AA 5: Lay Apostolate–It’s Not Just in the World

A sort of segregation-speak has cropped up in the Church recently. It flows against the stated intent of the second Vatican Council. AA5 begins the second chapter of the decree, the one which sketches out the objectives of the lay apostolate. Good words to begin with:

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.

Then a statement which should give pause to those who promote the non-overlapping apostolates of clergy in the Church and lay people in the world:

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. 

But then follows an important clarification:

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.

The way I read this is that our formation as spiritual people cannot be peeled away from our human interactions. Sacred things are clearly distinct enough from secular things to render a usually easy discernment. But the Christian brings an identical approach to either. I don’t follow the speeches and other goings-on of politicians or other public figures grilled on the role of faith in their lives. For a Vatican II Catholic, it’s a no-brainer: your faith informs the living of your whole life, even between nine and five. You can’t get away from it, or pretend to turn off your faith like a light switch.

Before my ministry days, when I worked in telemarketing and then in public radio, I was young and naive and brought my still-being-formed Catholic sensibility to my work. Strangely enough, I think I was more successful in those days. That’s not to say I’ve become an ogre in seventeen years of ministry, but in the secular world, there were more challenges to keep me on my toes. If anything, I often feel I’ve gotten soft in some areas working for the Church these years. Far from being a cushy situation, I find I have to guard against certain attitudes and assumptions.

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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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