Monday, March 31, 2008

Catholic Action: What It Was, What It Can Be

On the Keeping It Catholic website, it is clearly stated that "KIC imitates the Catholic Action Apostolate of old. That means we PRAY, STUDY, and ACT - in that order - and we encourage others by offering support in sharing the Church's perennial teachings."

FYI, this message contains the entry on Catholic Action from A Catholic Home Encyclopedia (included in the Holy Bible - Family Rosary Edition, 1954, 1953, 1952, 1950) stating that the "articles dealing with general Catholic information are, with few exceptions, from 'A Catholic Dictionary,' edited by Donald Attwater (Copyright 1931, 1949, by the Macmillan Company and are here used by permission of the copyright owner." (Please Note: Italics below were in the original entry.)

CATHOLIC ACTION. [Defined as] The participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy. Since the beginning of Christianity the laity have had a real obligation to aid in the work of the Church. Now, as much as at any time in history, there is a pressing need for the organized initiative of the laity if the world is to be Christian; and the recent popes, especially Pius XI and Pius XII, have urgently called the laity to participate in apostolic work with the hierarchy.

Catholic Action, as used by recent popes, designates certain organized groups doing apostolic work. It is applied in the strict sense only to an organized group of the laity that is: (1) approved by and dependent upon the hierarchy; (2) apostolic in purpose; (3) mandated or commissioned by the pope or the local bishop: (4) mandated as a real collaborator with the hierarchy in the apostolate of the Church. Therefore, only those groups (and their activities) specifically designated as such by the pope or local bishop can rightfully be called Catholic Action. For example, in one diocese a bishop may commission the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to be the Catholic Action; in another any apostolic organization of laymen. But the bishop's mandate is essential for Catholic Action.

In English speaking countries, the term has been used by many in a much wider and less strict sense than its technical meaning in papal documents. For any apostolic group or its activity, whether commissioned by the hierarchy or not, is sometimes spoken of as Catholic Action. However, it should be noted that among organized apostolic groups and activities only those have a genuine right to the name Catholic Action which have been constituted as such by a mandate from the hierarchy.

Recent popes have stressed the importance of Catholic Action for the Church today. Pius XI, in a letter written to the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon in 1934, said that "of all forms of the apostolate, Catholic Action is the most suited to the need of our epoch"; and to the Argentine hierarchy in 1931, he wrote that 'Catholic Action is the form of the apostolate that corresponds best to the needs of the times.'

The various forms of organization that might be mandated by a bishop as Catholic Action can be divided into general and specialized forms. General Catholic Action includes all the Catholics of a given parish, diocese, etc. Specialized Catholic Action, in a wide sense, includes the laity grouped according to age and sex. In the strict sense, specialized Catholic Action includes the laity grouped according to class or environment, e.g., industrial workers, seamen, professional men, nurses, students, etc.

Pope Pius XI gave strong impetus to the movement toward specialized Catholic Action by his directives in the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (which see): "Undoubtedly the first and immediate apostles of the workingmen must themselves be workingmen, while the apostles of the industrial and commercial world should themselves be employers and merchants." And the same pope, on April 6, 1934, congratulated a specialized group on their program which, he said, presented "the closest analogy with the method that we indicate for missionaries: native priests for the native people. Each situation will then have its corresponding apostle: the apostles of the workers will be workers, the apostles of the farmers will be farmers, the apostles of the seamen will be seamen, the apostles of the students will be students."

The best known example of specialized Catholic Action is the "Young Christian Workers" (also called the "Jocists" or the J.O.C. from their French name, Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne), founded in Belgium by Canon Cardijn and now active throughout the world. One of the specific features of the Young Christian Workers is the inquiry technique which they employ. Using this method ("see, judge, act") at each meeting, the Jocist observes the workers' environment, judges it according to Christian standards, and plans some action to correct it. The same technique has been used with success also by other specialized groups: teachers, lawyers, students, farmers, etc.

[KIC INTERJECTORY NOTE: The notation above, positively marking the method of "see, judge, act" highlights where the original Catholic Action apostolate went astray. Due to the pervasive modernist infilitration, the imperative Catholic principal of "Pray, Study, Act" was erroneously changed to depend solely on human reason. By abandoning the practice of "Pray, Study, Act" - in that exact order - the true Catholic Action apostolate floundered.)

The purpose of Catholic Action coincides with the purpose of the Church itself, which is to bring about the reign of Christ in individuals, in families, and in society. Its aim, therefore, is spiritual and religious, not temporal or political. The form that the organization takes in various places and the specific tasks that it undertakes will depend upon the decisions of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Love of God and of one's neighbor is one foundation on which is based the obligation of all, the laity included, to engage in the apostolate. It is founded also on the membership of all in the organic structure of the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church). For the laity, by reason of the sacramental characters of Baptism and Confirmation, participate in their own way in the priesthood of Christ and are called to the apostolate of prayer, sacrifice, example, and works. Moreover, in the sacramental characters lies (sic) the possibility that the laity may be called upon to give immediate assistance in the ecclesiastical apostolate to which the hierarchy alone is directly called. When a commission or mandate is given to the organized laity to do apostolic work, that possibility becomes actual. That group and its work is then known as Catholic Action. [End of Entry]

Catholic Action, as an organization with humble fealty to the Church and a filial love for the Holy Father, no longer exists. However, since the Church also teaches that Catholics may join together in free association, KIC imitates the original Catholic Action apostolate, stressing prayer, sacrifice, example and good works. Just as the purpose of Catholic Action once coincided "with the purpose of the Church itself, which is to bring about the reign of Christ in individuals, in families, and in society" and just as its "aim is spiritual and religious, not temporal or political," such is the Keeping It Catholic's purpose.

Above all, the center of KIC's mission is the whole, entire message of Fatima, which underscored all of the Church's key doctrines - from the existence of angels, heaven, purgatory, hell, and the absolute necessity of faith and good works (which means prayer and sacrifice to make reparation to God for sin; to ask for heaven's graces which assist the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his high office as the Vicar of Christ; for the conversion of sinners, the prayers of the daily Rosary; the wearing the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and living chastely according to our state in life; the devotion of the Five First Saturdays), and the role of the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces - our dear Mother who still awaits the collegial consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart.

To further understand Catholic Action as it was, what it can still be, and what the virtuous habits of "Pray, Study, Act" mean to our personal interior lives (the life of grace in our souls), you might also wish to read "Light a Single Candle: The Secret of the Catholic City."

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