Note 4 from Lomé, Togo

It may be Christmas but Cardijn has not stopped working. In Lomé, Togo for a Pan-African Leaders Training session organised by the JOC Internationale, he completes Note 4 written at the specific request of the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate on the theme “Priests and lay people in the apostolate.”

It totals 3500 words. Together with Note 1, 3800 words, Note 2, 845, Note 3, 5200, it means Cardijn has written over 13,000 words for the Commission in just under two months – all the while maintaining his already punishing travel and workload – and at the age of 78.

Note 4 begins with a preamble in which Cardijn again insists on placing the apostolate of priests and lay people in the context of the situation of the world and the need to build the “Kingdom or Reign of God.”

“The apostolate is the essential mission of the Church and of all the faithful in the Church; and through the Church, the whole of humanity,” he began. “This fact demands more and more study, attention and vigilance, because of all the problems that the apostolate needs to helps solve both humanly and in a Christian manner, and the solution of which will largely determine the salvation of humanity, the restoration of the Kingdom of God and its Son of Love.”

“These problems have now reached a previously unknown depth, extent, and rate of increase.

“Demographic, scientific, technical, economic, social, cultural, political, international problems: All these issues involve multiple aspects and provoke a variety of human, moral and religious responses; all these issues underlie all the various tensions between developed peoples and underdeveloped peoples, between races, between colonising countries and colonised countries, between social classes; all these issues are subject to the pressure of opposing ideological aspirations and propaganda, in a world that is increasingly unified and inseparable.

“All of these problems have an essential human, moral and religious aspect that determines the value of their solution. Depending on whether these essential aspects are respected or not, solutions will be effective or ineffective for the authentic progress of humanity and therefore for the establishment of the Reign of God and of Christ in the world which is being built.

“All these problems of life and organisation of the world are the domain of the laity; they fall into the areas of lay institutions and responsibility. It is lay people who need to provide human and Christian solutions which alone will be able to establish the Reign of God and peace among men.

“This is why lay people who are responsible for seeking and implementing this solution need to have an apostolic and missionary conception of their life and their mission in the world. This is the primordial role of the lay apostolate, whether it is organised or carried out on an individual basis.

“As a result of this, the apostolate of the laity is becoming increasingly important. This is now impossible unless lay people receive training and animation that is adequate for this purpose. This training and animation can only result from collaboration with priests who are ordained and consecrated for this purpose: this formation and this animation needs to transform the life and mission of the laity into an apostolic life and mission, which is inseparable from the priestly apostolate. The whole of the apostolate is an indissoluble whole.

“It is this vision of the importance and the worldwide necessity of the apostolate, in particular of the lay apostolate, which inspires:

  • the following reflections on “Priests and lay people in the apostolate”;
  • the proposal of formulas to be inserted into the Acts of the Council,” Cardijn argues.

Unity and collaboration between priests and lay people

Moving on to characterise this apostolate, he insists from the outset that there is only “one single apostolate” shared between priests and lay people.

“1. There is only one apostolate, the source and purpose of which are common to all who are called to it and who exercise it. But the exercise and applications of this apostolate are diverse – albeit inseparable – depending on the roles of those who are called and consecrated with a view to the common goal.

“2. There is only one divine Apostle, sent by the Father: Christ, Jesus, God-Man, who calls and sends all the other apostles as his Father sent him:

a) to restore the Kingdom of God, on earth as in heaven, in time as in eternity;

b) to call and consecrate all his collaborators, at all times and among all peoples, for the roles and services required for the restoration of this Kingdom (the Church: mystical body of Christ).

“3. The establishment and restoration of God needs to reach people first, each person in particular and all people together as well as all of their religious needs; these also need to reach and modify temporal structures themselves so that they are not an obstacle but on the contrary a support for the life of this Kingdom,” Cardijn explains.

Based on baptism and confirmation, the apostolate of lay people “does not remain confined within the Church.” Indeed, it extends not only to other Christians but non-Christians as well, Cardijn argues.

“It becomes increasingly missionary, extending to non-members of the Church, whether Christians or non-Christians; by collaborating with them, Christians will assist them to rediscover and realise the human and divine mission for which they were created by God and redeemed by Christ.

Nor does he accept a division of labour that would see priests as exclusively responsible for the spiritual domain while lay people retain responsiblity for the secular world.

“The apostolate of lay people is not limited to the transformation of minds and hearts,” Crdijn writes, “but tends to the transformation of secular environments and institutions which, from the local level to the international level, need to enable people, families and societies to create a social human order which which will promote the development of the human race and the universal restoration of the Reign of God: ‘Instaurare omnia in Christo’.”

Distinct but inseparable roles

While priests and lay people have distinct roles, he argues, these roles are nevertheless inseparable.

“Without the priestly apostolate there is no lay apostolate, no apostolic transformation of the life of lay people,” Cardijn says. “Without the apostolate of the laity, the apostolate is powerless for the human and Christian transformation of the world.

“Union and collaboration between priests and lay people is therefore essential to the unity of the Church and of her mission, to the development of the whole apostolate and in particular of the lay apostolate.

“This collaboration is essential, whatever the immediate objective of the lay apostolate:

a) ecclesial objective: catechesis, liturgy, sacraments – parish, diocesan or supra-diocesan life – etc.

b) temporal, secular objective: Properly lay life in all its aspects, in which they must discover and realise its divine, apostolic and missionary value (family, work, leisure, economic security, cooperation in the city, national and international relations, etc. .)

“Regarding the first objective, it can be said that lay people are collaborators in the priestly apostolate.

“Regarding the second, priests are the sacerdotal collaborators in the apostolate of lay people. They have an eminently priestly role there: not only do they represent the Hierarchy and provide official approval or mandate, but above all they form, help, support and advise the laity in taking up their own responsibility, in all aspects and dimensions of their work and apostolate.

SOURCES

Original French

Joseph Cardijn, Note 4 – Prêtres et laïcs dans l’apostolat (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, Note 4 – Priests and lay people in the apostolate (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library