STEUBENVILLE, OH—"[Christ] desires to be at the center and summit of all legitimate human activity. The ordained can sometimes take him there, but we can always take him there," Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), reminded an audience of student leaders at Franciscan University on January 29.
Ruse and his wife, Cathy Cleaver Ruse, spoke on the role of the laity in combating the culture of death during the University's annual student leadership conference, "Catholic Leadership in the Modern World."
Austin Ruse, who has led C-FAM's participation in every major United Nations social policy negotiation since 1997, stressed to his audience the importance of the lay position in the Church. He drew on Vatican II documents that call on the laity to renew and perfect the temporal order to emphasize that the duties and responsibilities of the laity can never be accomplished by anyone else, not even those with clerical duties.
Citing the fact that there are many more Catholic lay persons than Catholic priests and religious, Ruse pointed out that "[God] arranged things so that the largest numbers of Catholic faithful are laymen and not religious. He arranged things so that we, laymen… would take the Gospel message into the heart of the world, into the law office, into the police station, into the laboratory." The lay person has a "God-given duty" to carry out this mission, he added.
Cathy Cleaver Ruse, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, told personal stories from the Ruses' lives that illustrated one of five lessons for Catholic laity to implement with regard to their marriages. "The most important thing you can do to fulfill this God-given vocation," Cleaver Ruse said, "is to marry the right person in the first place…You know you need to look for someone who is trying to imitate Jesus Christ. Don't compromise."
Cleaver Ruse is a lawyer who has served as chief counsel for the House of Representatives Constitution sub-committee that handles issues such as abortion and euthanasia. She regularly addresses audiences of female Christian law students on the successful balance of a career in law with roles as a wife and mother. Ruse encouraged her audience at Franciscan, as she encourages those women, to "make a total gift of self to your spouse, your family, to God, and mankind. It is the way that you will become most fully human, and though it's counter-intuitive, it's the only way you will be truly free."
The Ruses' advice to lead and serve as laity resonated with Genny Burke, a senior history and education major who is coordinator of the Beloved First Truth Household. Says Burke, "Being in a leadership position is a role of service. You are here to serve others…By serving them, you're leading them."
Sponsored by the Franciscan University Student Life Office and the Advancement Office, the Ruses' lecture was the latest event in the Distinguished Speakers Series, which features leaders recognized for exemplary service to the Church and society.