The Catholic Action – caring for the kingdom of truth and life
Bishop Mariusz Leszczynski
The Feast of Christ the King of the Universe, the annual holiday of the Catholic Action, always makes its members reflect deeply on their mission in the Church and the world. This year’s occasion for reflection is provided by Pope Pius XI’s letter ‘Quae nobis’ – about the Catholic Action – directed to Cardinal Adolf Bertram, Archbishop of Wroclaw, 80 years ago (‘List J. Sw. Papieza Piusa XI do Kardynala A. Bertrama o Akcji Katolickiej’ z 13 listopada 1928 roku’, translated by S. Pszonka, Lublin, 24 pages). It is worth reminding that Pius XI, appreciating the role of Catholic movements in the Church saw them as effective power, able to undertake the work of re-Christianisation of customs and promoting Christian principles in individual and public life. The Catholic Action was to be such a movement. In his first encyclical ‘Ubi arcano Dei’ (1922) he focused on the increasing moods of hostility, hatred between nations, the war between the classes and political parties, greed, hunger for power, terror and violence, weakening of family life and fall of good manners in the world. They were caused by removing God’s authority from social life and rejecting the principles of the Gospel. Therefore, he stressed that one should return to Christ, one should restore his peace as a source of the order of law and power as well as one should obey the commandments of the Church that is a teacher and guardian of these laws. The ideas and principles of the Catholic Action were specified and developed in the above-mentioned letter ‘Quae nobis’. According to the principles included in the letter the Catholic Action was to adapt its members to the fullness of Christian life and make them apostles who would effectively support the clergy in the work of Christianisation of life and culture. It should be both a spiritual and religious initiative as well as a ‘social’ initiative because it was to spread Christ’s kingdom. The main task of the Catholic Action should be care for Christian life of every man and introducing the principles of the Gospel and Catholic social teaching in the secularised culture, especially in these environments that were not easily accessible for priests. Has the Catholic Action – Pius XI stressed – not been established to give the best citizens to society, conscientious and skilful clerks to the state?’ Therefore, he commands his members to respect the right authority, to obey the laws, to obey and preserve all things on which good and prosperity of nations are based … all that brings about peace and stability of society. The condition for success of the mission of the Catholic Action is unity in one and common hierarchical apostleship of priests (assistants) and laymen, which the concise and disciplinary organisational structures are to serve as subject of action. Pius XI’s letter ‘Quae nobis’ became an inspiration for the first Polish doctoral dissertation about the Catholic Action, written at the Catholic University of Lublin after World War II by Rev. Prof. Dr. Witold Zdaniewicz, SAC, who is a known expert in the sociology of the Church. The title of his dissertation is ‘The Guidelines of Pius XI in the Letter ‘Quae nobis’ and their Realisation in Poland. An Attempt to Evaluate the Catholic Action in Poland as a Social Activity, Based on the Sociograhy of the Polish Catholic Action’ (Lublin, 1958). This dissertation is a valuable source of knowledge for wide circles of those who are interested in the history and activities of this organisation. It is also an attempt to answer the questions: what was the role of the Catholic Action in the transformations made in the social sphere of the Polish Catholicism in the inter-war period and did it realise the tasks set by Pius XI? These questions and the message included in ‘Quae nobis’ are still valid for the Catholic Action in Poland today. The Catholic Action in Poland will realise its next year of formation and apostolic activities according to the pastoral programme of the Church in Poland for 2008/2009 and to its own objectives embraced in the book entitled ‘Otoczmy troska zycie. Akcja Katolicka w sluzbie zyciu. Materialy formacyjne na 2009’ [Let us Care for Life. The Catholic Action in Service of Life. Formational Materials for 2009] (edited by Fr T. Borutka, Warsaw 2008). May the words of Pope Benedict XVI directed to the Catholic Action in Italy be a new inspiration for the action in the work of formatting its members and in the mission of evangelisation, ‘By adopting its general apostolic goal in a spirit of intimate union with the Successor of Peter and hard-working co-responsibility with Pastors, you incarnate a ministerial role in a fruitful balance between the universal Church and the local Church, which requires you to make a ceaseless and irreplaceable contribution to communion… May you, therefore, be able to live up to your Baptism which immersed you in the death and Resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of every person whom you meet, and of a world that is thirsting for peace and truth… Be "worthy citizens of the Gospel" and "ministers of Christian wisdom for a more human world"… Be courageous witnesses and prophets of Gospel radicalism; in a Church which is confronted daily by the relativist, hedonist and consumerist mentality, may you be able to extend the spaces of rationality in the sign of a faith that befriends intelligence, both in the context of a popular and widespread culture and in a more elaborated and thought-out research; in a Church that calls for the heroism of holiness, respond without fear, always trusting in God's mercy… Intensify your prayer, reform your conduct on the eternal values of the Gospel, letting yourselves be guided by the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.’
Bishop Mariusz Leszczynski is the Catholic Action National Ecclesial Assistant.