July 12, 2007

Professor McBrien has been a friend of VOTF since Jim Muller and Jim Post asked his advice in 2002. Few theologians have done as much to give voice to Catholics as Richard McBrien. McBrien, the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, will give the key-note address at our convention on Friday evening. His address is entitled VOTF and the Church: Where Do We Go From Here?" Father McBrien be-gan writing his weekly column on July 8, 1966. By way of that column, McBrien was educating Catholics even before he was recognized as one of the most prominent voices of Catholicism when he appeared to discuss Pope Paul VI's death and the election of Pope John Paul II.

Indeed, Professor McBrien was issuing warning calls in his column long before 2002. McBrien's work has consistently returned to the insight that there is a difference between the deepest nature and mission of the Church and its institutional life and structures. The institution serves the na-ture and mission of the Church; it is not identical with the Church nor with the Church's service to the Gospel. McBrien's definition of the Church's na-ture and mission is so lapidary that the greatest ecclesiologist of the 20th cen-tury, Yves Congar used McBrien's definition in his article on the Church in the Encyclopedia of Religion.

If there were only one educational wand I could wave in my own work edu-cating Catholics it would be to require them to memorize and understand McBrien's definition of the Church. It reads: "The Church is the whole body, or congregation of persons who are called by God the Father to ac-knowledge the Lordship of Jesus, the Son, in word, in sacrament, in witness, and in service, and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to collaborate with Jesus' historic mission for the sake of the Kingdom of God." The Church ex-ists to serve Jesus' Gospel. The bureaucracies and institutional features of the Church are always secondary to that Gospel.

Professor McBrien's website has a searchable database that is very helpful for topic searches. As you prepare for the convention and Professor McBrien's keynote, you might enjoy reading these short theological gems, "Essays in Theology", on his website.