Romanus Cessario, Dominican priest and author, presented a public lecture on The “Theologal (CCC 2607)” Life: What is it? at Christendom College in Front Royal, VA on July 15.
Fr. Cessario is professor of systematic theology at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. He is the author of numerous works, including The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics, and Perpetual Angelus: As the Saints Pray the Rosary, and presently serves on the editorial boards of The Thomist, the French journal Pierre d’Angle, and is the senior editor of Magnificat. His forthcoming Introduction to Moral Theology launches the new Catholic University of America series, Moral Thought, and will be available in the Fall.
Standing before a large audience, Cessario began his discussion of the “theologal” life by defining this term found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He then quoted the Catechism which defines the “theologal” life as a life lived according to the theological virtues. He continued by explaining that “the life of faith, hope, and charity establishes the believer in the communion of the Church. There, he or she may dwell in one of three circles of ecclesial communion.” Father Cessario then dealt with how the three diverse vocations of the priesthood, the consecrated life, and the laity diversely mediate the theologal life.
Reflecting on the way in which priests mediate the theologal life, Cessario explained that “the mediation of the priest is required in order for the Christian people to learn the dynamics of the theologal life.” He said that “among the responsibilities that the priest receives by delegation from the Bishop is the authority to preach. Evangelization is a task that belongs to the whole Church, but preaching is reserved to those who participate in the “sacred power” of the priesthood. Preaching is a sacred action. Only the Christian priest who stands between God and men as a mediator can restore the orders of nature and grace. To accomplish this task, he must become a father, a head, a shepherd, and never remain just another religious functionary.”
Cessario concluded his discussion of the priestly vocation by stating that “without the ministry of the diocesan priest, it would be impossible to envisage a life of faith, which requires instruction; of hope, which requires encouragement; and of charity, which requires the exercise of Headship. In other words, without the ministry of priests, it is impossible to develop the theologal life.”
In his treatment of the vocation of consecrated persons, Cessario told his audience that these persons “must remind a generation of lost individuals that truth and friendship are the only goods that perfect the human person. The witness of the evangelical counsels offers to the Church a constant reminder of the radical nature of Christian conversion.” He continued by explaining that the evangelical counsel of obedience is foundational to the way of every Christian vocation and that without true conversion, there can be no theologal life.
“In the Church, the witness of consecrated religious reminds each baptized person that he or she must remain clean of heart, with a mind fully centered on the Lord. The theologal life finds its eminent expression in consecrated, especially contemplative, life. In a word, there we find hearts transformed by the Lord,” he added.
In discussing the vocation of the lay faithful, Cessario explained that the specific charge given to lay persons is the obligation to transform and sanctify the world. He said that without a properly transformed moral conscience “there is little hope that the People of God will be able to do all that their distinctive vocation in the Church requires of them. The theologal life flows through the sacraments, and most especially through the Eucharist where the laity join consecrated persons gathered around the Bishop and his priests in the one communion of the Church. From this experience of Christ’s love, each member of the Body moves out to sanctify, diversely, the world. The theologal life is sustained during this moment of participation in the Eucharist.”
In short, he resolved that, “the lay person is called to the work of evangelization.” Their witness requires a renewal of spirit which comes from receiving the grace to enjoy a deeper love of the mysteries of the faith that they celebrate. Lay persons are to ensure that “the Church of faith and sacraments will reach the farthest corners of the globe, and this can happen only to the extent that they live these gifts of grace.”
“For every member of the Church, growth in discipleship occurs according to the vocation that each one has received. Only the sacramental mediations that communicate the gift of divine grace to the human race ensure that the human person attains beatifying friendship with God. At the same time, these gifts are received in freedom even as they transform our freedom, putting everything we do entirely at the disposal of the Lord. The concrete name for this specifically Christian excellence is the theologal life,” Cessario concluded.