Summary of Vatican II’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity “Apostolicam Actuositatem”

Background Notes (click here)



  • This decree describes the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate.

Chapter 1: The Nature of the Laity to the Apostolate

  • Diversity of ministry but 1 mission in the Church.
  • Laity, by virtue of their baptism, have a duty and right to be missionaries.
  • Laity share in the triple munera of Christ (priest, prophet, king).
  • The success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ.
  • Spirituality for the laity: active participation in liturgy, family life (state of life determines this), detachment from riches (following Christ in poverty), charitable activities & enduring persecution, friendship & associations. BVM is the model.

Ch. 2 Objectives

  • Renew & perfect the temporal order = specific way laity can participate in the Church’s apostolic mission to save mankind.
    • Everyday things in culture, family values, economic order, right approach to science & technology, charitable works & social aid – inspired by a love of God & neighbour.

Ch. 3 Fields of Apostolate – in church and in world

  • Apostolate of laity happens both in the Church (both local and universal dimensions) and in the world (reach those pastors cannot, civil authority & legal justice things, see family life as the vital cell of society).
  • Overall, the laity the fulfill this mission do so by conforming their lives to their faith, observing fraternal charity, and building up society.
  • Young people & children have a role too!

Ch. 4 Different forms of Apostolate – individual or group

  • Individual apostolate: The starting point of all apostolates. It’s a Christian duty, especially where Church freedom is threatened.
  • Group apostolate:  Gather together in small groups for serious discussion, family communities, parishes, laity-controlled apostolates, secular institutes.

Ch. 5: External Relationships

  • The hierarchy has a duty to support, direct, and promote the lay apostolate. Form special councils to assist in this. Laity needs hierarchical approval to use term “Catholic.” Cooperate with Christians & non-Christians too to bear witness to Christ.

Ch. 6: Training for Apostolate

  • The laity have a unique spiritual model distinct from clergy & religious. Need formation to engage with the culture, renew the temporal order, specializing in works of charity and mercy.
  • The church should have special centres and documents to help this.
  • Parents have a task to train children for the apostolate.

Conclusion: Exhortation

  • This council entreats all the laity in the Lord to answer the urgent invitation of Christ and the impulse of the Holy Spirit.
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