1961: Apostolate of the faithful vs apostolate of the laity

24 December 1961


T.C. 3 : de Apostolatu Laicorum

T.C. 1 : de Actione Sociali

T.C. 2 : de Actione Caritativa


Chap. I, n° 10 – chap. II, n° 16

Chap. III & IV, n° 21 to 31

a/ The enumeration of different apostolic tasks that lay people are called to fill too easily conflates those that they carry out in religious life properly speaking (e.g. their participation in the Holy Sacrifice, in works of charity, etc.) and those that they exercise in temporal life (in their profession, civic life, etc.). This mixing creates a certain confusion regarding basic concepts. The chapter is intended to be consecrated to the apostolate of lay people, but is in fact consecrated for the most part to the apostolate of the faithful.

b/ As a result of this mixing, the document fails to adequately highlight the necessity and importance of the proper and irreplaceable apostolate of lay people in temporal life. This point seems to me, however, to be decisive in the world of the present and the future! The Hierarchy, clergy, religious cannot replace lay people, because it is the latter who ensure the building up of the world and must positively and Christianly resolve the problems that will decide the future of the Church: materialism, secularism, moral and social disorder, etc., which threaten the mass of the whole of humanity.

Chap. V, n° 32 to 40

The long chapter consecrated to the family apostolate shows the importance of this. However, isn’t it necessary to say that the apostolate in and by the family and the preparation for this apostolate is inseparable from the apostolate in all aspects of temporal life which influence and will influence the family even more:

ensure all the resources of the family and safeguard the possibility of existence, faithfulness, education and morality;

Life of leisure and culture: vacations paid or not, passed with the family or separately; environments and conceptions of leisure; advertising which invades the family (radio, television, the press);

civic and public life: legislation, institutions, public morality;

international life: displaced families, spouses and young people separated from the family; mixed families of races, different moral and religious conceptions who live and work together..

Is it not possible – before or after the chapter on family apostolate – to consecrate a whole chapter to the apostolate of the lay person in life, milieux, temporal institutions, chapters which would show methodically the primordial and decisive importance of this apostolate? Among other points:

the apostolic conception of temporal life;

the proper and irreplaceable character of the apostolate of lay people in this temporal life, its importance, its inseparability from religious life properly speaking, sacramental, liturgical, hierarchical;

the formation and education to be given to lay people and to priests with respect to this conception and this apostolic action in temporal life;

the absolute necessity of forming young people who work outside and far from the family, uniting them and organising them in view of the apostolate at a level appropriate to the world of today and the future.


Doesn’t it cause concern and misunderstanding to separate the presentation on social action from that on lay apostolate? Isn’t social action the direct or indirect lay apostolate? And isn’t social action done in practice with organisations of the lay apostolate, e.g. the JOC, the LOC, the MOC, and others?

The preambles, chapters on the family, the presentation on education, aren’t these repetitions with sometimes divergencies and often gaps?


Isn’t it necessary to pay homage to the universal preoccupation of our era, which seeks to promote and to organise the aid necessary to ensure that all people of all races and all continents have a more human and dignified life?

P. 3 n° 7, lines 15 et ss. – Isn’t it necessary to add that this preoccupation with aid now involves what is called “social and international justice” and which requires education as well as international institutions (Caritas, Misereor, etc.)


In concluding the present note, may I make the following suggestions:

1- Couldn’t a very clear chapter be inserted in the text setting out what is the specific role of lay people in the apostolate of the Church, the tasks by which and in which it is exercised, its relationship to the apostolate of the priest, etc. (see above, page 2)? The fact of this declaration would enlighten immediately the other documents which follow.

2-. To meet the expectations of the world today and of the whole Church, in particular those of lay people involved in the apostolate, could not the text also include a solemn appeal by the Council which would commit the whole Church — Hierarchy, priests, religious, lay people — to promote by all means the apostolate of the laity and the personal and collectie formation of all those who must become involved?

3-. Would it not be possible to form a small team within the Commission which would coordinate the drafting of the three documents referred to in this note and which presents the apostolic action, the social action and the charitable action of lay people with a more pronounced unified character?


Brussels, 24 December 1961


AGR, Archives Cardijn, N° 1576/11

Joseph Cardijn, Note 11 – Reflections on Three Documents of the Commission (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)