WHAT IS THE MISSION OF A LAY APOSTLE?
The personal mission of a lay apostle is as broad and varied as the world to which he or she is called. However, two basic aspects to the secular mission of lay apostles stand out in Church teaching:
- Communicating the faith, especially to those who have no contact with the Christian faith or the Church (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 13).
- Applying the faith in the world. This involves "evangelizing" cultures and man-made structures so that they respect and support all that is truly and fully human (Evangelization in the Modern World, 70).
HOW IS COMMUNICATING THE FAITH, OR EVANGELIZATION, CONSISTENT WITH RESPECTING DIFFERENCES IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND CULTURE?
We need to appreciate the difference between imposing the faith on someone and proposing the faith to someone.
"It would certainly be an error to impose something on the consciences of . . . [others]. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with a total respect for the free options which it presents --"without coercion, or dishonorable or unworthy pressure"-- far from being an attack on religious liberty is fully to respect that liberty." (Evangelization in the Modern World, 80)
More than our values or our service, the single most important contribution we can make to the world as Catholics is our Lord Himself. As apostles, we stand in the place of Christ, bringing his love to the people and situations we care about. Far from imposing ourselves, we simply invite people to meet Jesus and his body, the Church.
"Evangelization will also always contain-as the foundation, center, and at the same time, summit of its dynamism -- a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God's grace and mercy." (Evangelization in the Modern World, 27)
We don't have to be a street preacher or have a large ministry or use religious language to share our Catholic faith effectively with others.
HOW SHOULD THE LAY APOSTLE "APPLY THE FAITH" IN THE WORLD?
Applying the faith in the world involves "evangelizing" cultures and man-made structures so that they respect and support all that is truly and fully human (Evangelization in the Modern World, 70)
"The glory of God is man (and woman) full alive." - St. Augustine.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the first moral question is not, "What is good or evil?" but "What makes me happy?" This question is primary because human beings were made by God for happiness. Perfect happiness is God's intended destiny for every human being. (Summa Theologica, I-II, 1,7)
In Catholic understanding, grace builds on nature. Redemption does not eliminate or replace our sinful humanity but heals, perfects and exalts it. The consequences of sin are corporate as well as individual. It is God's will and joy that we be saved from the bondage of that sin and made fully alive, free, and loving both as individuals and as communities. Although our healing and happiness will only reach completion in heaven, they begin now, on earth!
In a world full of tragedy and suffering, it can take great faith to believe that God intends our happiness. It can take even greater faith to work and pray in the face of all setbacks and discouragement for the happiness and freedom of others and the transformation of the secular. But it is an essential part of our mission as lay apostles of Jesus Christ. (Evangelization in the Modern World, 70).
For resources on applying the faith to the world, check out the links under Mission to the World. A few of those include:
HOW DO I BEGIN AS A LAY APOSTLE?
Formation! All of us are called by God and gifted by the Holy Spirit in a personal way to bring Christ to a small piece of our world. That's why we need a formation especially suited to the needs of the lay apostle, one that recognizes the unique and secular character of the lay mission in the world. Helping each person discern and answer God's unique call is the primary purpose of formation. A program like the Called and Gifted Workshop is an excellent place to begin.
"The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one's vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one's mission." (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 58)