29 February 2024

1 March, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

Catholic Action

1. Catholic action is the participation of the laity, or more correctly their co-operation, in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church. It is not really an innovation. It is as old as the Church herself, although it is only on account of the peculiar circumstances of our times that it has come to be organised in a special manner. From the beginning of Christianity, the laity of both sexes worked energetically alongside the Apostles for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. When St. Paul was writing to the Philippians he urged them to assist those Christian women who had done so much to spread the Gospel, as well as Clement and his other fellow-workers. "Help them, for they have toiled with me in the Gospel, as have Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life." It is evident that even at that time there were laymen and women working in co-operation with the apostolic hierarchy. Every Christian, moreover, should feel the need to do this. Anyone who has the true faith and is on fire with the love of God and of his neighbour cannot but exert himself so that all men may reach the truth and live in accordance with it, that is, in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel. Anyone who is not motivated by this desire cannot claim to be a genuine and enthusiastic Christian.

2. The need for a lay apostolate has grown tremendously in our day. The scarcity of priests is not the only reason for this. It is true that their numbers are entirely inadequate in many places to meet the spiritual needs of the people. But there is the additional factor that certain spheres cannot easily be penetrated by the clergy. There are many people who never even enter a church. They never have any contact with the priest, who finds it difficult to approach them. He needs a "long arm" which will bear the light where he cannot carry it himself. The lay apostolate can be this "long arm." Catholic workmen can do an amount of good among their fellow workers by word and by example. So can teachers, clerks, doctors, journalists, and the rest. This kind of environmental apostolate is very valuable today. It must be built up into a system of blood-vessels which will carry the stream of Christian life from its heart, which is the priesthood, to the farthest extremities of society. Let Christian laymen recognise that this is an honourable vocation which they have received, for it is a participation in the priestly office. Everyone should feel summoned to do everything possible in his own environment to lead souls to Christ.

3. Spiritual formation is necessary for this task. The layman must be a sincere and earnest Christian. Otherwise, he will not be able to transmit to others what he has not got himself. He must live the life of the Church and help it to fulfil its saving mission. To say that he must co-operate with the priest is the same as saying that he must co-operate with Christ, for the priest must be another Christ. So it is a high honour which the layman assumes when he dedicates himself to the apostolate and he will enjoy many consolations.

If anyone deliberately refuses to undertake this apostolate, his faith is neither alive nor active. If our faith is to be sincere and effective, we must first of all undergo a strenuous spiritual training, nourished by prayer and by divine grace. As a consequence, we shall work generously to bring about the triumph of the life of Christ in other souls also.

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