The Council bishops give one final exhortation. Let’s listen in.
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 (Phil. 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 Cor. 15:58).
The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity is considered a minor document. Compared to the two documents on the Church, the one on liturgy, and the one on revelation, it certainly is not the biggest player coming out of Vatican II. The decrees on the clergy and religious drew more attention from Church leadership.
We hope they did, anyway.
AA was not high up on my study lists as a grad student. Most theology studies concentrate on the Big Four. But there’s a substantial amount of direction given in this decree. The important points I read include:
- Lay people have a duty and right to exercise their apostolate.
- The call to holiness is a basic assumption, and holiness derives not from orders or religious vows, but from baptism. Lay people share in the role of Christ, as priests, prophets, and royalty.
- Social justice is a prime consideration.
- The setting for the lay apostolate is virtually unbounded in the world, ranging from a simple conversation to international organizations.
- While children and youth are to be trained from an early age for the apostolate, adults are the main focus for formation.
- Ideally, the laity work as part of a unified team. The relationships with priests and bishops is two-way, not exclusively hierarchical.
- Formation for the laity includes theology as well as related disciplines–whatever gets the job done. Such formation is supported and enhanced by institutes and centers of unspecified structure. Such efforts are praised by the council bishops.
It is clear the work is far from complete in this area. More than ever, the Church needs competent leaders to give example for the holiness of life in Christ. Where AA is concerned, we’ve barely begun to tap into these teachings. The era of Vatican II is alive and well in the area of the lay apostolate.