1962: The essential and irreplaceable apostolate proper to lay people

NOTE 12

THE ESSENTIAL AND IRREPLACEABLE APOSTOLATE PROPER TO LAY PEOPLE

1. All the faithful take part in the whole apostolate of the Church: hierarchical, doctrinal, sacramental, liturgical, ascetic, catechetical, missionary, etc. apostolate.

2. However, in the apostolate of the Church, lay people have a specific, essential and irreplaceable mission that was given to the whole of humanity by the Creator at the very moment  of Creation: that of procreating, taking possession of the earth, using it  and developing it (Genesis I, 26-31).

God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.’

God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.’

God also said, ‘Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day. (New Jerusalem Bible translation)

3. This primordial mission of man and humanity was vitiated by original sin and by actual sins that led to ignorance, error, corruption, injustice and under-development. It lost more and more of its divine and religious meaning. And the propagation of a materialist and secularist conception of the world — with all its practical consequences — is the greatest threat to humanity and for the Church.

4. It is this primordial mission of man and humanity that Christ has come, not only to re-establish, but also by his Incarnation, to raise up to a more intimate participation in the work of the Redemption of the whole human race. As the Church says in each Holy Mass:

“O God, by creating human nature, you have given an admirable dignity: in redeeming it, you have restored it even more admirable than before. Grant us, by the mystery of this water united with wine, to take part in the divinity of he who deigned to share our humanity, Jesus Christ…” (Biblical Missal)

5. The specific (proper) mission, apostolate of the lay person thus consists in rediscovering the divine and proper mission of humanity, and rejoining it to the mystery of the Creation and the Redemption. The lay person must give or re-give to the temporal, secular world its divine, religious, redemptive meaning, in and through work, science and technology, education, international action, etc. It is the whole “consecratio mundi” of which Pius XII spoke so often:

“You are Catholics, are you are in the full sense of the term, that is to say, not only as individuals professing the truths revealed by Christ and living personally in the grace of the Redemption, but as members of the Christian community and fulfilling in this community, a specific task, indispensible to its life and its balance”. (Talk to jocists, 25 August 1957, N° 19. There are many other texts of Pius XII where he proclaimed and developed the idea of the consecration of the secular world).

It is this mission in their temporal life that it is necessary to enable lay people to discover and understand. They must know and make known the divine value of the secular world in which they live;  they must live integrally their specific and primordial mission in the secular world, its milieux, its existing and future institutions. And they must spread this divine and temporal conception and this sense of their specific religious mission, among the lay people in the midst of whom they have been providentially placed. Thus, they will transform the world and they will really consecrate it to the glory of God (See Annexe).

6. This divine mission of the lay person and the whole laity — to procreate, dominate and develop the whole of creation — today acquires an apostolic and missionary importance, not only primordial, but decisive; and this, at a world dimension,

  • because of the unexpected growth of the world population, because of the growing needs of this population, its aspirations and its new level of consciousness;
  • because of new technological, scientific, cultural and social progress, which transforms the world and humanity;
  • because of the unity and solidarity that allthese problems create between all men, all peoples, all continents;
  • because of ideologies of all kinds which spread across the world, with an increasing facility and rapidity;
  • because of the different levels of development, which make more acute the great scourges (hunger, sickness, mortality, insecurity, illiteracy, etc.) and draw on one hand international oppositions and on the other hand international institutions which battle against the great scourges.

7. The Church and religion cannot stay on the sidelines of building, humanising, transforming the world. While distinct from responsible secular authorities and the technological means of work and progress, they can neither be separated or ignored. This separation would be deadly for humanity and the Church.

8. The essential, proper and irreplaceable apostolate of lay people, whose importance cannot be exaggerated, is inseparable from their religious apostolate properly said: doctrinal, sacramental, liturgical, etc. as moreover from their religious life properly speaking. As Pius XII told the jocists:

The YCW “works to restore in all its nobility the Christian notion of work, its dignity, its holiness. You like to consider the gestures of workers as personal acts of a son of God and a brother of Jesus Christ, through the spirit and the body, for the service of God and the human community. May the members of your movement (…) cause this conception of work to penetrate the factories, offices, professional schools. This is an apostolate that is practical and necessary to a very high degree”. (Speech, 25 August 1957, N° 16).

This apostolate, which both sanctifies lay people and builds a more human world, always more conform to the plan of God and Christ, always more at the service of temporal happiness and the eternal destiny of humanity, always more exalting of the glory of the Creator.

9. The whole clergy and all lay faithful must see the need to transform the whole of lay life, to understand the increasingly important specific and irreplaceable mission of lay people. They must give and receive the indispensable formation, so that the whole of lay life becomes apostolic. Religion must be incarnated in the whole of life, to make this life an apostolate which helps to transform all milieux and all the institutions of life.

“The Church today needs more than ever young workers to valiantly build, in joy and suffering, in success and failure, a world as God would want it, a fraternal society in which the suffering of the most humble will shared and lightened.” (Speech of 25 August 1957, N° 19).

10. To raise this consciousness and give this formation are the only means, not only of saving the faithful from false conceptions of lay life, but also of exercising an appropriate apostolate among the non-faithful — Christians and non-Christians — that they rub shoulders with every day in their milieux of life and in institutions; to collaborate with them on the temporal and lay level; to overcome prejudices and errors in order to reveal little by little, in all their dimension, religion and the Church and to obtain that the whole of creation be redeemed by Christ and sing the glory of God.

Jos. CARDIJN.

Brussels, 9 January 1962

ANNEX

THE APOSTOLATE IN TEMPORAL LIFE, BASED ON SEVERAL FACTS OF EXPERIENCE

The experience of the last 25 years, which, through Catholic Action formation, has oriented a great number of lay people in their specific apostolate in life, in institutions and temporal milieux, shows that this presence and action in the temporal sphere is closely linked to the christianisation and evangelisation of milieux of which the majority are not reached by the Church. The religious apostolate is inserted in apostolic action at the heart of secular life.

The experience of the YCW is realised in this fashion and has been encouraged by the recent Sovereign Pontiffs

1. In general the concrete apostolate starts on the human level properly speaking, i.e. young people win their comrades to attitudes which incite greater respect, more justice, more security, more dignity whether in the milieu of work, during leisure or in the field of health, preparation for the future, etc.

And that, they want it and obtain it, not just for their immediate comrades, but for all, for all those who are around them, without distinction, and for all the workers of the world and other races of different colours, other religions and ideologies.

These acts multiplied infinitely create a habitual, permanent attitude which gives birth by itself to a climate of confidence, friendship and collaboration among all; little by little, they spread a conception of life, bring out a surge in public opinion; they transform working environments, leisure and living environments; they develop new kinds of human relationships at individual, national and international level; henceforth, these are relationships based on confidence, solidarity, collaboration for the equitable and positive solution of common human problems.

2. This apostolate which starts from personal gestures progressively extend and becomes a group  apostolate that is more structure and organic.

On one hand, this gives rise to apostolic grassroots groups (in the parish, the neighbourhood, etc.) which unite people and develop into regional federations, movements and national and international movements of the apostolate. On the other hand, at local as well as national and international levels, it leads to interventions in existing secular organisations and institutions, whether private, public or semi-public.

3. For Christian leaders who act in secular daily life, these acts, realisations and processes are truly acts of apostolate.To achieve this, they make personal sacrifices and all kinds of renunciations which transform themselves; to achieve this, they pray and unite themselves with Christ and the Church in sacramental, liturgical and ecclesial life. In their personal life, unity is achieved between their religious life and their secular life; in their action with and on others. Their intentions are not limited to the human and temporal level; they aim for the glory of God, the reign of Christ, the extension of the Church, the evangelisation and salvation of souls. Their presence and action, which is profoundly human, prepares the way for much deeper action: it breaks down prejudices and obstacles; it invites people to seek and recognise the truth.

4. For non-Christians who participate in this action or who at least witness it, it is primarily a shock and a testimony. It raises questions in them: Why are my comrades doing this? Why have they given up that? How can they do this? Why are they so much against injustice whereas we thought that religion preached resignation?

And for a certain number of non-Christians, this shock and testimony will lead to a catechumenate of which the initial discoveries are those of a religion lived out integrally in both daily and secular life. Because it is in regard to all these secular problems that friendship and confidence lead to exchanges: “Why respect, help or love others? Why work? Why found a family? What use is money? Why earn it and how to share it?” In their turn, these occasional discussions lead to making deeper and more complete contacts: visits to homes, books and magazines, collective action in the neighbourhood, participation in meetings.

The revelation of Christ and the Church thus takes place in a climate of openness, sympathy and friendship, which is already that of lived out charity. The faith cannot be imposed through pressure, but it comes above all from the interior; it is sought, guessed at, then requested, like a gift, a grace that transforms the person, family and society. It will not always and immediately result in baptism, sacramental or ecclesial life. How many examples there are of young workers who were Sauls and who have become Pauls! And this is so in every continent, every race and every form of civilisation.

The path followed, the apostolic pedagogy which are valid for non-Christians are equally valid for non-practising Christians accustomed to separating their religious practices from their daily life; or even all those who are still – alas! – so numerous and who have never received any real religious formation or only a child’s or adolescent’s formation.

5. In this apostolate – which does not separate temporal action from religious action properly speaking – the priest is always the guide, the support, indispensable counsellor for activist Christians. And little by little, it also becomes the guide of catechumens, who he leads towards their complete conversion. He is thus the soul of the transformation of individuals, and through them, of the milieux, communities, structures and the whole of society.

Thus, there will never be a lay apostolate at the level to meet the needs of the current world unless there are clergy who understand the necessity of this apostolate, who wish to make the “consecration mundi,” who understand its specific methods, its fecundity and the sacerdotal assistance which is indispensable to it.

SOURCE

AGR, Archives Cardijn, No 1577/1

Joseph Cardijn, Note 12 – The essential and irreplaceable apostolate proper to lay people (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)