THE NATURE OF CATHOLIC ACTION Union ; Conscience Formation ; Apostolate
YOUR GRACE,—I have hastened to bring to the knowledge of the Holy Father your valued letter of November 12, regarding the coining celebration in your Archdiocese of the first Congress of Catholic Action.
His Holiness learned with great interest of this happy event, and immediately observed that celebration of a Congress was in itself a proof, not only of a firm determination to organise Catholic Action, but also that the organisation hitherto achieved, had prepared the way for a first rallying of the forces. In fact, when one is convinced of the advantages which Catholic Action can and ought to bring with it, one must feel both the duty and the need of giving to this necessary and fruitful apostolate an increase always wider and more intense.
It is likewise a consolation to the Holy Father to learn that there will take part in this Congress, besides your Excellence, their Excellencies the Archbishop of Westminster, President of the Episcopal Body, and the Archbishop of Birmingham, a fact which gives evidence of a praiseworthy desire of strict national unity also in this field of activity.
NATIONAL UNITY This union is of the greatest utility, and `indeed necessary, since there is a question of problems and enterprises which concern the entire nation, and. consequently, demand the union and collaboration of all men of good will.
This is, indeed, one of the first advantages of Catholic Action, which has been repeatedly defined by the Holy Father as the "collaboration of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate" and which has, therefore, the same purpose as the Church herself, namely the salvation of souls and the spreading of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. not only in the individual, but also in the family and in society.
Wherefore it does not destroy nor illterfere with societies and organisations already in being, but rather co-ordinates and directs their activities in line with, and in dependence on, the hierarchy, in the various forms of apostolate, to the end that the Church, through an ever greater extension and penetration, may achieve her most noble purpose, the salvation of souls.
It is, therefore, evident that Catholic Action promotes in a safe and effective way, the common good, that is to say, the true well-being, even temporal and material well being, which is intimately linked with the coming of the Kingdom of Christ, and, consequently, wherever Catholic Action is well understood and brought into being according to the clear instructions of the Holy Father, it cannot fail to evoke the co-operation and enthusiasm of all classes CONSCIENCE FORMATION It is profoundly true that the first movement in Catholic Action is the formation of the conscience, a formation that is essentially Christian and complete, a formation that grips the whole man and is made up of solid piety, true knowledge of things divine, lively zeal, and unstinted loyalty to the hierarchy. A formation such as this must influence all the activities of the individual, and whilst it educates him to the leading of an exemplary religious and moral life, it prepares him and directs him, and helps him to fulfil effectively all his duties of family and social life, in a word, it helps him to dci his duty as a good citizen.
Now the second movement of Catholic tolled by St. Peter."
Action is the apostolate; indeed, in this is found its essential characteristic. For laymen trained to a life which is intensely Christian cannot fail to feel the need of communicating that life to those who are deprived of it. They cannot fail to look upon it as a duty to help others to share in those treasures of truth and of divine grace which they themselves enjoy as a precious gift and privilege through the bounty of Almighty God.
Nor can they remain indifferent to the spectacle of so many souls who live their lives, ignorant of the truth which is necessary for right living, and forgetful of those duties to their Maker, on the fulfilment of which, all depends.
Yet, if the first efforts of Catholic Action are directed towards the gaining of souls for God, it is surely necessary, in order to preserve these soufs from danger and to keep them in the friendship of God, that the environment in which they must live their lives should be made Christian.
Thence arises the necessity of the apostolate in the school, in the factory, in all the professions, in the field of economics and in all social and public life. Thus the field of the apostolate is truly most extensive, and nothing that belongs to the Church's mission can be excluded from it.
VOLUNTEERS Now since Catholic Action is directed towards all, without distinction of age, or sex, or culture, it will not be difficult to find a first nucleus of volunteers, who, gathering themselves around their priest, and by him trained in piety and zeal for souls, may become the leaven which will cise a most precious and healing influence on the body politic, and become a powerful help towards peace and the well-being of the nation.
Catholic Action, as the Holy Father has already said in his Encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei. belongs, undeniably, to the pastoral office and to Christian life. He affirms that with Catholic Action " is connected, inseparably, the restoration of the Kingdom of Christ, and that the establishing of true peace belongs to that kingdom and to that kingdom only," and he exalts its greatness and nobility when he says: " Tell your faithful people that when they, rallying to the call of their bishops and priests share in the work of the apostolate, and of the redemption of society and of the individual, then, truly, more than ever can they be called a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy people, the people of God so greatly ex (v) IN THIS GRAVE HOUR In this grave hour of the world's history, it is not merely the Catholic Church but the whole social fabric that is assailed by those poisonous ideologies which are helped on by all the forces opposed to Almighty God, and not only by those, but by all the indifference and sluggish complacency of that great number of the children of God who are not alive to the dangers which threaten our civilisation. Far-seeing people, however, cannot fail to appreciate the efforts of all those who deem it a duty to co-operate with zeal and self-sacrifice, giving freely all those inexhaustible energies which their faith knows how to give, spending themselves in a life of burning charity in this co-operation with the Apostolic Hierarchy" for the salvation of the world, and the spreading of that kingdom of light and peace which is the gift of Jesus Christ, our Divine Redeemer.
That the grace of God may be poured out in generous measure upon all those who take part in this first Congress of Catholic Action, the Holy Father from His heart imparts to them, and particularly to Your Grace and to your Brethren of the Hierarchy, His paternal Apostolic Benediction.
Begging leave to join to his august message the expression of my own heartfelt wishes for the success of your noble undertaking, I am, Your Grace, with sentiments of high esteem, Devotedly yours in Christ.
E. CARD. PACELLI.
[Sub-headings have been inserted by the Catholic Herald.]