Chapter 3 of AA (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Vatican II) leads off with this:
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.
It’s the lay apostolate, not a lay version of a priestly apostolate. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive or exclusive. And the nod to the more active role of women in larger society.
AA 10 notes:
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.
And the Vatican bishops acknowledge also that it forms an effective complement to the work of pastors, citing the New Testament:
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; Rom. 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 Cor. 16:17-18).
The liturgist in me smiles at yet another mention of active participation, and that liturgical prayer provides a necessary nourishment and foundation for the life of the parish:
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.
AA 10 continues, citing the special insights of lay evangelization (They bring to the Church people who perhaps are far removed from it), “cooperation” in catechesis, and in both pastoral and material administration (offer(ing) their special skills to make the care of souls and the administration of the temporalities of the Church more efficient and effective).
The parish is upheld as the community par excellence for Catholics, especially in the way it “brings together the many human differences within its boundaries and merges them into the universality of the Church.” The parish provides the opportunity to work with the clergy, but the parish is also the place in which people bring “their own and the world’s problems as well as questions concerning human salvation, all of which they should examine and resolve by deliberating in common.”
Is the parish wise to tread into endeavors such as 12-Step groups, fitness classes, and discussion groups? It would seem so. AA’s vision of parish life would not necessarily be to limit adult ed to a speaker on stem cell research or just war (for example) but to invite an active discussion on such issues, particularly the prudential ones, which might still ask of us that personal examination and resolution–at least on the parish level.
As far as possible the laity ought to provide helpful collaboration for every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by their local parish.
“Every” undertaking? Every one? Hmm. AA 10 also suggests for lay people:
- an “ever-increasing appreciation” of the diocese
- cooperation in cities and rural areas, even across parish or diocesan boundaries
- involvement in national-level and international apostolates
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.
I worry that many parishes have lost (or have never gained) an appreciation for this wide-reaching sense of ministry or apostolate. Even today, parishes have remained very parochial, thanks to the emphasis on school identification, sports competitions, or even a competitiveness amongst neighboring pastors.