The Laity and Apostolic Hustle: Reading "Apostolicam Actuositatem"

The Meaning of A Blog Run by Catholics in Phoenix

You're reading The Kindling, and the current tagline is A Blog Run by Catholics in Phoenix.

Note: If you're reading this post years, decades, or centuries after this post was first published, then maybe the tagline has changed.

The tagline is deliberately phrased. The Kindling is not called A Catholic Blog or anything like that. Why? I don't want Canon Law to frown at me for using the term Catholic in a way that suggests this is a formal association praised or commended by "a competent ecclesiastical authority." (See Canon 300 and the surrounding canons for this point.) The Kindling is not a formal association in that sense (at least not yet).

Yet the fact remains: The Kindling is a blog that is run by Catholics. The administrator (Hansonius) is a Catholic; the writers are Catholics; and the proofreaders are Catholics. We write about Catholic stuff (though not exclusively — read more about that here). And I suspect that many (if not most or all) of our readers are Catholics.

Though I'm not sure about the readership, I can say with confidence about the contributors: there's not an ordained priest or deacon among us. We are all Catholic laity.

Note: This is historical, not organizational. Meaning: Nothing in principle prevents The Kindling from having an ordained priest or deacon write or proofread; that just hasn't happened yet.

Being a Catholic Layperson — It's a Good Thing

Being a layman is a funny thing. It's not like I wake up in the morning and think, "I'm a layperson." Yet I am. I have a distinct status and role within the Church. I'm in the laity.

Some negatives follow from this, of course: I'm not in the ordained priesthood or diaconate. I cannot trot up to the altar and celebrate or concelebrate the Eucharist. I'm not allowed to do certain things without permission (e.g., put together a private association and slap the Catholic label on it).

Some people would focus on the negatives. But lingering too long on the negatives is foolish.

I like to focus on the full reality. And the older I've gotten, the more I've become conscious of being a layman and what that means.

I do stuff our priests can't do. I have kids; I go to work in the world; I start stuff and say stuff that wouldn't be appropriate for them. And the Church needs that kind of stuff started and stated.

Reflecting More Deeply on the Meaning and the Work of the Catholic Laity by Reading Apostolicam Actuositatem

So The Kindling is the work of Catholic laity. And at the start of 2017, I want to reflect more deeply on the meaning of the Catholic laity and the goodness of our unique work.

To that end, I propose reading through the Second Vatican Council's decree on the laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem.

And I propose that you should read Apostolicam Actuositatem with me.

Don't worry: You don't have to buy anything, and you don't have to read anything heavy in one sitting. We'll take Apostolicam Actuositatem in bite-sized pieces: some digestible points and easy-to-handle chunks of the text over a series of posts.

The Title of Apostolicam Actuositatem — The Lively Activity of the Laity

Let's start with the title of the text itself (you can access the full text on the Vatican's website): 

  • The document is titled Apostolicam Actuositatem. The title comes from the first two Latin words in the decree's first sentence. (That's how many Vatican documents are titled: the title comes from the opening phrase of the document.)
    • If you don't know Latin or have a lack of confidence pronouncing the phrase Apostolicam Actuositatem, here's my advice: just pretend you're Italian and say it loudly (I'm stealing a page from the Strunk and White playbook: "If you don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud! Why compound ignorance with inaudibility?")
  • The phrase Apostolicam Actuositatem is translated officially as apostolic activity.
    • But if you dig into a Latin dictionary, you'll see that actuositas (the basic form of actuositatem) is related to actuōsus, which is full of activity, very active. 
    • The word actuōsus carries with it the idea of zeal, subjective impulse.
    • The adverbial form — actuōse — refers to doing something in a lively manner. And actuōsus differs from industrius, "which refers more to the means by which an object is attained."
    • Conclusion: Don't mentally limit your notion of "activity" in the laity's apostolic activity. It's lively work, animated by excitement. It's not boring drudgery. It's not the crap that clerics don't want to do or can't do.
    • Suggestion: Let's think of other phrases that capture the liveliness of actuositas. Maybe hustle? As in: "The Church needs the laity to show some apostolic hustle." Or: "You know those writers on The Kindling? Man, they've got some real apostolic hustle."

Check back soon for more installments in my series on Apostolicam Actuositatem.

Jamie Hanson