Category Archives: Code of Canon Law

The Role of Laity

THE ROLE OF LAITY

The Second Vatican Council [1962–1965] devoted its decree on the apostolate of the laity Apostolicam actuositatem and chapter IV of its dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium to the laity in a sense narrower than that which is normal in the Catholic Church.

The definition of laity is that given in the Code of Canon Law:

By divine institution, there are among the Christian faithful in the Church sacred ministers who in law are also called clerics; the other members of the Christian faithful are called lay persons.  There are members of the Christian faithful from both these groups who, through the profession of the evangelical counsels by means of vows or other sacred bonds recognized and sanctioned by the Church, are consecrated to God in their own special way and contribute to the salvific mission of the Church; although their state does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church, it nevertheless belongs to its life and holiness (Canon 207).

The narrower sense in which the Second Vatican Council gave instruction concerning the laity is as follows:  The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church.  These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world (Lumen gentium, 31).

In this narrower sense, the Council taught that the laity’s specific character is secularity: they are Christians who live the life of Christ in the world.  Their role is to sanctify the created world by directing it to become more Christian in its structures and systems:

“the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God (Lumen gentium, 31).”  The laity are full members of the Church, fully share in Church’s purpose of sanctification, of “inner union of men with God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 775),”

acting with freedom and personal responsibility and not as mere agents of the hierarchy.  Due to their baptism, they are members of God’s family, the Church, and they grow in intimate union with God, “in” and “by means” of the world. It is not a matter of departing from the world as the monks and the nuns do that they sanctify themselves; it is precisely through the material world sanctified by the coming of the God made flesh, i.e. made material, that they reach God.   Doctors, mothers of a family, farmers, bank tellers, drivers, by doing their jobs in the world with a Christian spirit are already extending the Kingdom of God.   According to the repeated statements of Popes and lay Catholic leaders, the laity should say “we are the Church,” in the same way that the saints said that “Christ lives in me.”  Lay involvement takes diverse forms, including participation in the life and Mass ministries  of the parish.

 

Astronomy for “The Light of The Cosmos”

Date & time of Easter Vigil – Christ Our Light

Much debate and conflict has been spawned by efforts to determine the date this feast should be celebrated annually.  The difficulty comes in translating an “immovable feast” from a lunar to the Christian solar calendar (Julian, and now Gregorian), on which it becomes a movable feast (one that moves to a certain day of the week, the way Thanksgiving moves to a Thursday, instead of one that is always celebrated on a particular date, immovably, like a birthday).  The Council of Nicaea in 325 placed Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 20 (which is the vernal equinox, when the sun is directly above the earth’s equator).  This date allowed pilgrims to have moonlight for traveling to the great Easter festivals of that day.  According to this method of reckoning, Easter could be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. (331, Klein: The Catholic Source Book; #1170, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall and should end before daybreak. It is never permitted to anticipate the Mass of Easter before the Easter Vigil or celebrate more than one Easter Vigil service in the same church (111, Huels: The Pastoral Companion; 197-note 2, Ordo: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops).

The precise time of the nightfall can be obtained from any basic astronomy program which is capable of calculating “the time of sunset” and then one adds 30 minutes to allow for the residual evening sunlight to dissipate.  The image below shows the precise time of sunset for April 19, 2014.

Nightfall = Time of Sunset + Dissipation of Residual Evening Light

Nightfall = 7:59 p.m. + 30 minutes

Therefore Easter Vigil 2014 A.D. begins at 8:30 p.m.

 

 

Lenten Practices

Season of Lent

The annual observance of Lent is the special season of grace for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter.  Through its twofold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery.  The faithful, listening more intently to the Word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared for the Solemnity of Easter through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.

 Ash Wednesday

On the Wednesday before the First Sunday of Lent the faithful, by receiving ashes, enter upon the season appointed for spiritual purification.  This sign of penance, biblical in origin and preserved among the customs of the Church until our own day, express the human condition as affected by sin.  In this sign we outwardly profess our desire for forgiveness before God and thereby, prompted by the hope that the Lord is kind and compassionate, patient and bounding in mercy, express our desire for inward conversion.  This sign is also the beginning of the journey of conversion that will reach its goal in the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation during the days leading to Easter.

 Eucharistic Fast

Before receiving Holy Communion one should abstain for at least one hour from all food and drink except water and medicine.  Those who are advanced in age or suffer from some illness, as well as those who care for them, may receive the Holy Eucharist even if they have taken some food during the preceding hour. (Huels, The Pastoral Companion, p97; The Church’s Code of Canon Law, 919)

 Days of Fast & Abstinence

The penitential days and times in the universal Church are Ash Wednesday, Fridays and Good Friday during the season of Lent.  Abstinence from eating meat or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Abstinence from eating meat on other Fridays of the year is recommended, but not required.  Also recommended on all Fridays of the year is prayer and penance (especially eating less food), and almsgiving for the sake of world peace. (Huels, The Pastoral Companion, p333ff; The Church’s Code of Canon Law, 1251)

The requirement to fast prescribes that only one full meal a day be taken.  Two lighter meals are permitted to maintain strength according to each one’s needs.  Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices are allowed. The requirement of abstinence forbids the eating of meat, but eggs, milk products and condiments made from meat can be eaten.  Fish and all cold blooded animals may be eaten (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, Feb 17, 1996, AAS 58 (1996), n.III; CLD 6:676-78).

 Ages for Fast & Abstinence

Those bound to abstain are those who have completed their fourteenth (14th) year and older.  The requirement of fasting binds all from the age of majority up to the beginning of their sixtieth (60th) year, that is between the ages of 18 and 59 inclusive.  Pastors and parents should see to it that even those who, due to their young age, are not bound to the law of fast or abstinence are nevertheless educated in a genuine sense of penance. (Huels, The Pastoral Companion, p334ff; The Church’s Code of Canon Law, 1252)