AA 3: Rooted In Initiation


Apostolicam Actuositatem 3 roots the apostolate of the laity in the initiation sacraments:

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.

It speaks of the “priesthood of all believers” thus:

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.

And cites the special importance of the Eucharist:

The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.

We shouldn’t overlook another “purpose” of the Eucharist here: the cultivation of charity. I would see this falling under the second of Sacrosanctum Concilium’s two purposes of liturgy, namely the sanctification of people. This nugget is more evidence that the Council was infused with a definite pragmatism about liturgy. While a singular focus on practical results from liturgy is never justified, I think a parish, a diocese, or the Church must look to liturgy as being intimately connected with the fruitfulness of its mission. In other words, poor liturgy will beget a poor response of charity. Good liturgy inspires a holy response from the people celebrating it. The prime measure of holiness? The preeminent virtue of charity, love if you will.

The basic thrust of the lay apostolate is not affected by union with Rome or a deficiency there:

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.

AA 3 concludes by acknowledging the charisms that arise in the laity and which are used to further the saving message of Christ. With great gifts, also comes great responsibility:

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 Thess. 5:12,19,21).

Pastors, of course, are given the responsibility of sorting gifts. It’s not a casual responsibility, but a requirement to test all things and hold for what is good.”

I don’t think the need for testing–for experimentation, if you will–has died in the Church. The upheaval in society over the past forty years, if anything, has increased the need to be thorough in sorting out the gifts people bring to further the gospel. I would certainly be among those who criticize Cardinal George’s naive position (or hopeful wish) that liberalism is a dead end for Catholicism. The judgment pastors are called to make for the good of the Body, must be an informed one, confirmed by testing, and held to a high standard of benefit and virtue.

Thoughts, anyone?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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