recent authoritative biography sums up his life with the title “Every Catholic an Apostle”

Some years ago, I got access to this 1923 address through the archivist of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Philadelphia, PA.

You be the judge of the relevancy of some quotes from that brief landmark address.

“There is no school, no class so powerful to work good for the neighbor as the general body of the faithful or as we state it, the laity.”

“The hope of our generation lies with the faithful. All great movements come out of the laity, to them we look for our priests, for our consecrated and holy ones in every department of Catholic charity.”

“The supreme question then is how to get from every workaday Catholic a sense of responsibility for his neighbor. It is necessary to make each of them realize that indeed he is his brother’s keeper.” (This certainly finds resonance in Pope Franics’ Fratelli Tutti!)

“I then would like to leave this question before the assembly. “What can be done to inspire, to provoke, to lead the every-day Catholic into missionary work in the providence of his everyday life?”

Kindred Spirits – Pope Francis  and Father judge

Is there any doubt that Pope Francis and Thomas Augustine Judge would be kindred spirits had they met?

Indeed, Pope Francis seems to quote him. “I now recall the famous phrase: “the hour of the laity has come”, but it seems the clock has stopped.

Here, I offer you some excerpts from his message for World Mission Sunday 2018.

Every man and woman is a mission; that is the reason for our life on this earth.

Each one of us is called to reflect on this fact: “I am a mission on this Earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).

This transmission of the faith, the heart of the Church’s mission, comes about by the infectiousness of love, where joy and enthusiasm become the expression of a newfound meaning and fulfillment in life.

Elsewhere, Pope Francis writes

Often we have given in to the temptation of thinking that committed lay people are those dedicated to the works of the Church and/or the matters of the parish or the diocese, and we have reflected little on how to accompany baptized people in their public and daily life

Question for the Vincentian Family

  • Have the clerical and vowed Vincentian Family branches – and their members – given enough thought to how to accompany lay people as they respond to the call to bring Good News to the poor?

PS Keep in mind St. Vincent established lay associations or “Confraternities” in every place where he and his missioners ministered!