Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene on the Apostolate, pt. 2

Apostolic prayer must be accompanied by sacrifice [....] Love should urge those who pray to "active sacrifice which does not allow them to rest calmly in prayer as long as pain and suffering have not all but reached the limits of endurance. Then, consumed by the ardor of charity and the vehemence of desire, they are no longer persons who pray but living prayers" (Pius XII, January 17, 1943). [...] The more prayer is nourished by sacrifice, the more efficacious it becomes; indeed, it attains its maximum efficacy when sacrifice is total.

Every contemplative soul should be "an altar worthy of the presence of His Majesty" (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, 1.5.7), an altar from which prayer rises, and on which the sacrifice is immolated. The apostolate of Jesus reached its climax and was consummated in the annihilation of death on the Cross. [...] Only when we have really sacrificed ourselves for souls, when we have willingly immolated ourselves with Jesus for their salvation, shall we be able to repeat with Him: "It is consummated." [...]

Many souls are lost because there is no one to pray and make sacrifices for them. [...]

There is no one who cannot contribute to the spiritual good of his neighbor by giving the example of a life which is integrally Christian: holding to the principles one has professed and faithfully fulfilling one's duties. [St. John Chrysostom says,] "There would be no pagans if Christians were real Christians, if they really kept the commandments. A good life sounds clearer and louder than a trumpet." A good life speaks for itself, it has an authority and exercises an attraction greatly superior to that of words. [...]

There is no difficulty in finding books and teachers who will present it in an attractive form, but there is much difficulty in finding persons whose lives give practical testimony to it. [...] The eternal Word became incarnate and through the concrete reality of His human life on earth, He manifested the infinite perfections of God and His tremendous love for us. Jesus, who possessed the divine perfections, could tell us: "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48). [...]

St. Gregory explains [...]: "Let the action [of good works] be public," he says, "while the intention remains hidden; thus we shall give our neighbor the example of a good work and, at the same time, by our intention which is directed only toward God, we shall please Him alone in secret." [...]

Every soul who lives an interior life, trying to please God alone, should also endeavor to be an apostle by his good example. His life of sincere piety, solid virtue, and union with God, should shine before men, inspiring them to pray, to be recollected, to seek after the things of heaven. [...]

The more deeply interior a soul is, the more brightly will its light shine upon other souls and bring them to God.

One who is just setting out in the spiritual life is not capable of attending to his own sanctification and the sanctification of others simultaneously; he should first have time to concentrate all his powers on his own spiritual formation. Furthermore, since the effectiveness of the apostolate corresponds to the degree of love and union with God which the apostle has attained, it is evident that a beginner will not be capable of exercising a very fruitful apostolate. Hence, if he engages in the active apostolate prematurely, he will dissipate his energy uselessly, with consequent harm to his own interior life and to the fruitfulness of his apostolate.

Jesus Himself spent thirty years in prayer and retirement although, being God, He had no need to do so. It was as if He wanted to show us that before we plunge into the work of the exterior apostolate, we must have reached a certain spiritual maturity by the exercise of the interior life. He treated the Apostles in a similar way: the three years they spent with Jesus were years of true formation for them. [...] Thus true Catholic tradition demands that, before apostles go out into the field of battle, they must prepare themselves by the practice of an intense interior life, which will make them qualified, fruitful instruments for the good of souls. [...]

Enthusiasm and good will are not enough. A vigorous interior life, maturity of thought and judgment, and a spirit of sacrifice and union with God are also necessary; if these are wanting, no good will be accomplished, and the spiritual life of the apostles themselves will be endangered. [...]

St. Teresa of [Avila] says, "A single one who is perfect will do more than many who are not" (Way of Perfection, 3). [...] The entire history of the Church is a practical demonstration of this principle: "St. Paul was only one, yet how many he attracted! . . . If all Christians were like St. Paul, how many worlds would be converted!" (St. John Chrysostom). The holy Curé of Ars [and St. Padre Pio] had very few human resources, yet he converted an immense number of souls by the power of his own holiness, love, and union with God. [...]

It is the saints who are the most efficient apostles. Must we then be saints before devoting ourselves to the apostolate? Theoretically, this is the ideal, but in practice, it is impossible. [...] We must therefore conclude that when the period allotted exclusively to preparation is over, we must combine our own personal efforts toward sanctity with the exercise of the active apostolate. In other words, apostles must sanctify themselves in the apostolate and by means of it. [...] Every apostle should be convinced that precisely in his own field of labor—and nowhere else—will he find all the graces necessary to sanctify himself, to attain intimate union with God. When a person gives himself to the apostolate, not by his own choice, nor because of a natural attraction for activity, but solely in answer to a call from God, he can be certain that, since God has willed him to engage in the apostolate, and as He also wills him to become a saint, that the apostolate will provide him with the means to become one. God cannot condemn to mediocrity one who, in order to do His will, and out of love for Him, is burdened with apostolic labors and responsibilities. [...] In the measure that an apostle is docile and faithful to grace, God will purify him, refine him, and sanctify him, precisely by means of his apostolic labors. [...]

It would be a fatal error to allow oneself to become so absorbed in work that time could no longer be found for concentration on God in intimate heart-to-heart conversation with Him. Not even from the standpoint of greater generosity should an apostle renounce his hours of prayer. [...]

He must make every effort to maintain an equilibrium, avoiding both extremes [of too much activity or too much time spent in leisure and prayer], and unifying his life by means of love. [...]

[Pope Pius XII in Primo Feliciter proposed four conditions for effective apostolic work]: purity of intention, union with God, self-abnegation, love for souls. [...]

An apostle whose heart is torn between opposing intentions will look in vain for peace in his work; he will always be disturbed and dissatisfied.

There can be a lack of right intention in a way that easily escapes one's notice; it may be so subtle that to a distracted soul, it passes wholly unobserved. [...] An atmosphere of recollection and prayer is necessary. In his moments of quiet at the feet of Our Lord, the apostle will discover that often, in the course of his daily occupations, he loses sight of the supernatural end which should animate his activity, and that in its place secondary ends appear, becoming the immediate motive of many of his decisions and acts. This means that his intention has not remained directed solely toward God and souls, but has often deviated under the influence of self-love. [...] He should not be discouraged by it; instead, he should humbly recognize his own misery and thank God who has revealed it to him in order that he may correct it. [...] His love is not strong enough yet to triumph completely over human passions. Therefore, the apostle should not give up the struggle against the manifestations of self-love, no matter how trivial. He must not yield to them under the pretext that they are natural tendencies, but must correct, mortify, repress, and cut them off without pity, and must always rectify his intentions. A long, thorough purification is necessary to overcome completely the dualism between God and "self," between love for souls and love of self. The apostle must ask Our Lord for the grace of this total purification and dispose himself to receive it, profiting by every occasion for detachment, renunciation, sacrifice, and humiliation, which apostolic activity offers in abundance to all who seriously dedicate themselves to it. If the apostle does this, he will find in his work an excellent means of spiritual progress, and instead of becoming entangled in the dangers which abound in external activity when self-love is not mortified, he will be purified by the very exercise of his apostolate. [...]

Without forgetfulness of self, it would be impossible to have rectitude of intention. [...]

Every apostle must renounce many things [...] tastes, habits, personal demands of culture, education, sensibility must be generously put aside, that the apostle may adapt himself to the mentality and to the demands of others; quiet, rest, relaxation, must yield their place to the service of souls. The apostle should not go about seeking interesting conversations, consoling friendships, pleasant occupations, satisfying results. Occasionally it may happen that he will meet these things on his way, but even then, he may not stop to enjoy them selfishly, but must use them as means for the apostolate. [...] The apostle is sent to "give" and not to "receive" [....]

Not only in moments of enthusiasm, on bright days [...] but also in moments of darkness, on gray days, when all seems to crumble under the impact of difficulties, when his tired body claims a little rest, when the work is heavy and energy declines and, with the onrush of internal and external struggles, it becomes very difficult to remain at his post. Yes, even in hours of abandonment and trial, the apostle must continue to give himself with equal constancy and generosity. If he does not do so cheerfully, that is, with a true spirit of sacrifice, it will be impossible for his conduct not to betray his ill humor, discontent, aversion, or impatience; and all this is very prejudicial to his work and the influence he could exercise. But where can the strength be found for this complete and continual gift of self? In the Holy Eucharist. [...] [We] can nevertheless follow [Christ's] example by putting himself at [others'] disposal to the point of allowing himself to be "eaten" by them, that is to say, by allowing himself to be consumed in their service. [...]

Humility is the indispensable foundation of the whole spiritual life; hence it is the basic condition of every apostolate and constitutes the principal part of the program of abnegation and forgetfulness of self which the apostolate requires. [...]

Oh! If we were truly convinced that, although God may will to make us of us, He alone possesses the power to make our action fruitful, He alone can produce fruits of eternal life, He alone can give grace to souls, and we are nothing but instruments! In fact, the smaller we make ourselves by acknowledging our poverty, the more qualified we become to be used as a means for the salvation of others. What glory can a brush claim if a skillful artist uses it to perfect a work of art? Can the marble used by Michelangelo to sculpture his Moses boast of any merit? "You have not chosen Me," Jesus said to His Apostles, "but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit" (Jn. 15:16).

"Without Me you can do nothing." How many ambitions and points of honor, how much vain self-complacency, how many desires for applause and for advancement in recognition of our personal worth are broken, like waves on the rocks, by these words! Jesus does not tell us that "without Him we can do little," but, nothing, absolutely nothing, and if in appearance the works flourish, admirers increase, churches and halls are filled, in reality not the least atom of grace can descend into hearts if God does not intervene.

Poor apostle, at times so satisfied, so inflated by success! Despite your abilities, your talent, your brilliant style, your attractive conversation, your titles, your successes—in relation to the apostolate, you are smaller and more powerless than an ant before a very high mountain. Recognize your nothingness, take refuge in God, keep yourself closely united to Him, for only from Him will you draw the fruitfulness of your works. [...]

If our apostolic activity produces few fruits, is it because, relying too much on ourselves, we do not constantly strive to keep close to God by means of humility and prayer?

"Abide in Me," Jesus repeats to us. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me" (Jn. 15:4). It does not suffice for the apostle to be united to Jesus through the state of grace; he must remain united to Him, plunged in profound humility which makes him realize that he can do nothing, absolutely nothing, without continual help.


Source: Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, Divine Intimacy, trans. by Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Boston (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 2005), 980-981, 983-985, 992-997, 999-1007, "326: Apostolic Immolation," "327: The Apostolate of Example," "330: The Formation of Apostles," "331: Sanctification in the Apostolate," "332: A Right Intention," "333: Self-Forgetfulness and Abnegation," "334: Humility in the Apostolate."

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