The lay apostolate is made up from laypeople and consecrated religious who exercise a ministry within the Catholic Church. Lay apostolate organizations cooperate with ecclesiastical authorities. They operate "under direction of her pastors" but are not members of the official Church hierarchy nor in Holy Orders. Apostolates operate with the permission of the local Ordinary of a Diocese, but often without material support. In many cases, where the priests are unable to function in specialized situations, like dealing with computer technology, medical care, or broadcast equipment, a lay apostolate may be formed to provide those specialized technical skills.
The laity, can exercise a fruitful apostolate by their conduct in the areas of their labor, profession, studies, neighborhood, and social life. And according to the Apostolicam Actuositatem (AA) - Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, they will look for opportunities to announce Christ to their neighbors through the spoken word as well (AA 13).
As Francis Cardinal Arinze explains, lay persons "...are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations."
Arinze notes that there are many things individuals may accomplish for Christ quietly without belonging to a particular association. In other instances, organizations are more efficient to address challenges beyond the capacity of one person.
Apostolicam Acutositatem - Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity
Apostolicam Actuositatem is the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. It defines the mission of the lay Christian faithful to both lead non-believers to the faith and to instruct, strengthen, and encourage the faithful to a more fervent life.
- Dulles SJ, Avery. Evangelization for the Third Millennium (Kindle Locations 257-260). Paulist Press.
- Francis Cardinal Arinze, The Layperson's Distinctive Role, Ignatius Press, 2013 ISBN 9781586177805
- Apostolicam Actuositatem 6
- Pope Pius XII to the Lay Apostolate on October 5, 1957
- Pope Paul VI Apostolicam Actuositatem Nov. 18, 1965
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