“And with your spirit.” Most of us will need some practice to be comfortable with these words. As we stumble to catch on to the new translation of the Mass, lay Catholics are reminded that we are an important part of the Church. We have a “special and indispensable role” to play, not just in the liturgy each Sunday, but in advancing the Church’s mission here on earth.
In November 1965, the Vatican Council II published the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People. It affirms that lay people, who live their lives in the midst of the world and secular affairs, are called by God “to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.”
Leaven is an element that affects change. Yeast leavens the bread and makes it rise. It alters the very character of the dough. Apostolate is the mission that is given to Christians in the world today. If we are to be leaven, we have to take our Catholic faith and do something with it.
The Vatican II decree tells us what we can do, “In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations, Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that the civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good. Catholics skilled in public affairs and adequately enlightened in faith and Christian doctrine should not refuse to administer public affairs since by doing this in a worthy manner they can both further the common good and at the same time prepare the way for the Gospel.”
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is the public affairs agency of the Church. Our staff tracks issues and advocates for them before the state government, but it is also our mission to educate, inform and facilitate the opportunity for Catholics to “make the weight of their opinion felt” in the political process.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network is PCC’s online system that makes it easy for Catholics to send messages to lawmakers. In 2011, Catholic advocates in Pennsylvania sent almost 21,000 messages to state and national government officials. The Catholic voice has shaped the debate about school choice, abortion clinic regulations, mandated contraception coverage and other issues.
In 2012, there will be many more issues and important elections that will affect our future. The PCC encourages all Catholics to get involved with the advocacy network (learn more at www.pacatholic.org); but the call to action goes beyond sending an email to your elected official. As Americans, all of us are skilled in public affairs by virtue of our citizenship. The new Mass translation prompts us to pay attention and renew our faith as lay Catholics. Let us use this time of grace to also renew our apostolate to further the common good and prepare the way for the Gospel.
Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.