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The Soul Of The Apostolate

Let us not speak of the lazy man or the spiritual glutton for whom the interior life consists in the delights of a pleasurable idleness, and who are much more avid for the consolations of God than for the God of consolations. They have only a false piety. But anyone who, either offhand or through stubborn conviction, calls the inner life selfish, does not understand it any better than they do.

We have already said that this life is the pure and abundant source of the most generous works of charity for souls and of charity which seeks to alleviate the sufferings of this world. But let us consider the usefulness of this life from another point of view.

Was the interior life of Mary and Joseph selfish and sterile? What blasphemy, and what absurdity! And yet they are credited with not one external work. The mere influence upon the world of an intense inner life, the merits of prayers and sacrifices applied for the spread of the benefits of the Redemption were enough to make Mary Queen of the Apostles and Joseph Patron of the Universal Church.

In another chapter, we shall see that it is this interior life which gives works their fruitfulness.

“My sister hath left me alone to serve,”

Soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare (Luc. 10:40).

(in Martha’s words) the presumptuous idiot who sees nothing but his own exterior works and their result.

His stupidity and lack of understanding of the ways of God do not go to such lengths as to make him suppose that God could not get along without him. And yet he still loves to repeat with Martha, incapable of understanding the excellence of the contemplation of Magdalen, “Speak to her that she help me,”

Dic illi ut me adjuvet (Luc. 10:4).

and goes so far as to cry out, “To what purpose is this waste?”

Ut quid perditio haec? (Matt. 24:8).

condemning as loss of time the moments that his apostolic colleagues, more spiritual than he, reserve for contemplation, in order to solidify their interior life with God.

“And for them do I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth,”

Pro eis ego sanctifico meipsum ut sint et ipsi sanctificati in veritate (Joan. 17:19).

the soul that has realized all the implications of the Master’s phrase, “that they also,” and who, knowing the value of prayer and sacrifice, unites to the tears and Blood of the Redeemer the tears of his own eyes and the blood of a heart that purifies itself more and more each day.

With Jesus, the interior soul hears the voice of the world’s crime rising up to heaven and calling down chastisement upon the guilty; and this soul delays the sentence by the omnipotence of suppliant prayer, which is able to stay the hand of God, just when He is about to let loose His thunderbolt.

“Those who pray,” said the eminent statesman Donoso Cortes, after his conversion, “do more for the world than those who fight, and if the world is going from bad to worse, it is because there are more battles than prayers.”

“Hands uplifted,” said Bossuet, “rout more battalions than hands that strike.” And in the midst of their desert, the solitaries of the Thebaid often had burning in their hearts the fire that animated St. Francis Xavier. “They seemed to some,” said St. Augustine, “to have abandoned the world more than they should have.” Videntur nonnullis res humanas plus quam oportet deseruisse. But, he adds, people forget that their prayers, purified by this complete separation from the world, were all the more powerful and more NECESSARY for a depraved society.

A short but fervent prayer will usually do more to bring about a conversion than long discussions or fine speeches. He who prays is in touch with the FIRST cause. He acts directly upon it. And by that very fact he has his hand upon all the secondary causes, since they only receive their efficacy from this superior principle. And so the desired effect is obtained both more surely and more promptly.

A single burning prayer of the seraphic St. Theresa (as was learned through a highly creditable revelation) converted ten thousand heretics. And her soul, all on fire for Christ, could not conceive of a contemplative life, an interior life, which would take no interest in the Savior’s intense anxiety for the redemption of souls. “I would accept Purgatory until the Last Judgment,” she said, “to deliver but one of them. And what do I care how long I suffer, if I can thus set free a single soul, let alone many souls, for the greater glory of God?” Speaking of her nuns, she said: “Bring to bear, my children, your prayers, your disciplines, your fasts, and your desires upon this apostolic object.”

This, indeed, is the whole work of the Carmelite, the Trappistine, the Poor Clare. See how they follow the advance of the apostle, supplying him with the overflow of their prayers and penances. All along the line of the Cross’s march, or of the Gospel’s shining progress over the earth, their prayers sweep down from on high upon souls, their divine prey. Better still, it is their secret but active love which awakens the voice of mercy in every part of a world of sinners.

No one in this world knows the reason for the conversions of pagans at the very ends of the earth, for the heroic endurance of Christians under persecution, for the heavenly joy of martyred missionaries. All this is invisibly bound up with the prayer of some humble, cloistered nun. Her fingers play upon the keyboard of divine forgiveness and of the eternal lights; her silent and lonely soul presides over the salvation of souls and the conquests of the Church.

Lumière et Flamme, P. Léon, O.M.

“I want Trappists in this apostolic vicariate,” said Msgr. Favier, Bishop of Peking, “I even desire them to abstain from all exterior ministry in order that nothing may distract them from the work of prayer, penance, and sacred studies. For I well know what a help will be given to our missionaries by the existence of our poor Chinese people.” And later on he declared: “We have succeeded in penetrating into a district hitherto unapproachable. I attribute this fact to our dear Trappists.”

“Ten Carmelite nuns, praying,” said a Bishop of Cochin-China to the Governor of Saigon, “will be of greater help to me than twenty missionaries, preaching.”

Secular priests, religious, both men and women, vowed to the active, but also to the interior life, share this same power, with the souls in the cloister, over the heart of God. Father Chevier, Don Bosco, Père Marie Antoine; are striking examples of this. Venerable Anne-Marie Taigi, in her duties as a poor housekeeper, was an apostle, as was St. Benedict-Joseph Labre, shunning the beaten track. M. Dupont, the holy man of Tours, Col. Paqueron, and so on, all consumed with the same ardor, were powerful in their works because they were interior souls. And General de Sonis, between battles, found the secret of his apostolate in union with God.

Was the life of the Curé d’Ars selfish and sterile? Such a statement would only be worthy of silent contempt. Anyone able to judge in such matters knows that it was precisely the perfection of his intimate union with God that was the reason for the zeal and success of this priest without natural talents, but who, as contemplative as a Carthusian, thirsted for souls with a thirst that his inner life had made unquenchable. And he received from Our Lord, in Whom he lived, as it were, a participation in the divine power to make converts.

Was his inner life barren? Let us imagine a St. Vianney in every one of our dioceses. Before ten years, our country would be regenerated, and much more completely regenerated than it could be by any number of enterprises without firm foundation in the interior life, even if they were supported by unlimited funds and by the talent and activity of thousands of apostles.

Nowadays, the whole power of hell seems more than ever bent upon fighting the moral power of the Church and suffocating the divine life in souls.

Beyond all doubt, our chief reason for hoping that our world will rise triumphant, in the teeth of all these onslaughts, is that at no other time (or so it seems) has there been what we now see: so great a proportion of souls, even among the simple faithful, filled with ardent desires to live united with the Heart of Jesus and to extend His Kingdom, by scattering around them the seeds of interior life. Granted that these chosen souls are a tiny minority. But what do numbers matter, where there is intensity of such life? The fact that France got back on her feet after the revolution must be accredited to a priesthood that learned the interior life the hard way, by persecution. But through these men a current of divine life came to enliven a generation which seemed condemned to death by apostasy and an indifference which no human power seemed able to overcome.

And yet now, after fifty years of freedom of education in France, after this half-century that has beheld the birth of works without number, and during which we have had, in our hands, the youth of the land, and have enjoyed the almost complete support of the various governments, how is it that, in spite of results that appear, outwardly, to be quite striking, we have been unable to form, in our nation, a majority with enough real Christianity in it to fight against the coalition of the followers of Satan?

No doubt, the abandonment of the liturgical life and the cessation of its influence upon the faithful have contributed to this impotence. Our spirituality has become narrow, dry, superficial, external, or altogether sentimental; it does not have the penetration and soul-stirring power that only the Liturgy, that great source of Christian vitality, can give.

But is there not another cause to be traced to the fact that we priests and educators, because we lack an intensive inner life, are unable to beget in souls anything more than a surface piety, without any powerful ideals or strong convictions? Those of us who are professors: have we not, perhaps, been more ambitious for the distinction of degrees and for the reputation of our colleges than to impart a solid religious instruction to souls? Have we not worn ourselves out on less important things than forming of wills, and imprinting on well-tried characters the stamp of Jesus Christ? And has not the most frequent cause of this mediocrity been the common banality of our inner life?

If the priest is a saint (the saying goes), the people will be fervent; if the priest is fervent, the people will be pious; if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent. But if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one degree less intense in its life than those who beget it in Christ.

We would not go so far as to accept this proposition, but we consider that the following words of St. Alphonsus sufficiently well express the cause to which we may attribute the responsibility for our present situation:

“The good morals and the salvation of the people depend on good pastors. If there is a good priest in charge of the parish, you will soon see devotion flourishing, people frequenting the Sacraments, and honoring the practice of mental prayer. Hence the proverb: like pastor, like parish: Qualis pastor, talis parochia. According to this word of Ecclesiasticus (10:2) ‘Those who dwell in the state, take after their ruler’: Qualis est rector civitatis tales et inhabitantes in ea.” (Homo Apost., 7:16.)








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