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"Christ … fulfills His prophetic office … not only by the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also by the laity …." (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 35)

"They [the laity] are, by [reason of] knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church." (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 37)

"While preserving intact the necessary link with ecclesiastical authority, the laity have the right to establish and direct [apostolic] associations, and to join existing ones …. [B]y their expert assistance they increase the efficacy of the care of souls as well as of the administration of the goods of the Church." (Vatican II, Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, n. 19, 10)

The following citations were researched by the VOTF Voice of Renewal/Education Working Group. This group meets every Tuesday evening (at St. John the Evangelist parish, Wellesley) and is open to everyone interested in educating ourselves from the perspectives called for in Vatican II. For more information, please contact Jan Leary at JanVOTF@aol.com.

From the Vatican II Document, "Lumen Gentium"
It is the noble duty of pastors to recognize the services and charismatic gifts of the laity. Pastors were not meant by Christ to shoulder alone the entire saving mission of the Church toward the world. ("Lumen Gentium" #30)

These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ: and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world. ("Lumen Gentium" #31)

Throughout this chapter, pains are taken to dispel the common misconception that the laity are in all respects subject to and dependent upon their pastors. On the contrary, the Constitution teaches that there is a mutual relationship of support and dependence between laity and clergy. ("Lumen Gentium" #32, footnote)

Besides this apostolate which certainly pertains to all Christians, the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy (3*). This was the way certain men and women assisted Paul the Apostle in the Gospel, laboring much in the Lord. (198) Further, they have the capacity to assume from the Hierarchy certain ecclesiastical functions, which are to be performed for a spiritual purpose. ("Lumen Gentium" #33)

Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church. ("Lumen Gentium" #33)

Let sacred pastors recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the lay-person in the Church. Let them willingly make use of his/her prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to him/her in the service of the Church, allowing him/her freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage the lay-person so that he/she may undertake tasks on his/her own initiative. Attentively, in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity... A great many benefits are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their pastors; in the laity, a strengthened sense of personal responsibility, a renewed enthusiasm, a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their pastors. The latter, for their part, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more suitably come to decisions regarding spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, can more effectively fulfill its mission for the life of the world. ("Lumen Gentium" #37, inclusive language added)

From the Vatican Document, "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity"
…the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world. ("Apostolate of the Laity" #2)

The apostolate is carried on through the faith, hope and love which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church... From the reception of these charisms or gifts, including those which are less dramatic, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of humankind and for the upbuilding of the Church. In doing so, believers need to enjoy the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where she wills." (John 3:8) ("Apostolate/Laity" #3)

The perfect model of this apostolic spiritual life is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles... She remained intimately united to her Son and cooperated in an entirely unique way in the Savior's work. ("Apostolate/Laity" #4)

The apostolate of the Church aims primarily at announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ and communicating to it the grace of Christ. The principal means of bringing this about is the ministry of the word and the sacraments. Committed in a special way to the clergy, it leaves room however for a highly important part for the laity, the part namely "of helping on the cause of truth" (3 Jn. 8) ("Apostolate/Laity" #6)

As citizens (lay persons) among citizens they must bring to their cooperation with others their own special competence, and act of their own responsibility; everywhere and always they have to seek the justice of the kingdom of God. ("Apostolate/Laity" #7)

The laity should therefore highly esteem and support as far as they can, private or public works of charity and social assistance movements, including international schemes. ("Apostolate/Laity" #8)

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. 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). ("Apostolate/Laity" #10)

The mission of being the primary vital cell of the society has been given to the family by God himself.... To attain the ends of their apostolate more easily it can be to the advantage of families to organize themselves into groups. ("Apostolate/Laity" #11)

Young people exert a very important influence in modern society... The growth of their social importance demands from them a corresponding apostolic activity; and indeed their natural character inclines them in this direction...the young should become the first apostles of the young, in direct contact with them, exercising the apostolate by themselves, among themselves, taking account of their social environment. ("Apostolate/Laity" #12)

The apostolate in one's social environment endeavors to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and behavior, laws and structures, of the community in which one lives. ("Apostolate/Laity #13)

On the national and international planes the field of the apostolate is vast; and it is there that the laity more than others are the channels of Christian wisdom. (Apostolate/Laity #13)

Catholics should try to cooperate with all men and women of good will to promote whatever is true, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable (cf. Phil. 4:8). They should hold discussions with them, excel them in prudence and courtesy, and initiate research on social and public practices which should be improved in line with the spirit of the Gospel. (Apostolate/Laity #15)

Every lay person, whatever his/her condition, is called to it (individual apostolate), is obliged to it even if he/she has not the opportunity or possibility of collaborating in associations…. A special form of the individual apostolate is the witness of a whole lay life issuing from faith, hope, and charity; it is a sign very much in keeping with our times. ("Apostolate/Laity" #16)

The individual apostolate has a special field in regions where Catholics are few and scattered…. By affording mutual spiritual aid, by friendship and the exchange of personal experiences, they get the courage to surmount the difficulties of too isolated a life and activity and can increase the yield of their apostolate. ("Apostolate/Laity" #17)

The group apostolate is very important also for another reason; often, either in ecclesial communities or in various other environments, the apostolate calls for concerted action. Organizations created for group apostolate afford support to their members, train them for the apostolate, carefully assign and direct their apostolic activities; and as a result a much richer harvest can be hoped for from them than if each one were to act on their own. ("Apostolate/Laity" #18)

The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or together as members of various groups or associations. ("Apostolate/Laity" #18)

There is a great variety of associations in the apostolate. [4] Some set before themselves the broad apostolic purpose of the Church; others aim to evangelize and sanctify in a special way. Some purpose to infuse a Christian spirit into the temporal order; others bear witness to Christ in a special way through works of mercy and charity. ("Apostolate/Laity" # 19)

First among these associations to be given consideration should be those which favor and promote a more intimate unity between the faith of the members and their everyday lives...while preserving intact the necessary link with ecclesial authority, the laity have the right to establish and direct associations and to join existing ones. ("Apostolate/Laity" #19)

Catholic Action is constituted by the combination of the following:
a) The evangelization and sanctification of men/women and the formation of their consciences...
b) The laity, cooperating in their own particular way with the hierarchy, contribute their experience and assume responsibility in the direction of these organizations.
c) The laity act in unison...
d) The laity act under the superior direction of the hierarchy. ("Apostolate/Laity" #20)

Proper esteem is to be shown to all associations of the apostolate; those, however, which the hierarchy has praised, commended... should be valued most by priests, religious and lay people... ("Apostolate/Laity" #21)

Pastors are to welcome these lay persons with joy and gratitude.... They should, too, be provided with the necessary training and with spiritual comfort and encouragement. ("Apostolate/Laity" #22)

The laity must exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world in both the spiritual and temporal orders. ("Apostolate/Laity" #25)

Bishops, pastors of parishes, and other priests of both branches of the clergy should keep in mind that the right and duty to exercise this apostolate is common to all the faithful, both clergy and laity, and that the laity also have their own roles in building up the Church. [3] For this reason they should work fraternally with the laity in and for the Church and take special care of the lay persons in these apostolic works. ("Apostolate/Laity" #25)

The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the saving mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation, all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, there is communicated and nourished that charity toward God and humankind which is the soul of the entire apostolate. Now, the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can she become the salt of the earth. Thus every lay-person, by virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon them, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church herself, "according to the measure of Christ's bestowal." [Eph. 4:7] ("Apostolate/Laity" #33)

Besides this apostolate which pertains to absolutely every Christian, the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the hierarchy.... Consequently, let every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church. ("Apostolate/Laity" #33)

From Other Vatican II Documents
In the depths of his (her) conscience, "man" detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and to avoid evil, the voice of conscience can when necessary speak to his heart more specifically: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man: according to it he will be judged. [Romans 2:15-16] ("On the Dignity of the Moral Conscience" #16)

The Church has not been truly established, and is not yet fully alive, nor is it a perfect sign of Christ (in the world) unless there exists a laity worthy of the name working along with the hierarchy. ("Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity" #21)

Priests listen to parishioners willingly, recognizing their experience and competence in different areas of human activity. ("Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests" #9)




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