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Note: What follows is the briefest yet most complete description of the CUF I could find [Overview of Catholics United for the Faith], taken from their website. My subjective assessment of this organization is given elsewhere, but if there was a Chapter here in Quebec City, I'd certainly try to join.
RESPONSE: Catholics United for the Faith is an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 by H. Lyman Stebbins to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the Teaching Church in accord with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The efforts of Catholics United for the Faith must be directed toward the unity of the Church and communion with God the Father as intended by Christ [Jn 17:21]. This is accomplished by joining members in a common apostolate to be formed doctrinally and spiritually in the Catholic faith. The desired result is the renewal of their own hearts. This formation also equips members to prayerfully engage in works of evangelization and catechesis for the renewal of the Church and society as lay witnesses to Our Blessed Lord. CUF promotes fidelity to, and communion with, the Holy Father and the bishops in union with him.
CUF was formed shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Founder H. Lyman Stebbins clearly understood the letter and the spirit of Vatican II, and organized CUF as a vehicle for faithfully implementing the rich conciliar teaching concerning the laity.
What is this teaching? First, Vatican II reminds the Church that all people are called to holiness and to active participation in the life of the Church. This was not a novel teaching, nor was it an attempt to do away with the Church's God-given hierarchical constitution. Rather, it was an important wake up call to Catholic laity to reclaim our rightful place in the Church as baptized Christians [cf. 1Pet 2:4-9]. The primary vocation of every man and woman is to become a saint - to know, love, and serve God in this life and be happy with Him for all eternity.
This call to holiness is primary, but it is not something we seek only for ourselves. Thus the laity, through their private and public prayer (including the Liturgy of the Hours) and through their activity in the world, are called to build up the Body of Christ in close cooperation with the clergy. In a particular way, laity have the challenging mission of bringing the faith to our secular world, getting into the nooks and crannies of our society. This mission is set forth in Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), nos. 30-38, and summarized in the Catechism:
"By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will [...] It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and may be to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer" [CCC, #898].
Accordingly, CUF exists to encourage and assist lay people in the pursuit of holiness and to equip them for active participation in the Church in keeping with their state in life.
A recurring theme of Vatican II is that God does not save us as mere isolated individuals, but as a people, indeed as His family called to serve Him in holiness [Lumen Gentium, #9]. This fundamental truth is tied to our concept of the Communion of Saints and has wide-ranging implications.
One implication is that we ought not consider ourselves «lone rangers.» Our actions, if they are to be meritorious and effective, must be ecclesial. As St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of St. John the Apostle, advised, we should do nothing apart from the bishop, the divinely appointed representative of Christ in his diocese [CCC, #862, 894-96]. This can be challenging in the best of times, and the acceptance of this truth is sorely tested in areas racked by scandal and dissent.
Providentially, Vatican II emphasized the importance of group apostolates of lay faithful-like CUF - as a means for laity to pool their efforts on behalf of the Gospel while at the same time drawing upon the fellowship and support of like-minded people. Vatican II devoted an entire document to the lay apostolate in which the group apostolate is recommended:
"The faithful are called as individuals to exercise an apostolate in the various conditions of their life. They must, however, remember that man is social by nature and that it has been God's pleasure to assemble those who believe in Christ and make of them the People of God [cf. 1Pet2:5-10], a single body [cf. 1 Cor12:12]. The group apostolate is in happy harmony therefore with a fundamental need in the faithful, a need that is both human and Christian. At the same time it offers a sign of the communion and unity of the Church in Christ, who said: «Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them» [Mt 18:20]" [Apostolicam Actuositatem, #18; cf. also [CCC, #900].
Pope John Paul II, in his 1988 apostolic exhortation, The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People, further emphasizes the importance of group apostolates:
"In recent days the phenomenon of lay people associating among themselves has taken on a character of particular variety and vitality [...] In modern times such lay groups have received a special stimulus, resulting in the birth and spread of a multiplicity of group forms: associations, groups, communities, movements. We can speak of a new era of group endeavors of the lay faithful" [Christifideles Laici, #29; original emphasis].
By offering membership in our international apostolate, as well as by participation in local chapters, conferences, Bible studies, and other gatherings, CUF has been at the forefront of this new era of group endeavors in the Church.
One of the hallmarks of the CUF apostolate has always been to «think with the Church,» to foster filial loyalty to the Holy Father and the Bishops in union with him and to make the Pope's priorities our priorities.
One does not have to look far to see that the Pope's agenda at the threshold of the new millennium is what we call the new evangelization, or a reevangelization of our culture. In this regard the Pope is referring to countries with Christian roots, «where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel» [Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, #33].
Taking our lead from the Holy Father, all of CUF's outreaches are geared toward a reevangelization of our world, beginning with ourselves, our families, and those with whom we regularly interact. Through our Faith and Life catechism series, available through Ignatius Press, we are helping to form a new generation of Catholics who know and live their Catholic faith. Further, our Catholic Responses department (see our contact information here below) is here to provide specific, practical guidance to those who have questions concerning how to communicate the faith effectively to others.
CUF members - and indeed all Catholics - are called to lives of heroic faith, hope, and charity. We manifest this faith by our uncompromising acceptance of Church teaching. We manifest this hope by focusing on our heavenly goal so that any present difficulties may be accepted as opportunities for grace, not frustration [cf. Rm 8:18]. We manifest our love by maintaining and building upon our bonds of communion and solidarity with our Holy Father, Bishops, Priests, all Catholics, and all people, for all have been created in the image and likeness of God [cf. Gen 1:26-27]. We firmly ground our love in the truth, so that our faith can work through love [cf. Gal. 5:6].
In the eyes of the Church, CUF is a private association of lay faithful exercising our baptismal obligation to be laborers in Christ's vineyard. Our work takes the form of promoting the authentic teachings of the Church in an era of religious and moral confusion. CUF follows the lead of our Holy Father as pastor of the universal Church. We strive to work closely under the guidance and authority of local Bishops and their representatives. CUF has received blessings from both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. CUF Founder H. Lyman Stebbins was decorated Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II for his service in the lay apostolate.
Since we desire to maximize our assistance to the Universal Church, we have striven over time to adjust our outreaches to best meet the current needs of our members. We will continue to build upon our present activities as we look to the future and assess how we can best serve Christ and His Church in decades to come.
Despite the wide range of CUF's apostolic activities, the focus of CUF's work will always be spiritual: the interior conversion of ourselves, our members, and all people. This focus is captured in the CUF prayer, found here below. This brings us full circle to what CUF is about - to form a holy, evangelizing Catholic laity.
If you would like to join us in our mission, please call us or visit our web site (see our contact information below). For an annual tax-deductible donation of $40 USD or more ($60 USD for members outside the U.S.), you become a member of Catholics United for the Faith. Benefits include a one-year subscription to Lay Witness, complimentary Faith Facts, a classical religious art calendar, discounts on books and tapes, and access to our number for answers to your questions (toll-free in the USA).
O God our Father, who sent Your only-begotten Son to suffer and to give His
life for the life of His Church, rule, protect, and nourish her continually, we
Teach us of Catholics United for the Faith to direct our zeal first of all to the renewal of our own hearts. Then, if it be Your holy will to allow us to be in any way your instruments in the wider renewal of Your Church, give us the grace to know what services, small or great, You ask of us, and let the Holy Spirit teach us to perform them in obedience, patience, and charity, leaving entirely to You what fruits they may bear.
We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of that Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(H. Lyman Stebbins)
Here are some ways that CUF helps to build up the Church today:
- Lay Witness is a bimonthly publication for lay Catholics that provides articles on the timeless truths of the Catholic faith in a timely and captivating manner. This magazine has received several Catholic Press Association awards.
- Faith and Life is our critically acclaimed elementary catechism series (grades 1-8) endorsed by, among others, the late Mother Teresa. This series has been found to be in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church by the U.S. bishops.
- Our Catholic Responses department answers questions about the Catholic faith through our Catholic help-line (see our contact information below), as well as via fax or mail. Our website also receives thousands of visitors who can download many of our materials. We have over 180 Faith Facts and up-to-date research on over 2,000 topics. If we do not already have a written answer, we will research and draft one for our members.
- Emmaus Road, our publishing arm and newest outreach, publishes Catholic Bible studies, apologetics titles, and other materials to help lay people deepen their faith. Call or visit the web site for a free Emmaus Road catalogue and additional information.
- We establish local chapters in which our members come together to pray, study the faith, and support each other in living out the Gospel.
- We meet and correspond with high-ranking Vatican and U.S. Church officials to communicate the joys and struggles of Catholic laity throughout the world.
- All CUF members receive a beautiful Catholic calendar. The calendars are typically sent in November.
- Our staff is available for conferences and parish talks across the country, and we also sponsor national and regional conferences. We communicate the faith person-to-person on topics such as Scripture, the Catechism, apologetics, marriage and family life, and morality.
- CUF provides a constructive voice for faithful lay Catholics in the Catholic and secular media.
- We provide college students with internships to allow them to put their knowledge and skills into practice. Internships help prepare students to meet the real-life challenges they will face when they graduate and become the lay leaders of tomorrow.
- In 1997, CUF launched FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). This exciting campus apostolate (www.focusonline.org) seeks to reclaim colleges for Christ and His Church, with a special emphasis on forming effective Catholic leaders.
- All CUF members receive a 10% discount on a wide range of Catholic books and gifts by calling Benedictus Books.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Vatican II Documents
Christifidelis Laici; Pope John Paul II
Search and Rescue, Madrid, Pat
To order, call Benedictus Books. CUF members receive a 10% discount.
Catholic for a Reason, Hahn, Scott, and Suprenant, Leon, eds.
Servants of the Gospel, Suprenant, Leon, ed.
Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions, Suprenant and Gray
The Many Faces of Virtue, DeMarco, Donald
Courageous Virtue, Mitch, Stacy
Boys to Men: The Transforming Power of Virtue, Gray, Tim and Martin, Curtis
To order, call Emmaus Road.
Following Our Bishops
Here I Am Lord: Vocations in Christ
No Bull: Papal Authority and Our Response
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: The Marks of Christ's Church
Rock Solid: The Salvation History of the Catholic Church
Saint Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church and Co-Patron of CUF
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth St.
Steubenville, OH 43952
© 2004 Catholics United for the Faith. Last edited: 2002-02-21.
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