|THE REAL PRESENCE
|CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST
The Council will explain in this Decree the nature of the lay apostolate, its character and the variety of its forms; it will state fundamental principles and give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise. These are all to serve as norms in the revision of Canon Law concerned with the lay apostolate.
Charity, which is, as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate, is given to them and nourished in them by the sacraments, the Eucharist above all.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies the People of God through the ministry and the sacraments.
4. Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church's whole apostolate. Clearly then, the fruitfulness of the apostolate of lay people depends on their living union with Christ; as the Lord said himself: "Whoever dwells in me and I in him bears much fruit, for separated from me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the liturgy.
6. The Church's mission is concerned with the salvation of men; and men win salvation through the grace of Christ and faith in him. The apostolate of the Church therefore, and of each of its members, aims primarily at announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ and communicating to it the grace of Christ. The principal means of bringing this about is the ministry of the word and of the sacraments. At a time when new questions are being put and when grave errors aiming at undermining religion, the moral order and human society itself are rampant, the Council earnestly exhorts the laity to take a more active part, each according to his talents and knowledge and in fidelity to the mind of the Church, in the explanation and defense of Christian principles and in the correct application of them to the problems of our times.
In the early days the Church linked the "agape" to the Eucharistic supper, and by so doing showed itself as one body around Christ united by the bond of charity. So too, in all ages, love is its characteristic mark. While rejoicing at initiatives taken else where, it claims charitable works as its own mission and right.
Nourished by their active participation in the liturgical life of their community, [the laity] engage zealously in its apostolic works; they draw men towards the Church who had been perhaps very far away from it; they ardently cooperate in the spread of the Word of God, particularly by catechetical instruction; by their expert assistance they increase the efficacy of the care of souls as well as of the administration of the goods of the Church.
The mission of being the primary vital cell of society has been given to the family by God himself. This mission will be accomplished if the family, by the mutual affection of its members and by family prayer, presents itself as a domestic sanctuary of the Church; if the whole family takes its part in the Church's liturgical worship; if, finally, it offers active hospitality, and practices justice and other good works for the benefit of all its brothers suffering from want.
Then, by the apostolate of the word, which in certain circumstances is absolutely necessary, the laity proclaim Christ, explain and spread his teachings, each one according to his condition and competence, and profess those teachings with fidelity.
All should remember that by public worship and by prayer, by penance and the willing acceptance of the toil and hardships of life by which they resemble the suffering Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 4:10; Col. 1:24), they can each all men and contribute to the salvation of the entire world.
17. There is an imperative need for the individual apostolate in those areas where the Church's freedom is seriously hampered. In such difficult circumstances the laity take over as far as possible the work of priests, jeopardizing their own freedom and sometimes their lives; they teach Christian doctrine to those around them, train them in a religious way of life and in Catholic attitudes, encourage them to receive the sacraments frequently and to cultivate piety, especially Eucharistic piety. The Council renders God most heartfelt thanks that even in our own times he is still raising up laymen with heroic courage in the midst of persecutions; the Council embraces them with gratitude and fatherly affection.
33. The Council, then, makes to all the laity an earnest appeal in the Lord to give a willing, noble and enthusiastic response to the voice of Christ, who at this hour is summoning them more pressingly, and to the urging of the Holy Spirit. The younger generation should feel this call to be addressed in a special way to themselves; they should welcome it eagerly and generously. It is the Lord himself, by this Council, who is once more inviting all the laity to unite themselves to him ever more intimately, to consider his interests as their own (cf. Phil. 2:5), and to join in his mission as Saviour. It is the Lord who is again sending them into every town and every place where he himself is to come (cf. Lk. 10:1). He sends them on the Church's apostolate, an apostolate that is one yet has different forms and methods, and apostolate that must all the time be adapting itself to the needs of the moment; he sends them on a apostolate where they are to show themselves his cooperators doing their full share continually in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord their labor cannot be lost (cf. Cor. 15:58).
THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST
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