I. The FAITHFUL
1. Communion (Unity) through Service, (according to) Charisms
- The Church must foster Unity and live in Communion, which must manifest itself through Service, forms of which differ according to the Charisms of each of the Faithful.
A. Church Unity based on Charity for the Sake of the Gospel. In the Church we must find a profound “unity of spirit” based on “brotherly charity” where all “work together for the faith of the Gospel” (GS21).
a. Community of Service. Thus, the Church must seek to make Herself “a single people” (GS32) with a “communitarian character” (GS32) where “everyone, as members one of the other, [should] render mutual service according to the different gifts bestowed on each. This solidarity must be constantly increased” (GS32).
b. Sharing of Goods. This is because “between all the parts of the Church there remains a bond of close communion whereby they share spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources. For the members of the people of God are called to share these goods in common” (LG13).
c. Sharing of Gifts. Thus, “each individual part [of the Church] contributes through its special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church” (LG13).
d. Lawful Diversity in Charity. In this communion, however, there must be “unity in what is necessary; freedom in what is [undecided], and charity in [all things]” (GS92).
B. Service according to Charisms. Regarding the “Gifts”, we read that “[The Holy Spirit] distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank [making] them fit and ready to undertake . . . various tasks” (LG12). a. Variety of Gifts. Different gifts are given based on the “duties” to which the faithful are called, or “by reason of their condition and state of life” (LG13).
b. Rights and Duties of Gifts, in and for the Good of the Church. All gifts – received by all – must be “received with thanksgiving and consolation” (LG12), and on each one, there rests “the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church” (AA3). However, “extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use” (LG12). They are “gifts” which must be “received”, and asked for not out of selfish reasons, but for the “good of the Church”. Gifts are given to all, and all are given a special purpose: “Each individual . . . contributes through [their] special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church” (LG13). Thus, each Christian has his role to play, which is always different from every other, but which is indispensable, whether the gifts are “outstanding” or “more simple and widely diffused” (LG13).
2. Holiness through Charity
- All Christians are called to holiness and Christian perfection, which is achieved through the virtue of charity and the practice thereof.
A. Universal Call to Holiness. “All the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to . . . holiness” (LG11) “and perfection of their own proper state” (LG42).
B. Holiness through Charity. This holiness is achieved through the practice of charity, for it is “charity [that] rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means” (LG42).
a. Means to grow in Charity. Regarding the increase in charity, “love grows through hearing the ‘Word of God’”, “accept[ing] His Will”, and co-operating with “God’s grace”. Other means to this end include “the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the . . . liturgy, . . . prayer, [penance], . . . service, and . . . exercising the virtues” (LG42).
b. Holiness through the Ordinary. Furthermore, the faithful must “pursue [holiness] chiefly in [the] ordinary” (GS38), in the very “conditions, duties and circumstances of [their lives”, for “if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will” (LG41), they will thus “manifest love to all men” (LG41), by “following the way of the cross” (LG42).
i. Mutual Assistance. “[All] must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations” (LG 36).
c. Charity as the Essence of the Christian Life. The Bible tells us that “God is Love” (GS38), and it is this “new command of love [that is] the basic law of human perfection”. Indeed, “love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment” (GS24), because “man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (GS24).
d. The Practice of Charitable Works. This is why “everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,” for men have the “special obligation [of] mak[ing them]selves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him [especially] when he comes across our path” (GS27). Thus “each person [must] contribut[e] to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others [as well as] promote and assist the . . . institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life” (GS30), for it is his “obligation to esteem and observe social necessities” (GS30). This, of course, requires the “cultivation” and “promotion” of “the moral and social virtues” necessary (GS30).
i. Various Charitable Works. The Council specifies various charitable outreaches and works, including ministry to the elderly, foreigners and refugees, children from broken homes, the hungry, as well as working against “whatever is opposed to life”, violations of or insults against human “integrity” and “dignity”, and oppression of labourers (GS27).
ii. Charitable Giving. This must be a generous giving, for “it is the duty of the whole People of God . . . to alleviate as far as they are able the sufferings of the modern age . . . out of the substance of their goods, and not only out of what is superfluous” (GS88), seeing to it that “the goods of this world be more equitably distributed among all men” (LG36).
e. Evangelisation of the Poor through Charity. As to who the Church should reach out to, “the Church [must be] one with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and the afflicted. For them, she gladly spends and is spent . . . bearing them the peace and the light of the Gospel” (AG12).
ii. Simplicity of Life. They must also remain in solidarity with the poor, for “in their quest for perfect love”, they must beware not to allow “the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches” (LG42) be an obstacle, but rather, strive for a love of “evangelical poverty” (LG42).
3. Evangelisation and the Missions
- The faithful are called to Evangelize, especially through the Witness of a Life of Charity, and must also support the work of others in Evangelism, especially in the Missions.
A. Witness of Life of Faith especially through Charity. It is through “a life of faith and charity” that “the [faithful] spreads abroad a living witness to [Christ]” (LG12), for “what . . . most reveal[s] God's presence . . . is the brotherly charity of the faithful who are united in spirit” (GS21). It is the “new command of love” which is “the basic law of human perfection and hence of the world's transformation” (GS38). This is the remedy for unbelief, for “the witness of a living and mature faith . . . prov[es] its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer's entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activate[es] him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy” (GS21). Thus, “in this temporal service [holiness in all the ordinary circumstances of life], they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world” (LG41).
a. Lack of Charity an Obstacle to Evangelism. On the contrary, “to the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, [believers] must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion” (GS19), and drive people away from Christ.
B. Participation in the Missions. All are responsible for missionary work. Even if most are not missionaries, “the whole community [must] pray, work together, and [evangelise]”, and also “keep in contact with missionaries who are from one's own community, or with some parish or diocese in the missions”, for their “mutual edification” (AG37).
a. Promotion of the Missions. To promote the missions, “[the media] should be used to furnish such mission information that the faithful may feel this mission work to be their very own, and may open their hearts to such vast and profound human needs, and may come to their assistance” (AG36).
Miscellaneous: the Catechumenate
C. The Catechumenate.
a. Restoration. “The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored” (SC64).
b. Method. “Th[is] catechumenate . . . is intended as a period of suitable instruction [with] sacred rites” (SC64), in which “catechumens [are] properly instructed in the mystery of salvation and in the practice of Gospel morality [and] introduced into the life of faith, of liturgy, and of love” (AG14), and finally “learn to cooperate” in the Church’s missionary mandate and “building up of the Church” (AG14). It all begins by “enter[ing] into a personal relationship with . . . Christ”, who then “sets out on a spiritual journey, by means of which he passes from the old man to the new one . . . change[s his] outlook and morals,” issuing forth in works, which is “gradually developed during the time of the catechumenate” (AG13).
i. Immersion in the Christian Life over Expounding of Doctrines. However, “the catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but [rather] a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ” (AG14).
c. RCIA Leaders. As for leaders, they must ensure that “the convert's motives . . . be looked into, and if necessary, purified” (AG14).
d. Role of the Community. “The entire community of the faithful” should also participate in the catechumenate, “so that right from the outset the catechumens may feel that they belong to the people of God” (AG14).
4. Temporal Renewal; Building up World; Collaboration with Men of Good Will
- The Church must attempt to bring unity to the world through a universal brotherhood, in which each group will cooperate to improve the state of the temporal world in fulfillment of the call of the Gospel.
A. World Unity. The Church must have as Her goal that “all men . . . constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (GS24).
a. Fostering World Unity. Thus, for their part, “Christians should cooperate willingly and wholeheartedly [with all men] in establishing an international order that includes a genuine respect for all freedoms and amicable brotherhood between all” (GS88) based on “the new command of love [for] the way of love lies open to [all] men and [therefore] the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one” (GS38).
b. Through Culture. Because of today’s “global village”, we have the opportunity to strive for “a more universal form of human culture, which better promotes and expresses the unity of the human race to the degree that it preserves the particular aspects of the different civilizations”, and “all the treasures” each of them have to offer (GS54).
B. Relationship with Modern Man. To this end, “the faithful [must] live in very close union with the other men of their time and . . . strive to understand perfectly their way of thinking and judging” (GS62). Thus, the Church must foster this universal brotherhood, working to build bridges instead of emphasizing divisions and differences.
a. Ways of Building this Relationship. Thus, they should “hold discussions with them, excel them in prudence and courtesy, and initiate research on social and public practices which should be improved in line with the spirit of the Gospel” (AA14).
C. Temporal Renewal a Part of the Gospel. Since “the Church . . . regards all the true, good and just elements inherent in the very wide variety of . . . institutions establish[ed by man, She] is willing to assist and promote all these institutions to the extent that such a service depends on her and can be associated with her mission” (GS42), for “whoever promotes the human community at the family level, culturally, in its economic, social and political dimensions, both nationally and internationally, such a one, according to God's design, is contributing greatly to the Church as well” (GS44) insofar as the Church is the Kingdom of God in heaven and on earth.
a. Ways of Renewing the Temporal World.
i. Synthesis. Thus, the faithful should “blend new sciences and theories and the understanding of the most recent discoveries with Christian morality and the teaching of Christian doctrine, so that their religious culture and morality may keep pace with scientific knowledge and with the constantly progressing technology” (GS62), or in other words, synthesize Christian teaching and secular knowledge.
ii. Perfection. Likewise, “by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men” (LG36).
b. Role in Politics. As well, “all Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community” (GS75).
c. Freedom. And all must strive for “universal progress in human and Christian freedom” (LG36).
D. Collaboration with Men of Good Will for the Sake of the Gospel.
In this universal brotherhood, “Catholics should try to cooperate with all men and women of good will to promote whatever is true, just, holy, [and] lovable” (AA14) – or in other words, to promote the truth of the Gospel, for whatever is true, just, holy, and lovable is a preparation for the fullness of the Gospel and of the truth of God.
a. Primary Duty: Peace based on Justice and Love. The primary duty consists in “cooperat[ion] with all men in securing among themselves a peace based on justice and love and in setting up the instruments of peace” (GS77).
E. Interpreting the Signs of the Times. The faithful must “hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word” (GS44).
Miscellaneous: Role in Education
F. Role in Education.
a. Methods and Programs. “The faithful [should] assist to their utmost in finding suitable methods of education and programs of study” (GE6).
b. Formation of Teachers. As well as “form teachers who can give youth a true education” (GE6).
c. Role in Catholic Schools. This is especially true for Catholic schools, for all “the faithful [should] spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools fulfill their function in a continually more perfect way, and especially in caring for the needs of those who are poor . . . or who are deprived of the assistance and affection of a family or who are strangers to the gift of Faith” (GE9).
d. Collaboration with Men of Good Will: Schools. However, “let Christians [also] labor and collaborate with others in rightly regulating the affairs of social and economic life [such as] the education of children . . . by means of different kinds of schools [known for] forming and developing Christian youth” (AG12).
5. Devotion to Prayer and Participation in the Liturgy
- The faithful must pray and participate in the liturgy fully, consciously, and actively.
A. Full, Active, and Conscious Participation.
a. Internal and External Participation. The faithful must “pray . . . as perfectly as possible [which] refers not only to the internal devotion of their minds but also to their external manner of celebration” (SC99).
b. Internal Participation. Speaking of this “internal devotion”, “in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain” (SC11), or in other words, prepare beforehand, focus throughout, and live out what they pray afterwards.
c. Liturgical Knowledge. There is no “going through the motions”, but a full, conscious, and active participation: “[The] faithful, when present at [Mass], should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers [as well as the liturgy and the Bible – SC90] they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration [and thus] be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other” (SC48).
B. Devotion to the Eucharist, the Mass, and Scripture.
a. The Mass and the Eucharist. The faithful should leave Mass “[fully] instructed by God's word and be [truly] nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should . . . with [Christ] learn also to offer themselves through Christ the Mediator [and thus] be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other” (SC48).
b. Scripture. They should also “gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy . . . or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids”, remembering that “prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together” (DV25).
c. Private Devotions. Finally, “popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended” (SC13).
Miscellaneous: Role in Vocations.
C. Role in Fostering Vocations. Regarding their duties to the priesthood and religious life:
a. Vocations. “The duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life” (OT2).
b. Celibacy. Furthermore, “All the faithful [should] receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts and ask of God that he will always bestow this gift upon his Church” (PO16), because of the great fruits which flow out of the charism.
6. Integrity of Life
- The faithful must harmonize their life of faith and their daily lives in the spirit of the Gospel.
A. General. “Christians . . . [must] strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit [avoiding] this [artificial] split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives. . . . Let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other. . . . Christians should . . . give proper exercise to all their earthly activities . . . by gathering them into one vital synthesis with religious values” (GS43), thus “learn[ing] the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God” (LG36). Thus, the faithful should “reconcile” both “those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience” (LG36).
a. Temporal Penetration. This “distinction” and “harmony” should clearly “shine forth in the lives of the faithful” (LG36).
b. Integration of the Spiritual and Temporal. “Practices of piety that are commended by the long usage of the Church should be zealously cultivated; but care should be taken lest the spiritual formation consist in them alone or lest it develop only a religious affectation”. In other words, their Christian spirit should be always active and applied in every activity to which the faithful participate, and into every area the faithful are involved in. Their prayer and devotional life must be lived out; and their daily lives and many activities themselves must be an act of faith and charity and a prayer and act of worship.