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     Apostolate of the Laity---Vatican II

 

     All the passages below are taken from “The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II.” It was published in 1967 by the Daughters of St Paul, Philippines.

 

DECREE ON THE APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY

 

INTRODUCTION

1. To intensify the apostolic activity of the People of God,1 the most holy synod earnestly addresses itself to the laity, whose proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church has already been dealt with in other documents.2 The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation, and the Church can never be without it. Sacred Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful such activity was at the very beginning of the Church (cf. Acts 11:19-21; 18:26; Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 4:3).

      Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified. With a constantly increasing population, continual progress in science and technology, and closer inter-personal relationships, the areas for the lay apostolate have been immensely widened particularly in fields that have been for the most part open to the laity alone. These factors have also occasioned new problems which demand their expert attention and study. This apostolate becomes more imperative in view of the fact that many areas of human life have become increasingly autonomous. This is as it should be, but it sometimes involves a degree of departure from the ethical and religious order and a serious danger to Christian life. Besides, in many places where priests are very few or, in some instances, deprived of due freedom for priestly work, the Church could scarcely exist and function without the activity of the laity.

      An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances.3

      In this decree the Council seeks to describe the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate, to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise. All these should be regarded as norms when the canon law, as it pertains to the lay apostolate, is revised.

 

CHAPTER I

 

THE VOCATION OF THE LAITY TO THE APOSTALATE

2. The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption,1 and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members. For the Christian vocation by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate. No part of the structure of a living body is merely passive but each has a share in the functions as well as in the life of the body. So, too, in the body of Christ, which is the Church, "the whole body ...in keeping with the proper activity of each part, derives its increase from its own internal development" (Ephesians 4:16).

      Indeed, the organic union in this body and the structure of the members are so compact that the member, who fails to make his proper contribution to the development of the Church must be said to be useful neither to the Church nor to himself.

      In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise shares in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole People or God in the Church and in the world.2

      They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.

 

3. The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head; incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself. They are consecrated for the royal priesthood and the holy people (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-10) not only that they may offer spiritual sacrifices in everything they do but also that they may witness to Christ throughout the world. The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.3

      One engages in the apostolate through the faith, hope, and charity which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church. Indeed, by the precept of charity, which is the Lord's greatest commandment, all the faithful are impelled to promote the glory of God through the coming of His kingdom and to obtain eternal life for all men---that they may know the only true God and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ (cf. John 17:3). On all Christians therefore is laid the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world.

      For the exercise of this apostolate, the Holy Spirit Who sanctifies the People of God through the ministry and the sacraments gives the faithful special gifts also (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7), "allotting them to everyone according as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:11) in order that individuals, administering grace to others just as they have received it, may also be "good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10), to build up the whole body in charity (cf. Ephesians 4:16). From the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where He wills" (John 3:8). This should be done by the laity in communion with their brothers in Christ, especially with their pastors who must make a judgment about the true nature and proper use of these gifts not to extinguish the Spirit but to test all things and hold for what is good (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 19, 21).4

 

4. Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity's living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord's words, "He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy.5 These are to be used by the laity in such a way that while correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate union with Christ from their life but rather performing their work according to God's will they grow in that union. In this way the laity must make progress in holiness in a happy and ready spirit, trying prudently and patiently to overcome difficulties.6 Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be irrelevant to their spiritual life, in keeping with the words of the Apostle, "Whatever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17).

     Such a life requires a continual exercise of faith, hope, and charity. Only by the light of faith and by meditation on the word of God can one always and everywhere recognize God in Whom "we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28), seek His will in every event, see Christ in everyone whether he be a relative or a stranger, and make correct judgments about the true meaning and value of temporal things both in themselves and in their relation to man's final goal.

      They who have this faith live in the hope of the revelation of the sons of God and keep in mind the cross and resurrection of the Lord. In the pilgrimage of this life, hidden with Christ in God and free from enslavement to wealth, they aspire to those riches which remain forever and generously dedicate themselves wholly to the advancement of the kingdom of God and to the reform and improvement of the temporal order in a Christian spirit. Among the trials of this life they find strength in hope, convinced that "the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

      Impelled by divine charity, they do good to all men, especially to those of the household of the faith (cf. Galatians 6:10), laying aside "all malice and all deceit and pretense, and envy, and all slander" (I Peter 2:1), and thereby they draw men to Christ. This charity of God, "which is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5), enables the laity really to express the spirit of the beatitudes in their lives. Following Jesus in His poverty, they are neither depressed by the lack of temporal goods nor inflated by their abundance; imitating Christ in His humility, they have no obsession for empty honors (cf. Galatians 5:26) but seek to please God rather than men, ever ready to leave all things for Christ's sake (cf. Luke 14:26) and to suffer persecution for justice sake (cf. Matthew 5:10), as they remember the words of the Lord, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Promoting Christian friendship among themselves, they help one another in every need whatsoever.

      This plan for the spiritual life of the laity should take its particular character from their married or family state or their single or widowed state, from their state of health, and from their professional and social activity. They should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life, and they should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit.

      Furthermore, the laity who have followed their vocation and have become members of one of the associations or institutes approved by the Church, try faithfully to adopt the special characteristics of the spiritual life which are proper to them as well. They should also hold in high esteem professional skill, family and civic spirit, and the virtues relating to social customs, namely, honesty, justice, sincerity, kindness, and courage, without which no true Christian life can exist.

      The perfect example of this type of spiritual and apostolic life is the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, who while leading the life common to all here on earth, one filled with family concerns and labors, was always intimately united with her Son and in an entirely unique way cooperated in the work of the Savior. Having now been assumed into heaven, with her maternal charity she cares for these brothers of her Son who are still on their earthly pilgrimage and remain involved in dangers and difficulties until they are led into the happy fatherland.7 All should devoutly venerate her and commend their life and apostolate to her maternal care.

 

CHAPTER II

 

OBJECTIVES

5. Christ's redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. In fulfilling this mission of the Church, the Christian laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and the temporal orders. These orders, although distinct, are so connected in the singular plan of God that He Himself intends to raise up the whole world again in Christ and to make it a new creation, initially on earth and completely on the last day. In both orders the layman, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by the same Christian conscience.

 

6. The mission of the Church pertains to the salvation of men, which is to be achieved by belief in Christ and by His grace. The apostolate of the Church and of all its members is primarily designed to manifest Christ's message by words and deeds and to communicate His grace to the world. This is done mainly through the ministry of the Word and the sacraments, entrusted in a special way to the clergy, wherein the laity also have their very important roles to fulfill if they are to be "fellow workers for the truth" (3 John 8). It is especially on this level that the apostolate of the laity and the pastoral ministry are mutually complementary.

      There are innumerable opportunities open to the laity for the exercise of their apostolate of evangelization and sanctification. The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to draw men to belief and to God; for the Lord says, "Even so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

      However, an apostolate of this kind does not consist only in the witness of one's way of life; a true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. "For the charity of Christ impels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14). The words of the Apostle should echo in all hearts, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16).1

      Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating which tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen---each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning---to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.

 

7. God's plan for the world is that men should work together to renew and constantly perfect the temporal order.

      All those things which make up the temporal order, namely, the good things of life and the prosperity of the family, culture, economic matters, the arts and professions, the laws of the political community, international relations, and other matters of this kind, as well as their development and progress, not only aid in the attainment of man's ultimate goal but also possess their own intrinsic value. This value has been established in them by God, whether they are considered in themselves or as parts of the whole temporal order. "God saw that all He had made was very good" (Genesis 1:31). This natural goodness of theirs takes on a special dignity as a result of their relation to the human person, for whose service they were created. It has pleased God to unite all things, both natural and supernatural, in Christ Jesus "so that in all things He may have the first place" (Colossians 1:18). This destination, however, not only does not deprive the temporal order of its independence, its proper goals, laws, supports, and significance for human welfare but rather perfects the temporal order in its own intrinsic strength and worth and puts it on a level with man's whole vocation upon earth.

      In the course of history, the use of temporal things has been marred by serious vices. Affected by original sin, men have frequently fallen into many errors concerning the true God, the nature of man, and the principles of the moral law. This has led to the corruption of morals and human institutions and not rarely to contempt for the human person himself. In our own time, moreover, those who have trusted excessively in the progress of the natural sciences and the technical arts have fallen into an idolatry of temporal things and have become their slaves rather than their masters.

      The whole Church must work vigorously in order that men may become capable of rectifying the distortion of the temporal order and directing it to God through Christ. Pastors must clearly state the principles concerning the purpose of creation and the use of temporal things and must offer the moral and spiritual aids by which the temporal order may be renewed in Christ.

      The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church and motivated by Christian charity, they must act directly and in a definite way in the temporal sphere. As citizens they must cooperate with other citizens with their own particular skill and on their own responsibility. Everywhere and in all things they must seek the justice of God's kingdom. The temporal order must be renewed in such a way that, without detriment to its own proper laws, it may be brought into conformity with the higher principles of the Christian life and adapted to the shifting circumstances of time, place, and peoples. Preeminent among the works of this type of apostolate is that of Christian social action which the sacred synod desires to see extended to the whole temporal sphere, including culture.2

 

8. While every exercise of the apostolate should be motivated by charity, some works by their very nature can become especially vivid expressions of this charity. Christ the Lord wanted these works to be signs of His messianic mission (cf. Matthew 11:4-5).

      The greatest commandment in the law is to love God with one's whole heart and one's neighbor as oneself (cf. Matthew 22:37-40). Christ made this commandment of love of neighbor His own and enriched it with a new meaning. For He wanted to equate Himself with His brethren as the object of this love when He said, "As long as you did it for one of these, the least of My brethren, you did it for Me" (Matthew 25:40). Assuming human nature, He bound the whole human race to Himself as a family through a certain supernatural solidarity and established charity as the mark of His disciples, saying, "By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

      In her very early days, the holy Church added the agape to the eucharistic supper and thus showed itself to be wholly united around Christ by the bond of charity. So, too, in every era it is recognized by this sign of love, and while it rejoices in the undertakings of others, it claims works of charity as its own inalienable duty and right. For this reason, pity for the needy and the sick and works of charity and mutual aid intended to relieve human needs of every kind are held in highest honor by the Church.3

      At the present time, with the development of more rapid facilities for communication, with the barrier of distance separating men greatly reduced, with the inhabitants of the entire globe becoming one great family, these charitable activities and works have become more urgent and universal. These charitable enterprises can and should reach out to all persons and all needs. Wherever there are people in need of food and drink, clothing, housing, medicine, employment, education; wherever men lack the facilities necessary for living a truly human life or are afflicted with serious distress or illness or suffer exile or imprisonment, there Christian charity should seek them out and find them, console them with great solicitude, and help them with appropriate relief. This obligation is imposed above all upon every prosperous nation and person.4

      In order that the exercise of charity on this scale may be unexceptionable in appearance as well as in fact, it is altogether necessary that one should consider in one's neighbor the image of God in which he has been created, and also Christ the Lord to Whom is really offered whatever is given to a needy person. It is imperative also that the freedom and dignity of the person being helped be respected with the utmost consideration, that the purity of one's charitable intentions be not stained by seeking one's own advantage or by striving for domination,5 and especially that the demands of justice be satisfied lest the giving of what is due in justice be represented as the offering of a charitable gift. Not only the effects but also the causes of these ills must be removed and the help be given in such a way that the recipients may gradually be freed from dependence on outsiders and become self-sufficient.

      Therefore, the laity should hold in high esteem and, according to their ability, aid the works of charity and projects for social assistance, whether public or private, including international programs whereby effective help is given to needy individuals and peoples. In so doing, they should cooperate with all men of good will.6

 

CHAPTER III

 

THE VARIOUS FIELDS OF THE APOSTOLATE

9. The laity carry out their manifold apostolate both in the Church and in the world. In both areas there are various opportunities for apostolic activity. We wish to list here the more important fields of action, namely, church communities, the family, youth, the social milieu, and national and international levels. Since in our times women have an ever more active share in the whole life of society, it is very important that they participate more widely also in the various fields of the Church's apostolate.

 

10. As sharers in the role of Christ as priest, prophet, and king, the laity have their work cut out for them in the life and activity of the Church. Their activity is so necessary within the Church communities that without it the apostolate of the pastors is often unable to achieve its full effectiveness. In the manner of the men and women who helped Paul in spreading the Gospel (cf. Acts 18: 18, 26; Romans 16:3) the laity with the right apostolic attitude supply what is lacking to their brethren and refresh the spirit of pastors and of the rest of the faithful (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:17-18). Strengthened by active participation in the liturgical life of their community, they are eager to do their share of the apostolic works of that community. They bring to the Church people who perhaps are far removed from it, earnestly cooperate in presenting the word of God especially by means of catechetical instruction, and offer their special skills to make the care of souls and the administration of the temporalities of the Church more efficient and effective.

      The parish offers an obvious example of the apostolate on the community level inasmuch as it brings together the many human differences within its boundaries and merges them into the universality of the Church.1 The laity should accustom themselves to working in the parish in union with their priests,2 bringing to the Church community their own and the world's problems as well as questions concerning human salvation, all of which they should examinee and resolve by deliberating in common. As far as possible the laity ought to provide helpful collaboration for every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by their local parish.

      They should develop an ever-increasing appreciation of their own diocese, of which the parish is a kind of cell, ever ready at their pastor's invitation to participate in diocesan projects. Indeed, to fulfill the needs of cities and rural areas,3 they should not limit their cooperation to the parochial or diocesan boundaries but strive to extend it to inter-parochial, inter-diocesan, national, and international fields. This is constantly becoming all the more necessary because the daily increase in mobility of populations, reciprocal relationships, and means of communication no longer allow any sector of society to remain closed in upon itself. Thus they should be concerned about the needs of the People of God dispersed throughout the world. They should especially make missionary activity their own by giving material or even personal assistance. It is a duty and honor for Christians to return to God a part of the good things that they receive from Him.

 

11. Since the Creator of all things has established conjugal society as the beginning and basis of human society and, by His grace, has made it a great mystery in Christ and the Church (cf. Eph. 5:32), the apostolate of married persons and families is of unique importance for the Church and civil society.

      Christian husbands and wives are cooperators in grace and witnesses of faith for each other, their children, and all others in their household. They are the first to communicate the faith to their children and to educate them by word and example for the Christian and apostolic life. They prudently help them in the choice of their vocation and carefully promote any sacred vocation which they may discern in them.

      It has always been the duty of Christian married partners, but today it is the greatest part of their apostolate to manifest and prove by their own way of life the indissolubility and sacredness of the marriage bond, strenuously to affirm the right and duty of parents and guardians to educate children in a Christian manner, and to defend the dignity and lawful autonomy of the family. They and the rest of the faithful, therefore, should cooperate with men of good will to ensure the preservation of these rights in civil legislation and to make sure that governments give due attention to the needs of the family regarding housing, the education of children, working conditions, social security, and taxes; and that in policy decisions affecting migrants their right to live together as a family should be safeguarded.4

      This mission---to be the first and vital cell of society---the family has received from God. It will fulfill this mission if it appears as the domestic sanctuary of the Church by reason of the mutual affection of its members and the prayer that they offer to God in common, if the whole family makes itself a part of the liturgical worship of the Church, and if it provides active hospitality and promotes justice and other good works for the service of all the brethren in need. Among the various activities of the family apostolate may be enumerated the following: the adoption of abandoned infants, hospitality to strangers, assistance in the operation of schools, helpful advice and material assistance for adolescents, help to engaged couples in preparing themselves better for marriage, catechetical work, support of married couples and families involved in material and moral crises, help for the aged not only by providing them with the necessities of life but also by obtaining for them a fair share of the benefits of an expanding economy.

      At all times and places but particularly in areas where the first seeds of the Gospel are being sown, or where the Church is just beginning, or is involved in some serious difficulty, Christian families can give effective testimony to Christ before the world by remaining faithful to the Gospel and by providing a model of Christian marriage through their whole way of life.5

      To facilitate the attainment of the goals of their apostolate, it can be useful for families to be brought together into groups.6

 

12. Young persons exert very important influence in modern society.7 There has been a radical change in the circumstances of their lives, their mental attitudes, and their relationships with their own families. Frequently they move too quickly into a new social and economic status. While their social and even their political importance is growing from day to day, they seem to be unable to cope adequately with their new responsibilities.

      Their heightened influence in society demands of them a proportionate apostolic activity, but their natural qualities also fit them for this activity. As they become more conscious of their own personalities, they are impelled by a zest for life and a ready eagerness to assume their own responsibility, and they yearn to play their part in social and cultural life. If this zeal is imbued with the spirit of Christ and is inspired by obedience and love for the Church, it can be expected to be very fruitful. They should become the first to carry on the apostolate directly to other young persons, concentrating their apostolic efforts within their own circle, according to the needs of the social environment in which they live.8

      Adults ought to engage in such friendly discussion with young people that both age groups, overcoming the age barrier, may become better acquainted and share the special benefits each generation can offer the other. Adults should stimulate young persons first by good example to take part in the apostolate and, if the opportunity presents itself, by offering them effective advice and willing assistance. By the same token young people should cultivate toward adults respect and trust, and although they are naturally attracted to novelties, they should duly appreciate praiseworthy traditions.

 

13. The apostolate in the social milieu, that is, the effort to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which one lives, is so much the duty and responsibility of the laity that it can never be performed properly by others. In this area the laity can exercise the apostolate of like toward like. It is here that they complement the testimony of life with the testimony of the word.9 It is here where they work or practice their profession or study or reside or spend their leisure time or have their companionship that they are more capable of helping their brethren.

      The laity fulfill this mission of the Church in the world especially by conforming their lives to their faith so that they become the light of the world as well as by practising honesty in all their dealings so that they attract all to the love of the true and the good and finally to the Church and to Christ. They fulfill their mission also by fraternal charity which presses them to share in the living conditions, labors, sorrows, and aspirations of their brethren with the result that the hearts of all about them are quietly prepared for the workings of saving grace. Another requisite for the accomplishment of their task is a full consciousness of their role in building up society whereby they strive to perform their domestic, social, and professional duties with such Christian generosity that their manner of acting should gradually penetrate the whole world of life and labor.

      This apostolate should reach out to all wherever they may be encountered; it should not exclude any spiritual or temporal benefit which they have the ability to confer. True apostles, however, are not content with this activity alone but endeavor to announce Christ to their neighbors by means of the spoken word as well. For there are many persons who can hear the Gospel and recognize Christ only through the laity who live near them.

      Children also have their own apostolic work to do. According to their ability they are true living witnesses of Christ among their companions.

 

14. A vast field for the apostolate has opened up on the national and international levels where the laity especially assist with their Christian wisdom. In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations, Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good. Catholics skilled in public affairs and adequately enlightened in faith and Christian doctrine should not refuse to administer public affairs since by doing this in a worthy manner they can both further the common good and at the same time prepare the way for the Gospel. Catholics should try to cooperate with all men and women of good will to promote whatever is true, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable (cf. Philippians 4:8). They should hold discussions with them, excel them in prudence and courtesy, and initiate research on social and public practices which should be improved in line with the spirit of the Gospel.

      Among the signs of our times, the irresistibly increasing sense of the solidarity of all peoples is especially noteworthy. It is a function of the lay apostolate sedulously to promote this awareness and to transform it into a sincere and genuine love of brotherhood. Furthermore, the laity should be aware of the international field and of the questions and solutions, doctrinal as well as practical, which arise in this field, with special reference to developing nations.10

      All who work in or give help to foreign nations must remember that relations among peoples should be a genuine fraternal exchange in which each party is at the same time a giver and a receiver. Travelers, whether their interest is international affairs, business, or leisure, should remember that they are itinerant heralds of Christ wherever they go and should act accordingly.

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE VARIOUS FORMS OF THE APOSTOLATE

15. The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or together as members of various groups or associations.

 

16. The individual apostolate, flowing generously from its source in a truly Christian life (cf. John 4:14), is the origin and condition of the whole lay apostolate, even of the organized type, and it admits of no substitute.

      Regardless of status, all lay persons (including those who have no opportunity or possibility for collaboration in associations) are called to this type of apostolate and obliged to engage in it. This type of apostolate is useful at all times and places, but in certain circumstances it is the only one appropriate and feasible.

      There are many forms of the apostolate whereby the laity build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in Christ. A particular form of the individual apostolate as well as a sign especially suited to our times is the testimony of the whole lay life arising from faith, hope, and charity. It manifests Christ living in those who believe in Him. Then by the apostolate of the spoken and written word, which is utterly necessary under certain circumstances, lay people announce Christ, explain and spread His teaching in accordance with one's status and ability, and faithfully profess it.

      Furthermore, in collaborating as citizens of this world, in whatever pertains to the up-building and conducting of the temporal order, the laity must seek in the light of faith loftier motives of action in their family, professional, cultural, and social life and make them known to others when the occasion arises. Doing this, they should be aware of the fact that they are cooperating with God the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier and are giving praise to Him.

      Finally, the laity should vivify their life with charity and express it as best they can in their works.

      They should all remember that they can reach all men and contribute to the salvation of the whole world by public worship and prayer as well as by penance and voluntary acceptance of the labors and hardships of life whereby they become like the suffering Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:10; Colossians 1:24).

 

17. There is a very urgent need for this individual apostolate in those regions where the freedom of the Church is seriously infringed. In these trying circumstances, the laity do what they can: to take the place of priests, risking their freedom and sometimes their life to teach Christian doctrine to those around them, training them in a religious way of life and a Catholic way of thinking, leading them to receive the sacraments frequently and developing in them piety, especially Eucharistic devotion.1 While the sacred synod heartily thanks God for continuing also in our times to raise up lay persons of heroic fortitude in the midst of persecutions, it embraces them with fatherly affection and gratitude.

      The individual apostolate has a special field in areas where Catholics are few in number and widely dispersed. Here the laity who engage in the apostolate only as individuals, whether for the reasons already mentioned or for special reasons including those deriving also from their own professional activity, usefully gather into smaller groups for serious conversation without any more formal kind of establishment or organization, so that an indication of the community of the Church is always apparent to others as a true witness of love. In this way, by giving spiritual help to one another through friendship and the communicating of the benefit of their experience, they are trained to overcome the disadvantages of excessively isolated life and activity and to make their apostolate more productive.

 

18. The faithful are called to engage in the apostolate as individuals in the varying circumstances of their life. They should remember, nevertheless, that man is naturally social and that it has pleased God to unite those who believe in Christ into the People of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:5-10) and into one body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12). The group apostolate of Christian believers then happily corresponds to a human and Christian need and at the same time signifies the communion and unity of the Church in Christ, Who said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).

      For this reason the faithful should participate in the apostolate by way of united effort.2 They should be apostles both in their family communities and in their parishes and dioceses, which themselves express the community nature of the apostolate, as well as in the informal groups which they decide to form among themselves.

      The group apostolate is very important also because the apostolate must often be performed by way of common activity in both the Church communities and the various spheres. For the associations established for carrying on the apostolate in common sustain their members, form them for the apostolate, and rightly organize and regulate their apostolic work so that much better results can be expected than if each member were to act on his own.

      In the present circumstances, it is quite necessary that, in the area of lay activity, the united and organized form of the apostolate be strengthened. In fact, only the pooling of resources is capable of fully achieving all the aims of the modern apostolate and firmly protecting its interest.3 Here it is important that the apostolate encompass even the common attitudes and social conditions of those for whom it is designed. Otherwise those engaged in the apostolate are often unable to bear up under the pressure of public opinion or of social institutions.

 

19. There is a great variety of associations in the apostolate.4 Some set before themselves the broad apostolic purpose of the Church; others aim to evangelize and sanctify in a special way. Some purpose to infuse a Christian spirit into the temporal order; others bear witness to Christ in a special way through works of mercy and charity.

      Among these associations, those which promote and encourage closer unity between the concrete life of the members and their faith must be given primary consideration. Associations are not ends unto themselves; rather they should serve the mission of the Church to the world. Their apostolic dynamism depends on their conformity with the goals of the Church as well as on the Christian witness and evangelical spirit of every member and of the whole association.

      Now, in view of the progress of social institutions and the fast-moving pace of modern society, the global nature of the Church's mission requires that apostolic enterprises of Catholics should more and more develop organized forms in the international sphere. Catholic international organizations will more effectively achieve their purpose if the groups comprising them, as well as their members, are more closely united to these international organizations.

      Maintaining the proper relationship to Church authorities,5 the laity have the right to found and control such associations6 and to join those already existing. Yet the dispersion of efforts must be avoided. This happens when new associations and projects are promoted without a sufficient reason, or if antiquated associations or methods are retained beyond their period of usefulness. Nor is it always fitting to transfer indiscriminately forms of the apostolate that have been used in one nation to other nations.7

 

20. Many decades ago the laity in many nations began to dedicate themselves increasingly to the apostolate. They grouped themselves into various kinds of activities and societies which, while maintaining a closer union with the hierarchy, pursued and continue to pursue goals which are properly apostolic. Of these associations, or even among similar and older institutions, those are especially noteworthy which followed different methods of operation and yet produced excellent results for Christ's kingdom. These societies were deservedly recommended and promoted by the popes and many bishops, from whom they received the title of "Catholic Action", and were often described as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy.8

             Whether these forms of the apostolate have the name of "Catholic Action" or some other title, they exercise an apostolate of great value for our times and consist in the combination and simultaneous possession of the following characteristics:

a) The immediate aim of organizations of this kind is the Church's apostolic aim, that is, the evangelization and sanctification of men and the formation of a Christian conscience among them so that they can infuse the spirit of the Gospel into various communities and departments of life.

b) Cooperating with the hierarchy in their own way, the laity contribute the benefit of their experience to, and assume responsibility for the direction of these organizations, the consideration of the conditions in which the pastoral activity of the Church is to be conducted, and the elaboration and execution of the plan of things to be done.

c) The laity act together in the manner of an organic body so that the community of the Church is more fittingly symbolized and the apostolate rendered more effective.

d) Whether they offer themselves spontaneously or are invited to action and direct cooperation with the apostolate of the hierarchy, the laity function under the higher direction of the hierarchy itself, and the latter can sanction this cooperation by an explicit mandate.

      Organizations in which, in the opinion of the hierarchy, the ensemble of these characteristics is realized, must be considered to be Catholic Action even though they take on various forms and titles because of the needs of different regions and peoples.

      The most holy council earnestly recommends these associations, which surely answer the needs of the apostolate of the Church among many peoples and countries, and invites the clergy and laity working in them to develop the above-mentioned characteristics to an ever greater degree and to cooperate at all times with all other forms of the apostolate in a fraternal manner in the Church.

 

21. All associations of the apostolate must be given due appreciation. Those, however, which the hierarchy have praised or recommended as responsive to the needs of time and place, or have ordered to be established as particularly urgent, must be held in highest esteem by priests, Religious, and laity and promoted according to each one's ability. Among these associations, moreover, international associations or groups of Catholics must be especially appreciated at the present time.

 

22. Deserving of special honor and commendation in the Church are those lay people, single or married, who devote themselves with professional experience, either permanently or temporarily, to the service of associations and their activities. There is a source of great joy for the Church in the fact that there is a daily increase in the number of lay persons who offer their personal service to apostolic associations and activities, either within the limits of their own nation or in the international field or especially in Catholic mission communities and in regions where the Church has only recently been implanted.

      The pastors of the Church should gladly and gratefully welcome these lay persons and make sure that the demands of justice, equity, and charity relative to their status be satisfied to the fullest extent, particularly as regards proper support for them and their families. They should also take care to provide for these lay people the necessary formation, spiritual consolation, and incentive.

 

CHAPTER V

 

EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS

23. Whether the lay apostolate is exercised by the faithful as individuals or as members of organizations, it should be incorporated into the apostolate of the whole Church according to a right system of relationships. Indeed, union with those whom the Holy Spirit has assigned to rule His Church (cf. Acts 20:28) is an essential element of the Christian apostolate. No less necessary is cooperation among various projects of the apostolate which must be suitably directed by the hierarchy.

      Indeed, the spirit of unity should be promoted in order that fraternal charity may be resplendent in the whole apostolate of the Church, common goals may be attained, and destructive rivalries avoided. For this there is need for mutual esteem among all the forms of the apostolate in the Church and, with due respect for the particular character of each organization, proper coordination.1 This is most fitting since a particular activity in the Church requires harmony and apostolic cooperation on the part of both branches of the clergy, the Religious, and the laity.

 

24. The hierarchy should promote the apostolate of the laity, provide it with spiritual principles and support, direct the conduct of this apostolate to the common good of the Church, and attend to the preservation of doctrine and order.

      Indeed, the lay apostolate admits of different types of relationships with the hierarchy in accordance with the various forms and objects of this apostolate. For in the Church there are many apostolic undertakings which are established by the free choice of the laity and regulated by their prudent judgment. The mission of the Church can be better accomplished in certain circumstances by undertakings of this kind, and therefore they are frequently praised or recommended by the hierarchy.2 No project, however, may claim the name "Catholic" unless it has obtained the consent of the lawful Church authority.

      Certain forms of the apostolate of the laity are given explicit recognition by the hierarchy, though in various ways.

      Because of the demands of the common good of the Church, moreover, ecclesiastical authority can select and promote in a particular way some of the apostolic associations and projects which have an immediately spiritual purpose, thereby assuming in them a special responsibility. Thus, making various dispositions of the apostolate according to circumstances, the hierarchy joins some particular form of it more closely with its own apostolic function. Yet the proper nature and distinctiveness of each apostolate must be preserved, and the laity must not be deprived of the possibility of acting on their own accord. In various Church documents this procedure of the hierarchy is called a mandate.

      Finally, the hierarchy entrusts to the laity certain functions which are more closely connected with pastoral duties, such as the teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical actions, and the care of souls. By virtue of this mission, the laity are fully subject to higher ecclesiastical control in the performance of this work.

      As regards works and institutions in the temporal order, the role of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is to teach and authentically interpret the moral principles to be followed in temporal affairs. Furthermore, they have the right to judge, after careful consideration of all related matters and consultation with experts, whether or not such works and institutions conform to moral principles and the right to decide what is required for the protection and promotion of values of the supernatural order.

 

25. Bishops, pastors of parishes, and other priests of both branches of the clergy should keep in mind that the right and duty to exercise this apostolate is common to all the faithful, both clergy and laity, and that the laity also have their own roles in building up the Church.3 For this reason they should work fraternally with the laity in and for the Church and take special care of the lay persons in these apostolic works.4

      Special care should be taken to select priests who are capable of promoting particular forms of the apostolate of the laity and are properly trained.5 Those who are engaged in this ministry represent the hierarchy in their pastoral activity by virtue of the mission they receive from the hierarchy. Always adhering faithfully to the spirit and teaching of the Church, they should promote proper relations between laity and hierarchy. They should devote themselves to nourishing the spiritual life and an apostolic attitude in the Catholic societies entrusted to them; they should contribute their wise counsel to the apostolic activity of these associations and promote their undertakings. Through continuous dialogue with the laity, these priests should carefully investigate which forms make apostolic activity more fruitful. They should promote the spirit of unity within the association as well as between it and others.

      Finally, in keeping with the spirit and norms of their societies, Religious Brothers and Sisters should value the apostolic works of the laity and willingly devote themselves to promoting lay enterprises.6 They should also strive to support, uphold, and fulfill priestly functions.

 

26. In dioceses, insofar as possible, there should be councils which assist the apostolic work of the Church either in the field of evangelization and sanctification or in the charitable, social, or other spheres, and here it is fitting that the clergy and Religious should cooperate with the laity. While preserving the proper character and autonomy of each organization, these councils will be able to promote the mutual coordination of various lay associations and enterprises.7

      Councils of this type should be established as far as possible also on the parochial, inter-parochial, and inter-diocesan level as well as in the national or international sphere.8  A special secretariat, moreover, should be established at the Holy See for the service and promotion of the lay apostolate. It can serve as a well-equipped center for communicating information about the various apostolic programs of the laity, promoting research into modern problems arising in this field, and assisting the hierarchy and laity in their apostolic works with its advice. The various movements and projects of the apostolate of the laity throughout the world should also be represented in this secretariat, and here clergy and Religious also are to cooperate with the laity.

 

27. The quasi-common heritage of the Gospel and the common duty of Christian witness resulting from it recommend and frequently require the cooperation of Catholics with other Christians, on the part of individuals and communities within the Church, either in activities or in associations, in the national or international field.9

      Likewise, common human values not infrequently call for cooperation between Christians pursuing apostolic aims and those who do not profess Christ's name but acknowledge these values.

      By this dynamic and prudent cooperation,10 which is of special importance in temporal activities, the laity bear witness to Christ, the Savior of the world, as well as to the unity of the human family.

 

CHAPTER VI

 

FORMATION FOR THE APOSTOLATE

28. The apostolate can attain its maximum effectiveness only through a diversified and thorough formation. This is demanded not only by the continuous spiritual and doctrinal progress of the lay person himself but also by the accommodation of his activity to circumstances varying according to the affairs, persons, and duties involved. This formation for the apostolate should rest upon those bases which have been stated and proclaimed by this most holy council in other documents.1 In addition to the formation which is common for all Christians, many forms of the apostolate demand also a specific and particular formation because of the variety of persons and circumstances.

 

29. Since the laity share in their own way in the mission of the Church, their apostolic formation especially characterized by the distinctively secular and particular quality of the lay state and by its own form of the spiritual life.

      The formation for the apostolate presupposes a certain human and well-rounded formation adapted to the natural abilities and conditions of each lay person. Well-informed about the modern world, the lay person should be a member of his own community and adjusted to its culture.

      However, the lay person should learn especially how to perform the mission of Christ and the Church by basing his life on belief in the divine mystery of creation and redemption and by being sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the People of God and who urges all to love God the Father as well as the world and men in Him. This formation should be deemed the basis and condition for every successful apostolate.

      In addition to spiritual formation, a solid doctrinal instruction in theology, ethics, and philosophy adjusted to differences of age, status, and natural talents, is required. The importance of general culture along with practical and technical formation should also be kept in mind.

      To cultivate good human relations, truly human values must be fostered, especially the art of living fraternally and cooperating with others and of striking up friendly conversation with them.

      Since formation for the apostolate cannot consist in merely theoretical instruction, from the beginning of their formation the laity should gradually and prudently learn how to view, judge and do all things in the light of faith as well as to develop and improve themselves along with others through doing, thereby entering into active service to the Church.2 This formation, always in need of improvement because of the increasing maturity of the human person and the proliferation of problems, requires an ever deeper knowledge and planned activity. In the fulfillment of all the demands of formation, the unity and integrity of the human person must be kept in mind at all times so that his harmony and balance may be safeguarded and enhanced.

      In this way the lay person engages himself wholly and actively in the reality of the temporal order and effectively assumes his role in conducting the affairs of this order. At the same time, as a living member and witness of the Church, he renders the Church present and active in the midst of temporal affairs.3

 

30. The training for the apostolate should start with the children's earliest education. In a special way, however, adolescents and young persons should be initiated into the apostolate and imbued with its spirit. This formation must be perfected throughout their whole life in keeping with the demands of new responsibilities. It is evident, therefore, that those who have the obligation to provide a Christian education also have the duty of providing formation for the apostolate.

      In the family, parents have the task of training their children from childhood on to recognize God's love for all men. By example especially they should teach them little by little to be solicitous for the material and spiritual needs of their neighbor. The whole family in its common life, then, should be a sort of apprenticeship for the apostolate. Children must be educated, too, in such fashion that transcending the family circle, they may open their minds to both ecclesiastical and temporal communities. They should be so involved in the local community of the parish that they will acquire a consciousness of being living and active members of the People of God. Priests should focus their attention on the formation of the laity for the apostolate in their catechetics, their ministry of the word, their direction of souls, and in their other pastoral services.

      Schools, colleges, and other Catholic educational institutions also have the duty to develop a Catholic sense and apostolic activity in young persons. If young people lack this formation either because they do not attend these schools or because of any other reason, all the more should parents, pastors of souls, and apostolic organizations attend to it. Teachers and educators on the other hand, who carry on a distinguished form of the apostolate of the laity by their vocation and office, should be equipped with that learning and pedagogical skill that are needed for imparting such education effectively.

      Likewise, lay groups and associations dedicated to the apostolate or other supernatural goals, should carefully and assiduously promote formation for the apostolate in keeping with their purpose and condition.4 Frequently these groups are the ordinary vehicle for harmonious formation for the apostolate inasmuch as they provide doctrinal, spiritual, and practical formation. Their members meet in small groups with their associates or friends, examine the methods and results of their apostolic activity, and compare their daily way of life with the Gospel.

      Formation of this type must be so organized that it takes into account the whole lay apostolate, which must be carried on not only among the organized groups themselves but also in all circumstances throughout one's whole life, especially one's professional and social life. Indeed, everyone should diligently prepare himself for the apostolate, this preparation being the more urgent in adulthood. For the advance of age brings with it a more open mind, enabling each person to detect more readily the talents with which God has enriched his soul and to exercise more effectively those charisms which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on him for the good of his brethren.

 

31. Various types of the apostolate demand also a especially suitable formation.

a) In regard to the apostolate for evangelizing and sanctifying men, the laity must be especially formed to engage in conversation with others, believers, or non-believers, in order to manifest Christ's message to all men.5

      Since in our times, different forms of materialism are spread far and wide even among Catholics, the laity should not only learn doctrine more diligently, especially those main points which are the subjects of controversy, but should also exhibit the witness of an evangelical life in contrast to all forms of materialism.

b) In regard to the Christian renewal of the temporal order, the laity should be instructed in the true meaning and value of temporal things, both in themselves and in relation to all the aims of the human person. They should be trained in the right use of things and the organization of institutions, attentive always to the common good in line with the principles of the moral and social teaching of the Church. Laymen should above all learn the principles and conclusions of the social doctrine so as to become capable of working for the development of this doctrine to the best of their ability and of rightly applying these same principles and conclusions to individual cases.6

c) Since the works of charity and mercy express the most striking testimony of the Christian life, apostolic formation should lead also to the performance of these works so that the faithful may learn from childhood on to have compassion for their brethren and to be generous in helping those in need.7

 

32. There are many aids for lay persons devoted to the apostolate, namely, study sessions, congresses, periods of recollection, spiritual exercises, frequent meetings, conferences, books and periodicals directed toward the acquisition of a deeper knowledge of sacred Scripture and Catholic doctrine, the nourishment of spiritual life, the discernment of world conditions, and the discovery and development of suitable methods.8

      These aids in formation take into consideration the various types of the apostolate in the milieu where it is exercised.

      For this purpose also centers or higher institutes have been erected, and they have already proved highly successful.

      The most holy council rejoices over projects of this kind which are already flourishing in certain areas, and it desires that they may be promoted also in other areas where they may be needed. Furthermore, centers of documentation and study not only in theology but also in anthropology, psychology, sociology, and methodology should be established for all fields of the apostolate for the better development of the natural capacities of the laity---men and women, young persons and adults.

 

 

EXHORTATION

33. The most holy council, then, earnestly entreats all the laity in the Lord to answer gladly, nobly, and promptly the more urgent invitation of Christ in this hour and the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Younger persons should feel that this call has been directed to them especially and they should respond to it eagerly and generously. Through this holy synod, the Lord renews His invitation to all the laity to come closer to Him every day, recognizing that what is His is also their own (Philippians 2:5), to associate themselves with Him in His saving mission. Once again He sends them into every town and place where He will come (cf. Luke 10:1) so that they may show that they are co-workers in the various forms and modes of the one apostolate of the Church, which must be constantly adapted to the new needs of our times. Ever productive as they should be in the work of the Lord, they know that their labor in Him is not in vain (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58).  [333-358]

 

 

COMMENTARY ON THE

 

DECREE ON THE APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY

  "The Council has two merits in this respect. The first is that of having presented anew for reflection on the part of the Church and having offered to the attention of the secular world a marvelous wealth of doctrine, a 'summa,' as it were, not only of religious truths but also of human, cultural and social truths, in fact, of living truths. Anyone who has the patience, or, rather, the ability to read the volume of teaching, the 'tome' according to ancient synodal language, of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, will be unable to escape the double sensation of copiousness and of beauty which it offers to the intelligence and spirituality of the man of today. Try it and you will see for yourselves. The second merit of the Council in this respect is that it deliberately invites all the faithful, all the laity, to make these treasures of Catholic wisdom their own.

      This invitation ought to be supported by documentary evidence, and this can easily be done, because it appears in many pages of the conciliar decrees, so that several questions spring spontaneously to the mind of those who perceive at every step the Church's offering of her doctrinal treasures. A first question may be this one: what does the Council Church ask of the cultured layman? And another: along what lines is Catholic thought to develop after the Council?

      The recurring statement on the dignity of the Christian as such, the continual, as it were pedagogical, admonition running through the entire conciliar discourse, regarding the participation of every member of the faithful in the spiritual and apostolic activities of the Mystical Body, with the consequent co-responsibility shared by the entire People of God with those who have a specific mandate in this respect; the reiteration of the Christian apostolate termed the 'officium et jus' of every member who is aware of his being and of his vocation; the injunction to consistency, to a symbiosis of spiritual and profane life and, finally, the recognition of the mission of the laity termed 'sapientiae christianae administri', as well as other items which we can easily reap (even if we do not gather everything) from the Council documents---all these things will suggest the reply to the first question : what does the Church ask? Here we have the beginning of internal dialogue, and the reply is: the Church asks a very great deal. She expects the layman to be alert, well-informed, cultured, convinced of the liberating and saving function of Christian truth. She expects that the layman, as well as possessing this truth, will have a sense of responsibility in professing it and divulgating it. She wants every soul, every age group, every family, every environment to be capable of giving its own testimony. She wishes thought and voice and action to be in harmony and joyfully and vigorously to extol the sense of the Church within her own boundaries, while offering to the outside world the attraction of a true and full interpretation of life.

      Undoubtedly, therefore, Catholic life after the Council can be marked by a new confidence in human thought, a new series of studies, a new certainty of divine truth, a new respect for the teaching authority of the Church, a new capacity for research and criticism, a new originality in studies and writings, a new vein in lyrical and artistic inspiration, a new thirst for teaching and for learning.

      You must go forward with a freer step and in a happier spirit. The Church encourages you and the world awaits you. Prodigious things are possible if you advert to the fact that at a certain stage the dialogue you are taking up with the Church becomes, as We have already said, an invitation, indeed a vocation. The voice of the human interlocutor is mysteriously replaced by another voice which, if heeded, exercises irresistible power.

      Listen to the solemn and sweet closing words of the conciliar decree which more directly concerns you:

     “The most holy Council, then, earnestly entreats all the laity in the Lord to answer gladly, nobly and promptly the more urgent invitation of Christ in this hour and the impulse of the Holy Spirit.”

      This is what We repeat to you also, well aware how capable

you are of understanding and of responding."

                             PAUL VI (1-4-1966)

 

      "Could We remain indifferent in face of the phenomenon of the Catholic laity's vitality? Could We forget that this is the epilogue to a century-old tradition marking the magnificent revival of Christian knowledge among our people, the spontaneous and courageous assumption by a few pioneers of certain pressing and hazardous duties for the defence of our religious and moral heritage, the effort to transform the Church's adherents from too often passive subjects into active ones, from inert and indifferent members into conscious and industrious ones, from faithful in name to faithful in reality? Could we overlook the ideal beauty of a movement resulting from the most harmonious convergence of spontaneity, of liberty, of generosity directed almost invariably toward the noblest and fullest manifestations, with most filial and trusting obedience, with most organic and steadfast discipline, with most earnest community spirit, deeply rooted in the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ?"

                             PAUL VI (12-7-1964)

 

      "Our doctrine recognizes in the faithful layman a participation in the spiritual priesthood of Christ, and therefore a capacity and even a responsibility on his part to practice the apostolate, which has begun to express itself in various concepts and forms in accordance with the possibilities and the nature of the layman's own life, immersed as he is in temporal realities, but likewise becoming necessary as a mission proper to the present hour. One speaks of 'consecratio mundi', and to the layman are attributed particular prerogatives in the sphere of temporal and profane life, a sphere in which the light and grace of Christ can be divulgated precisely because the layman can act upon the profane world from within, as a direct sharer in its composition and in its experience, whereas the priest, removed as he is from a great portion of secular life, cannot as a rule influence it except from the outside, by his word and his ministry. This observation is assuming greater and greater importance according as we become aware that the profane world can almost be said to be merely the world and that it neglects to establish normal and active relations with religious life, while the latter does not easily succeed in making its saving voice heard in the immense expanses of profane life. For this reason the Catholic laity has been described as the `bridge' between the Church and a society which has become almost indifferent, not to say diffident and hostile toward religion and even toward Christianity and its basic principles. Our Catholic laity are appointed to this office which has become extraordinarily important and in a certain sense indispensable: they act as a bridge. This is not for the purpose of having the Church interfere or dominate in the sphere of temporal realities or in the structure of this world's affairs, but to prevent this temporal world being deprived of the message of Christian salvation. The task entrusted to the laity is not exactly a qualified ministry; rather is it an activity which can assume the greatest variety of forms, an activity which aims at establishing contacts between the sources of religious life and those of profane life. We could speak, in approximate but expressive terms, of contacts between the Church and society, between the ecclesial community and the temporal community."

                        PAUL VI (1-3-1964)

 

Every Genuine Christian is an Apostle

      Fernando Cardinal Cento, of the Roman Curia: "The Apostolate of the Laity constitutes one reality with the Apostolate of the Hierarchy. Because of evident differences in various countries, it was inopportune and even impossible to establish one set form for the exercise of this Apostolate. A purpose of this Schema is to impress on the minds of everyone that it is impossible to be a genuine Christian without being in some degree an apostle. If the Council succeeds in accomplishing this, it will have achieved a great triumph.

      The question of the Lay Apostolate is a matter not only of great and high importance, but of supreme importance for the life of the Church. In the Centuries to come, the lot of the Church will depend to a large extent on the close collaboration of the laity in the task of the apostolate. This is not rhetorical exaggeration but merely the mind of our recent Popes. Pastors should have confidence in the laity, especially in those young people who are often desirous of dedicating themselves to the cause of Christ. The laity, on the other hand, should have confidence in their pastors. By Divine Law there is a distinction between the hierarchy and the laity, but not a distance. The sanctuary rail is not a wall. The laity are not only in the Church, but along with the hierarchy they are the Church" (10-6-1964).

 

The First Field of the Apostolate Is the Family

      Bishop Franz Hengsbach, of Essen (Germany): "The text considers four chief fields of the apostolate: 1) the family; 2) ecclesial communities, such as the parish, the diocese and the Church universal; 3) the special environments in which the laity are placed; 4) organizations with open membership. The family is considered not only as a field but likewise as a subject of the apostolate because it constitutes the first for the faithful both in the order of time and likewise of nature. In dealing with ecclesial communities, the order of procedure goes from the parish to the diocese. There is greater insistence on inter-parochial collaboration because of the pastoral needs of modern cities and rural areas and especially those situations which go beyond the national boundaries. As for the apostolate in one's own environment, it is recommended that scientific studies of these situations be made, with careful examination as to how these social structures can be transformed according to Gospel teaching. In what concerns inter-parochial and international activities, only very general principles can be set down.

     There are two distinct objects in the Apostolate of the Laity, namely, the conversion of men and their progress toward God, and the Christianization of the temporal order. Special consideration is given to charitable activities because of their particular importance. Care has been taken not to limit the Apostolate of the Laity merely to the Christian restoration of the social order." (10-7-1964).

 

A Right Image of the Youth of the Church

      Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, Auxiliary of Bologna (Italy): "To be genuine apostles, the laity must be really spiritual-minded. The laity give witness of Christian life. Their spirituality should not be envisaged as a mere transposition of religious life outside the monastery. Because this has not been borne in mind, we have not yet a satisfactory spirituality of the married state. The laity must be made to understand that Christian life is essentially communitary, almost collegial. The parts are formed in and through the structure of the whole. The idea of the Apostolate of the Laity flows from other doctrines discussed here in the Council. Our aim should always be directed toward the possibility of deeper Christianization of the world. Especially in our dealings with youth, we must beware of the tendency to adopt an over-protective attitude. Two-thirds of the human race today is younger than we are. Before many years they will be guiding the destinies of the world and we must train them. We must be ready to change some of our personal ideas and thus present a right image of the youth of the Church." (10-8-1964).

 

The Only Ideals Which Can Satisfy Youth

      Archbishop (now Cardinal) William Conway, of Armagh (Ireland): "In the restlessness of modern youth, the fundamental crisis of the modern world can be seen as in a microcosm. Basically this restlessness is due to the fact that the modern world has failed to provide young people with the ideals for which their hearts crave. They asked the world for bread and were given stone. It is for the Church to give youth the only ideals which can really satisfy the human heart. There should be greater emphasis on sanctity of life as the essential basis of the Lay Apostolate. Although the world is stone-deaf to many things, it recognizes and respects genuine sanctity when confronted with it. A layman or lay-woman whose life is rooted in Christ becomes, by that very fact alone, radioactive" (10-8-1964).

 

Only the Laity Can Penetrate Certain Sectors

      Bishop Remi Joseph De Roo, of Victoria, B.C. (Canada): "St. Paul, on many occasions, calls attention to the vocation of individual Christians to apostolic activity, and this vocation must be realized in the Church. It has a two-fold element: a) one that is fundamental in all men and b) a second element deriving from man's aggregation to the People of God. Thus there is both the natural and the supernatural in the vocation of the laity to the apostolate. The end of their vocation is to announce the kingdom of God and lead the whole world to the achievement of its destiny. The laity are of essential importance in the restoration of the world. Only the laity can penetrate certain sectors of human life and activity and if we were to conceive of the apostolate of the hierarchy as ever being completely separated from the Lay Apostolate, then the hierarchy could never really fulfill its mission. The laity can go where the hierarchy cannot. Thus, there is an apostolate which is proper to the laity as such and not merely as a cooperation in the apostolate of the hierarchy" (10-7-1964).

 

The Layman Must Be the Bridge between the Church and the World

      Bishop Manuel Larrain, of Talca (Chile): "The layman must be the bridge bringing world problems to the Church and taking back the Gospel of the Church to the world. This requires that the lay apostles must belong integrally to his own milieu. There can be no `angelism' but there must be a real incarnation in the world. The layman's presence in the world must moreover be active, because his apostolate in his milieu is the Christian response to the needs of the world. Lastly, he must be aware of sociological progress. We should not listen only to the voice of the prophets but remember that the voice of God is often heard in the voice of the times. The apostolate has vast frontiers, stretching as far as the fullness of the charity of Christ. Hence there can be no genuine Lay Apostolate if it is not motivated by an ardent missionary spirit" ( 10-12-1964).

 

The Apostle Must Develop All His Human Talents

      Bishop William Power, of Antigonish, N.S. (Canada): "The vocation to the apostolate is an integral part of the Christian vocation, making Christians conscious of their duty of collaborating in God's plan of salvation for all men. Apostolic formation must consider the secular background in which the layman lives and works. He must be trained to live his life in an autonomous and responsible manner, the kind of life which will make the Church an active and living reality in the midst of a secular background. Hence, the apostle must develop all his human talents. He must be inserted into the realities of the world, as well as being inserted in the Mystery of Christ. His activity as an individual can always be effective, but it will be fruitful of greater good, as a general rule, when it is carried on in connection with an organized unit, and all his activity must be in relationship with the hierarchy" (10-12-1964).

 

Ingredients in Apostolic Training

      Bishop Paul Charbonneau, of Hull (Canada): "The Lay Apostolate is not merely a remedy for the scarcity of priests. It is the specific role of lay people in the Church. We must insist that Baptism confers the quality of 'carrying out the incarnation of the Church in the structures of the world'. Training for the apostolate must be based on authentic and intensive theological life and on real contact with human activities." (10-7-1964).

 

Personal Apostolate Indispensable

      Archbishop Karol Wojlyla, of Cracow (Poland): "One very good feature of this text is that it presents the Apostolate of the Laity in its universality, not restricting it to the organized apostolate. This is important because the personal sense of apostolate is indispensable in areas where no organized form exists or can exist. We should stress the natural right to the exercise of the apostolate based on the right of every man to know the truth and to transmit it to others. We should be on our guard against those who pursue other ends under the guise of the apostolate. It would be well to apply to this text the principles of dialogue within the Church in the sense indicated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. This dialogue comes down to the individual members of the Church from the dialogue of the entire Church with the Father, through the Son, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The relationship of clergy and laity can be mutually enriching. This dialogue within the Church is really a means of the apostolate." (10-8-1964).

 

Christian Living a First Requisite for Effective Apostolate

      Bishop Paul Cheng Shy Kuang, Auxiliary of Taipei (China): "Christians should be invited to strengthen their apostolate through a basically Christian life. Their mission is to bring the charity of Christ into the world, that is, into the family, the city, the nation and the world. The basis of all apostolic activity must be great esteem for and confidence in one's neighbor. It should not be forgotten that the task of the apostolate is not only to preach to individuals but to Christianize the world, by Christianizing society, the nations, the various human cultures" (10-12-1964).

 

Lay Apostolate a Sacred and Delicate Work

      Archbishop (now Cardinal) John Heenan, of Westminster (England): "This Schema is not only opportune, but most necessary for the Church of today, when the place of laymen in the life of the Church has completely changed. Gone are the days when the vast majority' of the laity were uneducated. The faithful today are sometimes more learned than the priests. A parish priest today no longer has to read and write letters for his flock. But our lay apostles must have a careful and deep spiritual training. Notwithstanding what may be vast knowledge in secular fields, they still need formation which only theology and asceticism can give them. The work of the Lay Apostolate is sacred and delicate, being ultimately concerned with the salvation of souls. Those who would be lay apostles must put themselves humbly in the hands of their priests for training. Even young priests fresh from the seminary have followed a course of sacred studies and can provide the laity with proper spiritual guidance. Our insistence on the priesthood of the laity should not lead to the error of thinking that the priesthood of the clergy is being downgraded. The enemies of the Church do the utmost to create divisions between the clergy and the faithful. The Apostolate of the Laity should not be seen as being in opposition to the apostolate of the clergy. The authors of the Schema are to be commended for their efforts to bring the clergy and the laity together and to blend their respective apostolates into one. The term `Catholic Action' in some localities has certain political overtones. Each Episcopal Conference should be left free to speak of 'the apostolate' rather than of 'Catholic Action'. The proposed secretariat for the Lay Apostolate is bound to fail unless the laity are fully consulted. Most of its members should be chosen from among the laity, and before this office is set up the laity should be consulted as to how it should be organized and operated. Many of our Catholic laity know more than we do about many fields and the proper thing for us to do is to learn from them. There must be competent ecclesiastical direction, but this does not mean that everything must be done by prelates. Let the laity be `doers of the word and not hearers only'. The people chosen for this work should be those who have taken the lead in the Lay Apostolate as well as individuals not connected with an organization. We should not send to Rome only old gentlemen loaded down with ecclesiastical honors. A choice should be made of young men and women who have to earn their daily bread. We must show our devoted laymen that they have the full confidence of the hierarchy." (10-12-1964). [362-370]

 

 

FOOTNOTES

 

INTRODUCTION:

1. cf. John XX11I, apostolic constitution "Humani Salutis," Dec. 25, 1961: A.A.S. 54 (1962) pp. 7-10.

2. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, nos. 33 ff.: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 39 ff.; cf. also Constitution on the Liturgy, nos. 26-40; A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 107-111; cf. Decree on Instruments of Social Communication: A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 145-158; cf. Decree on Ecumenism: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 90-107; cf. Decree on Pastoral Duties of Bishops, nos. 16, 17, 18; cf. Declaration on Christian Education, nos. 3, 5, 7; cf. Decree on Missionary Activity of Church, nos. 15, 21, 41; cf. Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry, no. 9.

3. cf. Pius XII, allocution to cardinals, Feb. 18, 1946: A.A.S. 38 (1946) pp. 101-102; Idem., sermon to young Catholic workers, Aug. 25, 1957: A.A.S. 49 (1957) p. 843.

 

CHAPTER I

1. cf. Pius XI, encyclical "Rerum Ecclesiae:" A.A.S. 18 (1926) p. 65.

2. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, no. 31: A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 37.

3. cf. ibid., no. 33, p. 39; cf, also no. 10, ibid., p. 14.

4. cf, ibid., no. 12, p. 16.

5. cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy, Chap. 1, no. 11: A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 102-103.

6. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, no. 32: A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 38; cf. also nos. 40-41: ibid., pp. 45-47.

7. ibid., no. 62, p. 63; cf. also no. 65. ibid., pp. 64-65.

 

CHAPTER II

1. cf. Pius XI, encyclical "Ubi Arcano," Dec. 23, 1922: A.A.S. 14 (1922), p. 659; Pius XII, encyclical "Summi Pontificatus," Oct. 20, 1939: A.A.S. 31 (1939) pp. 442-443.

2. cf. Leo XIII, encyclical "Rerum Novarum :" A.A.S. 23 (1890-91) p. 47; Pius XI encyclical "Quadragesimo anno:" A.A.S. 23 (1931) p. 190; Pius XII, radio message of June 1, 1941: A.A.S. 33 (1941) p. 207.

3. cf. John XXIII, encyclical "Mater et Magistra:" A.A.S. 53 (1961) p. 402.

4. cf. ibid., pp. 440-041.

5. cf. ibid., pp. 442-443.

6. cf. Pius XII, allocution to "Pax Romana" April 25, 1957: A.A.S. 49 (1957) pp. 298-299; and especially John XXIII, "Ad Conventum Consilii" Food and Agriculture Organization Nov. 10, 1959: A.A.S. 51 (1959) pp. 856-866.

 

CHAPTER III

1. cf. St. Pius X, apostolic letter "Creationis Duarum Novarum Paroeciarum" June 1, 1905: A.A.S. 38 (1905) pp. 65-67; Pius XII, allocution to faithful of parish of St. Saba, Jan. 11, 1953: Discourses and radio messages of His Holiness Pius XII, 14 (1952-53) pp. 449-454; John XX1II allocution to clergy and faithful of suburbicarian diocese of Albano, "Ad Arcem Gandulfi Habita," Aug. 26, 1962: A.A.S. 54 (1962) pp. 656-660.

2. cf. Leo XIII, allocution Jan. 28, 1894: Acts, 14 (1894) pp. 424-425.

3. cf. Pius XII, allocution to pastors, etc., Feb. 6, 1951: Discourses and Radio Messages of His Holiness Pius XII, 12 (1950-51) pp. 437-443; 852: ibid., 14 (195253) pp. 5-10; March 27, 1953: ibid., 15 (1953-54) pp. 27-35; Feb. 28, 1954: ibid., pp. 585-590.

4. cf. Pius XI, encyclical "Casti Connubii:" A.A.S. 22 (1930) p. 554; Pius XI1, Radio Messages, Jan. 1, 1941: A.A.S. 33 (1941) p. 203; idem., to delegates of the convention of the members of the International Union to Protect the Rights of Families, Sept. 20, 1949: A.A.S. 41 (1949) p. 552; idem., to heads of families on pilgrimage from France to Rome, Sept. 18, 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) p. 731, idem., Christmas Radio Message of 1952: A.A.S. 45 (1953) p. 41; John XXIII, encyclical "Mater et Magistra" May 15, 1961: A.A.S. (1961) pp. 429, 439.

5. cf. Pius XII, encyclical "Evangelii Praecones," June 2, 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) p. 514.

6. cf. Pius XII, to delegates to the convention of members of the International Union for the Defense of Family Rights, Sept. 20, 1949: A.A.S. 41 (1949) p. 552.

7. cf. St. Pius X, allocution to Association of French Catholic Youth on piety, knowledge and action, Sept. 25, 1904: A.A.S. 37 (1904-05) pp. 296-300.

8. cf. Pius XII, letter "Dans Quelques Semaines" to Archbishop of Montreal, Canada, to be relayed to the Assemblies of Canadian Young Christian Workers, May 24, 1947: A.A.S. 39 (1947) p. 257; radio message to Young Christian Workers, Brussels, Sept. 3, 1950: A.A.S. 42 (1950) pp. 640-641.

9. cf. Pius XI, encyclical “Quadragesimo Anno," May 15, 1931: A.A.S. 23 (1931) pp. 225-226.

10. cf. John XXIII, encyclical "Mater et Magistra", May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) pp. 448-450.

 

CHAPTER IV

1. cf. Pius XII, allocution to the first convention of laymen representing all nations on the promotion of the apostolate, Oct. 15, 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) p. 788.

2. cf. Pius XII, allocution to the first convention of laymen representing all nations on the promotion of the apostolate, Oct 15, 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) pp. 787-788.

3. cf. Pius XII, encyclical "Le Pelegrinage de Lourdes," July 2, 1957: A.A.S. 49 (1957) p. 615.

4. cf. Pius XII, allocution to the assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Men, Dec. 8, 1956: A.A.S.49 (1957) pp. 26-27.

5. cf. in Chap. 5, no. 24.

6. cf. Sacred Congregation of the Council, concerning the dissolution of the Corrientes diocese in Argentina, Nov. 13, 1920: A.A.S. 13 (1921) p. 139.

7. cf. John XXIII, encyclical "Princeps Pastorum," Dec. 10, 1959: A.A.S. 51 (1959) p. 856.

8. cf. Pius XI, letter "Quae Nobis" to Cardinal Bertram, Nov. 13,  1928: A.A.S.    20 (1928) p.  385. cf.  also Pius XII, allocution to Italian     Catholic  Action,   Sept. 4, 1940: A.A.S.    32   (1940) p.362.          

 

CHAPTER V         

1. cf. Pius XI, encyclical "Quamvis Nostra," April 30, 1936: A.A.S. 28 (1936)    pp. 160-161.

2. cf. Sacred Congregation of the Council on the dissolution of the diocese of Corrientes, Argentina, Nov. 13, 1920; A.A.S. 13 (1921) pp. 137-140.

3. cf. Pius XII, allocution to the second convention of laymen representing all nations on the promotion of the apostolate, Oct. 5, 1957: A.A.S. 49 (1957) p. 927.

4. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, no. 37: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 442-443.

5. cf. Pius XII, apostolic exhortation "Menti Nostrae," Sept. 23, 1950: A.A.S. 42 (1950) p. 660.

6. cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Renovation of Religious Life, no. 8.

7. cf. Benedict XIV, On the Diocesan Synod, I, 3, Chap. 9, no. 7.

8. cf. Pius XI, encyclical "Quamvis Nostra," April 30, 1936: A.A.S. 28 (1936) pp. 160-161.

9. cf. John XXIII, encyclical "Mater et Magistra," May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) pp. 456-457. cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, no. 12: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 99-100.

10. cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, no. 12: A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 100. Also cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, no. 15: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 19-20.

 

CHAPTER VI

1. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, Chaps. 2, 4 and 5: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 12-21, 37-49; also cf. Decree on Ecumenism, nos. 4, 6, 7 and 12: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 94, 96, 97, 99, 100; cf. also above, no. 4.

2. cf. Pius XII, allocution to the first international Boy Scouts congress, June 6, 1952: A.A.S. 44 (1952) pp. 579-580; John XXIII, encyclical, "Mater et Magistra," May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) p.456.

3. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, p. 33: A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 39.

4. cf. John XXIII, encyclical "Mater et Magistra," May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) p. 455.

5. cf. Pius XII, encyclical "Sertum Laetitiae," Nov. 1, 1939: A.A.S. 31 (1939) pp. 653-654; cf. idem., to graduates of Italian Catholic Action, May 24, 1953.

6. cf. Pius XII, allocution to the universal congress of the World Federation of Young Catholic Women, April 18, 1952: A.A.S. 42 (1952) pp. 414-419. cf. idem., allocution to the Christian Association of Italian Workers, May 1, 1955: A.A.S. 47 (1955) pp. 403-404.

7. cf. Pius XII, to delegates of the Assembly of Charity Associations, April 27, 1952: pp. 470-471.

8. cf. John XX11I, encyclical "Mater et Magistra," May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) p. 454.

 

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