Monday, February 3, 2014

Fr. Jordan Aumann on Effective Apostolic Work

The apostolate is a supernaturally vital activity and not a purely mechanical activism or naturally acquired technical skill. This follows from the fact that the value of the external action flows from the inner disposition; the value of good works depends on the charity which prompts those works. Therefore, the Christian apostolate—which is love of neighbour [sic] in action—requires grace and charity in the apostle. It is in this sense that the motu proprio Primo Feliciter (1948) refers to the apostolate of secular institutes: "The exercise of this apostolate in constancy and holiness must derive from such sincerity of mind [N.B.: another translation is "purity of intention"], interior union with God, generous self forgetfulness and courageous self-denial, such love of souls, as to nourish, unceasingly renew and outwardly express the spiritual reality within" [n. 6]. [...]

As supernatural transitive action, the apostolate has as its cause not only the grace and charity of the apostle, but God himself. The apostle of grace, as an instrument, acts under God, His own formation, spiritual and technical, makes him more suited as an instrument; his apostolate the more fruitful. But the primary condition of fruitfulness is submissiveness to God, and this is the reason why the apostle must, in the words of Pius XII, sentire cum Ecclesia ["to think with the Church"]. This primacy of God's causality explains why the apostolic efforts may well produce effects beyond the personal endowments of the apostle. Like all instruments, he achieves a greater effect through his subordination to the principal cause [which is God].

The end or purpose of the apostolate is to bring souls to God. All its endeavours [sic], even when accomplished through temporal, material or profane activities, are pointed towards the supernatural end of salvation and sanctification. Otherwise, there might be good works, service for neighbour, but there is no apostolate. The supernatural end is what gives the service of neighbour its specific character as apostolic action. No field of human endeavour can be excluded as a field of work for apostolic co-operation with Christ. Thus whatever a person does in a conscious manner to contribute directly or indirectly to the redemption of souls, to the rebirth of men in grace, can be called a true apostolate.

Every Christian is bound to be an apostle, because Christ calls all to love of neighbour. But just as some live and manifest their love of God by a predominantly contemplative life, others by one that is predominantly active, so also all men do not engage in the apostolate to the same extent. Hence the distinction is drawn between the direct and the indirect apostolate. The direct includes all those acts whereby a person brings souls to God through an immediate, personal contact—e.g. administering the sacraments [as a priest], preaching or teaching, etc. The indirect apostolate is a supernatural activity directed towards neighbour, but lacking this immediate contact, or being natural activity with simply an apostolic end—e.g. the prayers and sacrifices of contemplatives for others, teaching profane subjects, corporal works of mercy. That all are bound by the precept of charity to at least some sort of indirect apostolate is beyond question; love of neighbour obviously includes this. While some have affirmed an equal obligation with reference to direct apostolate, this seems an exaggeration. [...]

As a form of active life, the apostolate presupposes a threefold preparation or perfection: intellectual, moral and professional or techincal. [...] These predispositions will likewise be supernatural, excepting professional skill, which may be purely natural.

The intellectual formation of an apostle is doctrinal and therefore involves the virtue of faith and the penetration of the truths of faith through theological study, meditation and spiritual reading. The moral formation involves the practice of the moral virtues, especially justice, and the love which inspires the apostolate as well as the ascetical practices which safeguard all the virtues. Nor can one underestimate the importance of the virtue of prudence, which shapes and directs all the moral virtues. It touches the contemplative aspect of life by grasping the universal principles of right action; it extends to the existential order by applying those principles to particular actions. The steps of prudence are to reflect, to judge, to act; but then the experience acquired can foster growth in prudence by a reverse process: act, reflect, judge. Of the remaining moral virtues, fortitude is required to control the emergency or irascible passions; temperance for the control of the concupiscible or pleasure passions. If this control of the sensitive appetite be lacking, the apostle degenerates to a life of the passions, which is not human but animal.


Source: Fr. Jordan Aumann, "Appendix 7: The Apostolate," in Summa Theologi√¶: Volume 46: Action and Contemplation, trans. by Jordan Aumann (Cambridge: Blackfriars, 1966), 120-123.

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