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The Soul Of The Apostolate

Let us leave to one side the cause of fruitfulness called by theologians ex opere operato. Considering only what is produced ex opere operantis, we recall that if the apostle carries out the principle of “He who abideth in Me and I in him,” the fecundity of his work, willed by God, is guaranteed: “the same beareth much fruit.”

Qui manet in me et ego in eo, hic fert fructum multum (Joan. 15:5).

Such is the plain logic of this text. After such an authority, there is no need to prove this thesis. Let us simply confirm it by facts.

For more than thirty years we have been able to observe, from afar, the progress of two orphanages for little girls, maintained by two separate congregations. Each one had to go through a period of evident decline. To be frank: out of sixteen orphans, all of whom had entered under the same conditions and had left upon coming of age, three from the first house and two from the second had passed, in from eight to fifteen months, from the practice of frequent Communion to the most degraded level of the social scale. Of the eleven others, one alone remained deeply Christian. And yet every one of them had been placed, on leaving, in a good situation.

In one of these orphanages, eleven years ago, there was a single change: a new Mother Superior was installed. Six months afterwards a radical transformation was apparent in the spirit of the house.

The same transformation was observed three years later in the other orphanage because, while the same superior and the same sisters remained, the chaplain had been changed.

Now since that time, not a single one of the poor girls who left, at the age of twenty-one, has been dragged down by Satan into the gutter. Every one, every single one of them without exception, has remained a good Christian.

The reason for these results is very simple. At the head of the house, or in the confessional, the spiritual direction previously given had not been really supernatural. And this was enough to paralyze, or at least to cripple, the action of grace. The former superior in one case and the former chaplain in the other, although sincerely pious people, had had no deep interior life and, consequently, exercised no deep or lasting influence. Theirs was a piety of the feelings, produced by their upbringing and environment, made up exclusively of pious practices and habits, and giving them nothing but vague beliefs, a love without strength, and virtues without deep root. It was a flabby piety, all in the show-window, mawkish, mechanical. It was a fake piety, capable of forming good little girls who would not make a nuisance of themselves, affected little creatures, full of pretty curtsies but with no force of character, dragged this way and that by their feelings and imaginations. A piety powerless to open up the wide horizons of Christian life, and form valiant women, ready to face a struggle; all it was good for was to keep these wretched little girls locked up in their cages, sighing for the day when they would be let out.

That was the poor excuse for a Christian life produced by Gospel-workers who knew almost nothing of the interior life. In the midst of these two communities, a superior, a chaplain, are replaced. Right away the face of things is altered. What a new meaning prayer begins to take on; what a new fruitfulness in the Sacraments. How different are the postures and bearing in chapel, even at work, at recreation. Analysis shows up a deep transformation which also manifests itself in a serene joy, a new enthusiasm, the acquisition of virtues, and in some souls an intense desire for a religious vocation. To what is such a transformation to be ascribed? The new superior, the new chaplain, led lives of prayer.

No doubt an attentive observer will have connected up similar effects to the same kind of causes in any number of boarding schools, day schools, hospitals, clubs, even parishes, communities, and seminaries.

Listen to St. John of the Cross: “Let the men eaten up with activity,” he says, “and who imagine they are able to shake the world with their preaching and other outward works, stop and reflect a moment. It will not be difficult for them to understand that they would be much more useful to the Church and more pleasing to the Lord, not to mention the good example they would give to those around them, if they devoted more time to prayer and to the exercises of the interior life.

“Under these conditions, by one single work of theirs they would do far more good, and with much less trouble, than they do by a thousand others on which they exhaust their lives. Prayer would merit them this grace, and would obtain for them the spiritual energies they need to bring forth such fruits. But without prayer, all they do amounts to nothing more than noise and uproar; it is like a hammer banging on an anvil and echoing all over the neighborhood. They accomplish a little more than nothing, sometimes absolutely nothing at all, and sometimes downright evil. God save us from such a soul as this, if it should happen to swell up with pride! It would be vain for appearances to be in his favor: the truth is that he would be doing nothing, because no good work can be done without the power of God. Oh, how much could be written on this subject, for the information of those who give up practicing the interior life, and aspire to brilliant works which will put them up on a pedestal and make them the admiration of all. Such people know nothing at all about the source of living water, and of the mysterious fountain which makes all fruit to grow.”

Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 29.

Some of the expressions this saint uses are just as strong as the “accursed occupations” quoted above from St. Bernard. Nor is it possible to accuse him of exaggerating when we remember that the qualities which Bossuet admired in St. John of the Cross were his perfect good sense and the zeal he had for warning souls against the desire of extraordinary ways of arriving at sanctity, as well as the most precise exactness in expressing his thoughts, which are, themselves, of remarkable depth.

Let us attempt a study of a few of the causes of the fruitfulness of the interior life.

I will inebriate the souls of the priests with satiety and my people will be filled with my blessings.

Inebriabo animam sacerdotum pinguedine et populus meus bonis meis adimplebitur (Jer. 31:14).

Notice the close connection between the two parts of this text. God does not say: “I will give My priests more zeal and more talent,” but: “I will inebriate their souls.” What does that signify if not: “I will give them very special graces, and for that reason my people will be filled with My blessings.”

God might have given His grace according to His good pleasure, without taking any account of the holiness of the minister nor of the dispositions of the faithful. That is the way He acts in the Baptism of infants. But it is the ordinary law of His Providence that these two factors are the measure of His heavenly gifts.

Without Me you can do nothing.

Sine me nihil potestis facere (Joan. 15:5).

This is the principle. The Blood that redeemed us was shed on Calvary. How was God going to insure its fruitfulness at the very start? By a miracle of the diffusion of interior life. There was nothing more paltry than the ideals and the zeal of the apostles before Pentecost. But once the Holy Spirit had transformed them into men of prayer, their preaching began at once to work wonders.

But God does not, in the ordinary course of things, repeat the miracle of the Upper Room. His way is to leave the graces for our sanctification to fight it out with the free and arduous correspondence of His creature. But in making Pentecost the official birthday of the Church, did He not give us a clear enough indication that his ministers would have to make the first step, in their work as co-redeemers, the sanctification of their own souls?

Therefore, all true apostolic workers expect much more from their sacrifices and prayers than from their active work. Father Lacordaire spent a long time in prayer before ascending the steps of the pulpit, and on his return he had himself scourged. Father Monsabré, before speaking at Notre Dame, used to say all fifteen decades of the Rosary on his knees. “I am taking my last dose of tonic,” he said with a smile to a friend who questioned him about this practice. Both these religious lived according to St. Bonaventure’s principle, that the secret of a fruitful apostolate is to be found much more at the foot of the Cross than in the display of brilliance. “These three remain: word, example, prayer; but the greatest of these is prayer,”

Manent tria haec, verbum, exemplum, oratio: major autem his est oratio.

cries St. Bernard. A very strong statement, but it is simply a commentary on the resolution taken by the Apostles to leave certain works alone in order to give themselves first of all to prayer, orationi; and only after that to preaching, ministerio verbi.

Acts 6:4.

Have we not often enough pointed out, in this connection, what a fundamental importance the Savior gave to this spirit of prayer? Looking out upon the world and upon the ages that were to come, He cried out in sorrow: “The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few.”

Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci. Rogate ergo Dominum messis ut mittat operarios in messem suam (Matt. 9:37–38).

What would He propose as the quickest way to spread His teaching? Would He ask his apostles to go to school in Athens, or to study, at Rome, under the Caesars, how to conquer and govern empires? You men of active zeal listen to the Master. He reveals a program and a principle full of light: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He send forth laborers into the harvest.” No mention of techniques of organization, of raising funds, building churches or putting up schools. Only “pray ye”—Rogate. This one fundamental truth of prayer, and the spirit of prayer, is something the Master constantly repeated. Everything else, without exception, flows from it.

Pray ye therefore! If the faint murmur of supplication from a holy soul has more power to raise up legions of apostles than the eloquent voice of a recruiter of vocations, who has less of the spirit of God, what are we to conclude? Simply that the spirit of prayer, which goes hand in hand, in the true apostle, with zeal, will be the chief reason for the fruitfulness of his work.

Pray ye therefore! First of all, pray. Only after that, does Our Lord add “going, teach . . . preach.”

Euntes docete . . . praedicate (Matt. 10:7).

Of course, God will make use of this other means; but the blessings that make a ministry fruitful are reserved for the prayers of a man of interior life. Such prayer will have the power to bring forth from the bosom of God the strength for an apostolate that souls cannot resist.

The voice of one so great as Pius X throws the following highlight upon the theme of this our book: “To restore all things in Christ by the apostolate of good works, we need divine grace, and the apostle will only receive it if he is united to Christ. Not until we have formed Christ within ourselves will we find it easy to give Him to families and to societies. And therefore all those who take part in the apostolate must develop a solid piety.”

Encyclical of H. H. Pius X to the Bishops of Italy, June 11, 1905.

What has been said of prayer should be equally applied to that other element of the interior life, suffering: that is, everything, whether from the outside or from within us, that goes against natural feeling.

A man can suffer like a pagan, like the damned, or like a saint. If he wishes to suffer with Christ, he must try to suffer like a saint. For then, suffering is of benefit to our own souls, and applies the merits of the Passion to those of others: “I fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body, which is the Church.”

Adimpleo ea quae desunt passionum Christi, in carne mea, pro corpore ejus, quod est Ecclesia (Coloss. 1:24).

And St. Augustine, commenting on this text, says: “The sufferings were filled up, but in the Head only, there was wanting still the sufferings of Christ in His members. Christ went before as the Head, and follows after in His body.”

Impletae erant omnes, sed in capite, restabant adhuc passiones Christi in membris. Christus praecessit in capite. sequitur in corpore.

Christ has suffered as Head, now it is the turn of His Mystical Body to suffer. Every priest can say: I am that Body. I am a member of Christ, and it is up to me to complete what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ, for His Body, which is the Church.

Suffering, says Fr. Faber, is the greatest of the Sacraments. This acute theologian shows the necessity of suffering, and concludes what must be its glories. Every argument of the famous Oratorian can be applied to the fruitfulness of works by the union of the sacrifices of the apostle to the Sacrifice of Golgotha, and thus by their participation in the efficacy of the Precious Blood.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord called His apostles the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Matt. 5:3.

We are the salt of the earth in proportion as we are saints. But if the salt has lost its savor, what use has it? “What shall be cleaned by the unclean?”

Ab immundo quid mundabitur? (Eccl. 34:4).

It is only good to be cast out and trampled under foot.

But on the other hand, a genuinely holy apostle, the true salt of the earth, will be a real agent of preservation in that sea of corruption which is human society. As a beacon shining in the night, “the light of the world,” the brightness of his example, even more than the light of his words, will dispel the darkness piled up by the spirit of the world, and will cause to shine forth in splendor the ideal of true happiness which Jesus set forth in the eight beatitudes.

The one thing most likely to induce the faithful to lead a really Christian life is precisely the virtue of the one charged with teaching it. On the other hand, his imperfections are almost infallible in turning people away from God. “For the Name of God, through you, is blasphemed among the gentiles.”

Nomen Dei per vos blasphematur inter gentes (Rom. 2:24).

That is why the apostle ought more often to have the torch of good example in his hands than fine words upon his lips, and should be the first to excel in the practice of the virtues he preaches. A man whose mission it is to preach great things, says St. Gregory, is, by that very fact, bound to perform them.

Qui enim sui loci necessitate exigitur summa dicere, hac eadem necessitate compellitur summa monstrare (St. Gregory the Great: Pastor., ii. c. 3).

It has been pointed out, and with truth, that a physician of the body can heal the sick without being well himself. But to heal souls, a man must himself have a healthy soul, because in order to heal them he has to give them something of himself. Men have every right to be exacting and to ask much of those who offer to teach how to lead a new life. And they are quick to discern if their works measure up to their words, or if the moral theories which they so willingly display are nothing more than a lying front. It is on the basis of their observations in this matter that they will give him their confidence or refuse it.

What power the priest will have, in talking about prayer, if his people see him often in intimate converse with Him who dwells in the Tabernacle, so often forgotten by so many! They will not fail to listen to him, when he preaches penance and hard work, if he is, himself, a hard worker and a man of mortification. When he exhorts them to love one another, he will find them ready to listen to him if he is himself careful to spread throughout his flock the good odor of Christ, and if the gentleness and humility of the divine Exemplar are reflected in his own conduct. “A pattern of the flock from the heart.”

Forma gregis ex animo (1 Ptr. 5:3).

The professor who has no interior life imagines he has done all that is required of him if he keeps within the limits of the program of his examination. But if he is a man of prayer some word will now and again slip out, not only from his lips but from his heart: some sentiment or other will show itself in his expression, some significant gesture will escape him, yes, the mere way he makes the Sign of the Cross, or says a prayer before or after class—even a class in mathematics!—may have a more profound influence on his students than a whole sermon.

A sister in a hospital or an orphanage has the power and the effective means to sow in souls a deep love of our Lord and His teachings, even while remaining prudently within the limits of her duties. But if she has no interior life, she will not even suspect the presence of such a power, or it will not occur to her to do anything more than encourage acts of exterior piety.

Long and frequent discussions did far less to spread Christianity than the sight of Christian conduct, so opposed to the egotism, injustice, and corruption of the pagans. Cardinal Wiseman, in his masterpiece, Fabiola, brings out what a powerful effect the example of the early Christians had upon the souls even of those pagans who were most prejudiced against the new religion. The story shows us the progressive and almost irresistible advance of a soul towards the light. The noble sentiments, the virtues, whether modest or heroic, which the daughter of Fabius found in various persons of all classes and conditions, excited her admiration. But what a change took place in her, what a revelation it was for her soul, when she found out, one by one, that all those whose charity, devotion, modesty, gentleness, moderation, love of justice and chastity she admired, all belonged to that sect which had always been represented to her as worthy of execration. From that time forth she was a Christian.

Is there anyone who can keep himself from exclaiming, on finishing this book: “Oh! If only present-day Catholics, or at least their active workers, had something of this splendid Christian life which the great Cardinal here portrays and which, nevertheless, is nothing but the Gospel put into practice! How irresistible would then be their apostolate among the modern pagans, who are too frequently prejudiced against Catholicism by the calumnies of heretical sects, or repelled by the bitterness of our own answers to our opponents, and by a certain way we sometimes have of asserting our rights in a tone that suggests wounded pride far more than the desire to maintain the interests of Christ!”

What tremendous power there is in the influence radiated by a soul united to God! It was the way Fr. Passerat celebrated Mass that convinced the young Desurmont that he should enter the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer—in which he himself was later to achieve such holiness and importance.

The public has a sort of intuition that cannot be fooled. When a real man of God preaches, people come in crowds to hear him. But as soon as the conduct of an apostle ceases to measure up to what is expected of him, no matter how ably his enterprise is run, it will be much harmed, and perhaps ruined beyond recovery.

“Let them see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Videant opera vestra bona et glorificent Patrem vestrum qui in coelis est (Matt. 5:16).

said Our Lord. Good example is something St. Paul stressed over and over again in writing to his two disciples, Titus and Timothy. “In all things show thyself an example of good works.”

In omnibus teipsum praebe exemplum bonorum operum (Titus 2:7).

“Be thou an example of the faithful in word, in conversion, in charity, in faith, in chastity.”

Exemplum esto fidelium in verbo, in conversatione, in caritate, in fide, in castitate (1 Tim. 4:12).

He himself says: “The thing which you have seen in me, these do you.”

Quae vidistis in me haec agite (Phil. 4:9).

“Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.”

Imitatores mei estote sicut et ego Christi (1 Cor. 11:1).

And these words full of truth sprang from a confidence and a zeal that far from excluded humility, and were of the same kind as those which prompted Our Lord’s own challenge:

“Which of you shall convince me of sin?”

Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? (Joan. 8:46).

Under these conditions the apostle, following in the footsteps of Him of whom it is written: “He began to do and to teach”

Coepit facere et docere (Acts 1:1).

will soon become operarium inconfusibilem—“a workman that need not to be ashamed.”

Tim. 2:15.

“Above all, my dear sons,” said Leo XIII, “remember that the indispensable condition of true zeal, and the surest pledge of success is purity and holiness of life.”

Encyclical of H. H. Leo XIII, September 8, 1899.

“A holy, perfect and virtuous man,” said St. Theresa, “actually does far more good to souls than a great many others who are merely better educated or more talented.”

Pius X declared that: “If our own spirit does not submit to the control of a truly Christian and holy way of life, it will be difficult to make others lead a good life.” And he adds, “All those called to a life of Catholic Works ought to be men of a life so spotless that they may give everybody else an effective example.”

Encyclical of H. H. Pius X to the Bishops of Italy, June 11, 1905.

One of the most formidable obstacles to the conversion of a soul is the fact that God is a hidden God: Deus absconditus.

Is. 45:15.

But God, in His goodness, reveals Himself, in a certain manner, through His saints, and even through fervent souls. In this way, the supernatural filters through and becomes visible to the faithful, who are thus able to apprehend something of the mystery of God.

How does this diffusion of the supernatural come about? It is the visible brilliance of sanctity, the shining-forth of that divine influx which theology commonly calls sanctifying grace; or, better still perhaps, we may say it is the result of the unutterable presence of the Divine Persons within those whom They sanctify.

St. Basil gave it precisely this explanation. When the Holy Spirit, he said, unites Himself to the souls purified by His grace, He does so in order to make them still more spiritual. Just as the sunlight makes the crystal upon which it falls, and which it penetrates, more sparkling and bright, so too the sanctifying Spirit fills the souls in which He dwells with light, and, as a result of His presence, they become blazing fires, spreading all around them grace and charity.

De Spiritu Sancto, ix, 23.

The manifestation of the Divine which showed itself in every movement, and even in the repose of the Man-God, can also be perceived in certain souls gifted with an intense interior life. The amazing conversions which some saints were able to effect merely by the fame of their virtues, and the groups of aspirants to perfection that attached themselves to them, proclaim loudly enough the secret of their silent apostolate. St. Anthony caused the deserts of Egypt to become filled with men. St. Benedict was the reason why an unnumbered army of holy monks rose up to civilize Europe. St. Bernard’s influence, throughout the Church, both upon rulers and their people, was something unparalleled. St. Vincent Ferrer was greeted, wherever he went, by the wild enthusiasm of huge crowds of people; and what is more, he converted them. There rose up such an army of valiant saints in the wake of St. Ignatius Loyola that one of them, all by himself, St. Xavier, was enough to save the souls of an incredible number of pagans. The only thing that can explain these wonders is the power of God Himself, radiated through His human instruments.

It is a terrible misfortune when there is not to be found one really interior soul among all those at the head of important Catholic projects. Then it seems as though the supernatural had undergone an eclipse, and the power of God were in chains. And the saints teach us that, when this happens, a whole nation may tall into a decline, and Providence will seem to have given evil men a free hand to do all the harm they desire.

Make no mistake, there is a sort of instinct by which souls, without clearly defining what it is they sense, are aware of this radiation of the supernatural.

What else would bring the sinner, of his own accord, to cast himself at the feet of the priest and ask pardon, recognizing God Himself in His representative? On the other hand, it was when the full conception of sanctity ceased to be the necessary ideal of a minister of a certain Christian sect, that this sect found itself, infallibly, abolishing confession.

“John, indeed, did no sign.”

Joannes quidem signum fecit nullum (Joan. 10:41).

Without working a single miracle, John the Baptist attracted great crowds. St. John Vianney had a voice so weak that it could not reach most of those in the crowd that surged around him. But if people could hardly hear him, they saw him; they saw a living monstrance of God, and the mere sight of him overwhelmed those who were there, and converted them.

A lawyer had just returned from Ars. Someone asked him what it was that had impressed him. He said: “I have seen God in a man.”

Perhaps we may be permitted to sum all this up in a rather commonplace comparison. It is a familiar experiment with electricity. Put a man on an insulating stool, and then establish contact between him and an electric machine. His body becomes charged with electricity, and as soon as anyone else touches him, he gives off a spark and shocks the one who has contacted him. It is the same with a man of prayer. Once he is detached from creatures, a continous flow is established between him and Christ, an uninterrupted current. The apostle becomes an accumulator of supernatural life, and condenses, in himself, a divine current which is diversified and adapted to the conditions and all the needs of the sphere in which he is working. “Virtue went out from Him and healed all.”

Virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes (Luc. 6:19).

His words and acts become mere emanations of this latent power: but the power itself is supremely efficient in overcoming every obstacle, obtaining conversions, and increasing fervor.

The more a man’s soul is filled with the theological virtues, the more such emanations will bring these same virtues to life in other souls.

THE INTERIOR LIFE MAKES THE APOSTLE RADIATE FAITH. Those who hear him realize that God is present within him.

He follows the example of St. Bernard, of whom it was said: “Taking with him, wherever he went, the solitude of his own heart, he was everywhere alone.”

Solitudinem cordis circumferens, ubique solus erat.

And so he keeps apart from others, and in order to do so he creates a hermitage within himself, but it is easy to see that he is not all by himself in this retreat and that he has, in his heart, a mysterious and familiar Guest, and that he goes within, at every moment, to commune with Him, and that he does not talk until he has received. His directions, His advice, His orders. We are made to feel that he is sustained and guided by Him and that the words uttered by his lips are simply a faithful echo of those of this interior Word: “as the Words of God.”

Quasi Sermones Dei (1 Ptr. 4:11).

And thus what is made manifest by his speech is not so much the logic and conviction of his arguments as the interior Word, the Verbum docens, speaking through His creature. “The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. But the Father Who abideth in me, He doth the work.”

Verba quae ego loquor vobis, a meipso non loquor. Pater autem in me manens ipse facit opera (Joan. 14:10).

The effects of such speech will be deep and enduring indeed, far deeper than the superficial admiration or passing burst of devotion that can be aroused in others by a man without the interior spirit. Such a one can move his hearer to declare that what he says is true and interesting. But that only indicates a state of mind in itself powerless to lead to supernatural faith, or to make that faith live in the soul.

Brother Gabriel, the Trappist lay brother, did much more to revive the faith of numerous visitors to his monastery merely by carrying out his duties as assistant to the guest master,

His life is published under the title: “Du Champ de Bataille à la Trappe.” Bro. Gabriel had been a captain of dragoons in the Franco-Prussian war. In 1870, at the battle of Gravelotte, he made a vow to enter the Trappists, as a lay brother. The duties of assistant to the guest master are the simple ones of washing dishes, waiting on table, making beds, and so on: but those in this position are allowed to speak with the guests.

than could have been done by a learned priest whose words might appeal more to the mind than to the heart. General Miribel frequently came to converse with the humble brother, and used to say: “I came here to revive my faith.”

Never has there been so much preaching, and arguing, or such a spate of learned works of apologetics as in our day, and yet never, at least as far as the bulk of the faithful is concerned, has the faith been so dead. Those whose job it is to teach too often seem to see nothing in the act of faith but an act of the intellect; but as a matter of fact the will also has a large part in it. They forget that belief is a supernatural gift, and that there is a deep gulf between merely seeing the motives of credibility and making a definite act of faith. This gulf can be bridged by God alone, together with the will of the one who is being instructed: but the divine light reflected by the sanctity of the instructor is of immense assistance in accomplishing this task.

HE RADIATES HOPE. It would be impossible for a man of prayer not to radiate hope. By his faith, he is unshakably fixed in the conviction that happiness is to be found in God, and in Him alone. And so, with what persuasive accents does he speak of heaven, and what power he has to console the sorrowful! The best way to get men to listen to you is to hold out to them the secret of carrying the Cross, which is the lot of every mortal, with joy. This secret lies in the Eucharist and in the hope of Heaven.

What life there is in the words of consolation uttered by a man who can say, in all truth, that his “conversation is in Heaven.”

Nostra conversatio in coelis est (Phil. 3:20).

Someone else may, perhaps, display finer phrases and more fancy rhetoric in talking about the joys of our heavenly home: all his speeches will fall flat. But the interior soul, with a few convincing words that reveal the state of mind of him who utters them, will be able to calm the grief, soothe the sorrow felt by our souls, and help us to accept the keenest suffering with resignation.

And thus the virtue of hope goes forth from this man of prayer and communicates itself irresistibly to a soul who had perhaps never felt its warmth before, and who was about to sink into the depths of despair.

HE RADIATES CHARITY. The chief ambition of a soul that aspires to sanctity is to possess charity. The interpenetration of Jesus and the soul, the state expressed in the words: “he that abideth in Me and I in him,” is the end that every man of interior life has in view.

Experienced preachers are unanimous in declaring that although the introductory sermons on death, judgment, and hell are indispensable and always salutary in a retreat or mission, the sermon on the love of Our Lord generally does more good. When it is preached by a true missionary, who is able to make his hearers share in the sentiments with which he is filled, it is a guarantee of success and leads to many conversions.

When there is question of detaching a soul from sin or of leading one from fervor to perfection, the love of Christ is always the best means of all. A Christian who has sunk deep into the mire, yet who is able to sense, in another, the presence of a burning love enkindled by invisible realities, and who, on the other hand, considers the deception and hollowness of earthly loves, begins to feel intense disgust at sin. He has understood something of God, something of Christ’s immense love for His creatures. He feels within himself the stirrings of the latent grace of his Baptism and first Communion. Christ has appeared to him, living and real, for the love of His Heart has shown itself through His minister’s countenance and voice. The sinner has caught a glimpse of another kind of love, one that is pure, ardent, and noble, and he has said to himself: “So it is possible, after all, to love, on this earth, with a love that transcends the love of creatures!”

Yet a few more intimate manifestations of the God of Love through His herald, and the soul will emerge from the mire in which it was held fast, and will no longer fear the sacrifices that must be made to acquire the love of God, which, up until that time, had been something almost unknown in its life.

Though this is not the place to develop this idea further, one may easily see what great increase of love, and therefore what progress, a true pastor will be able to effect in souls that have already emerged from sin, or have become fervent. Even those workers in Catholic Action who are not ordained priests will be able, by their ardent charity, to cause this, the highest of theological virtues, to spring to life all around them.

HE RADIATES KINDNESS. “A zeal that is not charitable,” says St. Francis de Sales, “comes from a charity that is not genuine.”

Un zèle qui n’est pas charitable vient d’une charité qui n’est pas véritable.

When a soul tastes, in prayer, the delights of One whom the Church calls an “ocean of kindness,” bonitatis oceanus, it will soon undergo a great transformation. Even if a man is naturally disposed to egotism and unkindness, all these defects will vanish little by little. If he nourishes his soul upon Him in whom appeared the “goodness and kindness of God our Savior,”

Benignitas et humanitas apparuit Salvatoris nostri Dei (Titus 3:4).

to the world, upon Him who is the Image and adequate expression of the divine Goodness (imago bonitatisillius),

Sap. 7:26.

the apostle will share in the bounty of God and will feel the need to be, like God, “diffusivus,” spreading kindness.

The more a soul is united to Christ, the more it shares in the dominant quality of the Divine and Human Heart of the Redeemer—His kindness. In such a soul forbearance, benevolence, compassion are all multiplied beyond belief and his generosity and self-sacrifice may be carried to the limits of joyful and magnanimous immolation.

Transfigured by divine love, the apostle will have no trouble in winning the sympathy of souls. “In the goodness and readiness of his soul he was pleasing.”

In bonitate et alacritate animae suae placuit (Eccl. 45:29).

His words and acts will be full of kindness, a kindness that is completely disinterested and has nothing in common with that which is inspired by a desire for popularity or by subtle egoism.

“God,” wrote Lacordaire, “has willed that no good should be done to man except by loving him, and that insensibility should be forever incapable either of giving him light, or inspiring him to virtue.” And the fact is that men take glory in resisting those who try to impose anything on them by force; they make it a point of honor to raise countless objections against the wisdom that aims at arguing everybody, all the time, around to its own point of view. But because there is no humiliation involved in allowing oneself to be disarmed by kindness, men are quite willing to yield to the attraction of its advances.

The Little Sister of the Poor, the Little Sister of the Assumption, the Sister of Charity would be able to tell us of a host of conversions brought about without any arguing, merely by the power of a tireless and often heroic kindness.

The unbeliever, in the presence of such self-sacrifice, exclaims: “God is there. I can see Him, and see that He is what He is called: ‘the good God.’ He would have to be good, if living with Him were to be enough to make so frail a creature as man trample his own self-love under his feet and silence his most legitimate repugnances.”

These angels of this earth fulfill the definition of Fr. Faber: “Kindness is the overflow of self on others. To be kind is to put others in one’s place. Kindness has convinced more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning, and these three things have never converted anybody without kindness having something to do with it. In a word, kindness makes us as gods towards one another. It is the manifestation of this feeling in apostolic men which draws sinners to them and brings them thus to their conversion.”

Spiritual Conferences.

And he adds: “Everywhere kindness shows itself the best pioneer of the Precious Blood. . . . Without doubt the fear of the Lord is frequently the beginning of that wisdom which we call conversion: but we must frighten men kindly, for otherwise fear will only make infidels.”

“Have the heart of a mother,” says St. Vincent Ferrer, “whether you have to encourage souls or scare them, show to them a heart full of tender charity, and let the sinner feel that your language is inspired by it. If you want to be useful to souls, begin by appealing to God with all your heart, asking Him to fill you with charity which is the compendium of all the virtues, in order that by its means you may efficaciously attain the end you have in view.”

Traité dc la Vie Spirituelle, p. II, Ch. 10.

It is as far a call from natural kindness, which is nothing but the result of our temperament, to supernatural kindness, in the soul of an apostle, as it is from man to God. The former may arouse a certain respect, even sympathy for the minister of Christ, and sometimes it can even divert an affection that belongs to God alone and direct it to His creature. But it will never induce any soul to stir itself up, with a pure intention of pleasing God, to make the sacrifice that is necessary if it is to return to its Creator. Only the kindness that flows from a close friendship with Christ can achieve this result.

An ardent love of Christ and a true flair for saving souls will give an apostle all the daring compatible with tact and prudence. Here is a story that was told us directly by an eminent layman. On the occasion of a conversation with Pius X he chanced to let fall a few biting words against an enemy of the Church. “My son,” said the Pope, “I do not approve of the way you talk. For your penance, listen to this story. A priest I used to know very well had just arrived in his first parish. He thought it his duty to visit every family, including Jews, Protestants, and even Freemasons. Then he announced from the pulpit that he would repeat the visits every year. His confreres got very excited at this, and complained to the Bishop, and the Bishop, in turn, sent for the culprit and reprimanded him severely. ‘My Lord,’ answered the priest modestly, ‘Jesus orders his pastors, in the Gospel, to bring all His sheep into the fold, oportet illas adducere. How are we going to do that without going out after them? Besides, I never compromise on principles, and I confine myself to expressing my interest and my charity towards all the souls entrusted to me by God, even the ones that have gone furthest astray. I have announced from the pulpit that I would make these visits; if you formally desire me to give them up, please be good enough to give me this prohibition in writing, so that everybody may know that I am simply obeying your orders.’ Moved by the justice of this appeal, the Bishop did not insist. And in any case, the future proved that the priest was right, because he had the happiness to convert a few of these strays, and inspired all the others with a great respect for our holy religion. This humble parish priest, by the will of God, eventually became the Pope who is now giving you this lesson in charity, my son! Therefore, cling firmly to principles through thick and thin, but let your charity go out to all men, even the worst enemies of the Church.”

HE RADIATES HUMILITY. It is easy to understand how the goodness and kindness of Christ attracted people to Him in crowds. Nor is there any doubt that they were just as powerfully drawn to Him by His humility.

“Without Me, you can do nothing.”

Sine me nihil potestis facere (Joan. 15:5).

The apostle, raised up by his Creator to the exalted position of collaborator, is destined to become an instrument in the performance of supernatural works, but only on the condition that Christ alone be seen as the One who does these works. The better the apostle knows how to keep out of the picture, and remain impersonal, the more surely will Christ show Himself. But without this impersonal quality, which is the fruit of the interior life, the apostle will plant and water his garden in vain, nothing will grow.

True humility has a special charm that comes directly from Christ. It has something of the divine in it. In proportion to the apostle’s zeal to efface himself and let Christ alone be seen as performing the work (“He must increase, but I must decrease”

Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui (Joan. 3:30).

), Our Lord will give him a greater and greater power over the hearts of men.

That is how humility becomes one of the chief means of converting souls. “Believe me,” St. Vincent de Paul said to his priests, “we will never be any use in doing God’s work until we become thoroughly convinced that, of ourselves, we are better fitted to ruin everything than to make a success of it.”

The reader may perhaps be surprised to see us returning so often to the same ideas. But it seems to us that the only way to drive them home and firmly establish their importance in your minds is to keep on repeating them.

Is it not true that failure very often comes, largely, from a high-handed way of doing things, and airs of superiority?

The so-called “modern” Christian wants to preserve his independence. He will consent to obey God, all right: but God alone. And therefore he is only going to take orders, or direction, or even advice, from a minister of God when he is quite sure that the orders do come from God.

Consequently, the apostle has got to cultivate humility (and only the interior life will show him how) to the point of effacing himself and disappearing from view until those who look at him see right through him to God, so to speak. And thus he will carry out the Master’s words: “He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. Be you not called Rabbi . . . neither be you called masters.”

Qui major est vestrum erit minister vester. Vos autem nolite vocari Rabbi . . . nec vocemini magistri (Matt. 23:8, 11).

The mere outward appearance of a man of prayer can teach men the science of living, that is, the science of prayer.

St. Augustine.

Why? Because his humility breathes the sweet fragrance of dependence on God. This dependence, which is the unvarying disposition of such a soul, manifests itself by a habit of recourse to God under every possible circumstance, either in order to come to some decision, or to seek consolation in all troubles, or else to obtain the strength to overcome them.

In the Common of Confessors not Pontiffs, in the Breviary, the priest reads St. Bede’s wonderful comment upon the words of the Gospel, “Fear not, little flock.”

Luke 12:32.

“The Savior,” he says, “calls the flock of the elect little either by comparison with the multitude of the reprobate, or, better still, because of their great zeal for humility, for no matter how great and extensive His Church may have become, He wills that she should ever grow in humility right up to the end of the world, and thus arrive at the Kingdom promised to the humble.”

Comm. Conf. non Pont., Alterae lectiones, III Noct. (From St. Bede’s Homilies on St. Luke’s Gospel, Bk. iv, Ch. 54).

This text draws its inspiration from the powerful lessons of Our Lord to His Apostles when, for instance, they wanted to turn their apostolic vocations to their own personal profit, and showed themselves so full of ambition and jealousy in their expressions of that desire! “You know,” He said, “that the princes of the gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your master, and he that will be the first among you, shall be your servant.”

Matt. 20:25–27.

“But,” asks Bourdaloue, “would not that take away the power of authority? There will always be enough authority among you, if there is enough humility, and if humility is lost, authority will become an intolerable burden.”

If the apostle has not humility, he will go to one of two extremes. It will be either a matter of careless and excessive familiarity, with all its free-and-easy licenses, or else of domineering over everybody else. The latter case is the more likely.

Leaving questions of doctrine to one side, let us suppose that the apostle has enough sense to protect his mind from an unlimited tolerance on one hand and, on the other, from a harsh and bitter zeal of which the excesses would be very displeasing to God. Let us credit him with good, sane principles and correct knowledge. When all this has been granted, we still affirm that without humility, the apostle will not be able to hold a middle course between the two extremes, and that his behavior will either betray weakness or, more likely, overweening pride.

On the one hand, he will yield to a false humility and become timid, allowing the spirit of charity to degenerate into weakness. He will be ready to make any exaggerated concession, to seek conciliation at any price, and a thousand pretexts will serve to overcome his zeal for maintaining his principles. He will be prepared to sacrifice them for any motive of human prudence, or any immediate material gain, without a thought for the ultimate consequences.

Or else, on the other hand, his purely natural way of doing things, and the misdirection of his will, will bring into play his pride, his touchiness, his Ego. There will follow any number of personal dislikes, attempts to lay down the law, bitterness, spite, rivalries, antipathies, jealousies, a purely human desire to get ahead of everybody else, calumnies, backbiting, sarcastic talk, a worldly spirit of partisanship, great harshness in defending his principles, and so on.

The glory of God, instead of remaining the true end in the pursuit of which our passions can be sublimated, will be reduced, by such an apostle as we are describing, to the level of a pretext and a means of supporting and encouraging and excusing his passions in all that is weakest and most human about them. The slightest attack upon the glory of God, or upon the Church, will be the signal for an outburst of anger in which the psychologist will be able to see that the apostle is rushing to the defense of his own personality or of the privileges of his religious caste in society, insofar as it is a human group, and not showing devotion to God’s cause, which is the sole reason for the existence of the Church insofar as it is a perfect Society instituted by Our Lord.

Correct doctrine and good judgment will not be enough to preserve him from these aberrations, because the apostle without interior life, and, therefore without humility, will be at the mercy of his passions. Humility alone, by keeping him to the path of right judgment and preventing him from acting on impulse, will maintain a more perfect balance and stability in his life. It will unite him to God, and so make him participate, in a sense, in the changelessness of God. In the same way, the frail strands of ivy become strong and stable with all the unshakable strength of the oak when, with all its fibers, it clings to the sturdy trunk of this forest king.

Let us therefore not hesitate to recognize that, without humility, if we do not fall into the first error, our nature will carry us into the second; or else we will float in and out with the tide, according to circumstances or to the impulsion of our passions, now towards one extreme and again towards the other. We will bear out St. Thomas’ words that man is a changing being, constant only in his inconstancy.

The logical result of such an imperfect apostolate will be either that men despise an authority that has no strength, or mistrust, and even detest, an authority which does not give forth any reflection of God.

HE RADIATES FIRMNESS AND GENTLENESS. The saints have often been extremely outspoken against error, the contagion of loose living, and hypocrisy. Take St. Bernard, for example. This oracle of his own time was one of those saints who showed most firmness in his zeal for God. But the attentive reader of his life will be able to see to what an extent the interior life had made this man-of-God selfless. He only fell back on strong measures when he had clear evidence that all other means were useless. Often, too, he varied between gentleness and strength. After having shown his great love for souls by avenging some principle with holy indignation and stern demands for remedies, reparation, guarantees, and promises, he would at once display the tenderness of a mother in the conversion of those whom his conscience had forced him to fight. Pitiless towards the errors of Abelard, he speedily became the friend of the one whom his victory had reduced to silence.

When it was a matter of choosing means, if he saw that no principle was necessarily involved, he always stood before the hierarchy of the Church as a champion of non-violent procedure. Learning that there was a movement on foot to ruin and massacre the Jews of Germany, he left his cloister without a moment’s delay and hurried to their rescue, preaching a crusade of peace. Fr. Ratisbonne quotes a document of great significance in his Life of St. Bernard. It is a statement of the most exalted Rabbi of that land, expressing his admiration for the monk of Clairvaux, “without whom,” he says, “there would not be one of us alive in Germany.” And he urges future generations of Jews never to forget the debt of gratitude they owe to the holy abbot. On this occasion St. Bernard uttered the following words: “We are the soldiers of peace, we are the army of the peacemakers, fighting for God and peace: Deo etpaci militantibus. Persuasion, good example, loyalty to God are the only arms worthy of the children of the Gospel.”

There is no substitute for the interior life as a means of obtaining this spirit of selflessness which characterizes the zeal of every saint.

In the Chablais district of the Alps, every effort of orthodox Christianity fell through, until the appearrance of St. Francis de Sales upon the scene. On his arrival, the Protestant leaders made ready for a fight to the death. They desired nothing less than the life of the Bishop of Geneva. But he appeared among them full of gentleness and humility. He showed himself to be a man whose Ego had become so subdued and effaced that the love of God and of other men possessed him almost entirely. History teaches us the almost incredibly rapid results of his apostolate.

But even the gentle Francis de Sales knew when to be inexorably firm. He did not hesitate to call upon the power of human laws to confirm the results obtained by kind words and the example of virtue. Hence the saint advised the Duke of Savoy to take severe measures against any heretics who went back on their agreements.

All that the saints ever did was copy their Master. We see our Savior, in the Gospel, welcoming sinners with great mercy. He was the friend of Zacchaeus and the publicans, full of goodness towards the sick, the suffering, and the little ones. And yet He who was gentleness and meekness incarnate did not hesitate to take a whip to chase the money-changers out of the temple. And what severe and powerful words He uses when He speaks of Herod, or castigates the vices of the scribes and hypocrite pharisees!

But it is only in certain very rare cases, after all other means have failed us, or when it is obvious that they would be of no use, that one may, against his will, so to speak, have recourse to a seemingly more drastic procedure, out of charity and to prevent the spread of evil.

Apart from such exceptional cases, and when some principle is not actually at stake, it is meekness that must direct the conduct of the Gospel worker. “You catch more flies,” said St. Francis de Sales, “with a little honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”

Remember how Our Lord reproved His Apostles when they were hurt and ruffled in their human dignity and allowed themselves to be led by a zeal that was by no means either disinterested or pure, to seek violent means, demanding fire from heaven to consume the little Samaritan town that had refused to receive them. “You know not of what spirit you are,” He said to them.

Luc. 9:55.

One of our Bishops, who is often pointed out as an example of unshakable firmness in his defense of principles, went through his episcopal city visiting stricken families during the First World War. Making himself all things to all men, he went to say a few words of consolation to a Calvinist who was mourning a son fallen on the field of honor—words that came straight from the heart, and were full of a sincere tenderness. Touched by this act of humble charity, the Protestant afterwards declared: “Is it possible that this Bishop, a man so nobly born, should have condescended to enter my poor little home, in spite of the difference of our religion? What he has done and said goes straight to my heart.” The manufacturer in whose employment the Protestant was added, as he told us of this event, “As far as I can see, this Protestant is already halfway to conversion. And in any case the Bishop has done more, by his kindness, to promote his conversion than he would have done by any number of heated arguments.” This pastor of souls gave evidence of the meekness of Our Lord. The Protestant saw the Savior before him, in a manner of speaking, and was forced to conclude that a church with Bishops who so truly reflect him whom he admired in the Gospels must be the true Church.

The interior spirit will keep both mind and will working in the service of the Gospel. A soul that sees all things and acts always according to the Heart of Jesus will never be thrown off balance by indolence on one hand or unjustified violence on the other. Its prudence and its ardor alike come only from that adorable Heart. That is the secret of its success.

On the other hand, it is lack of interior life, and, consequently, the manifestation of human passions, that is the reason why we are so often defeated.

HE RADIATES MORTIFICATION. The spirit of mortification is another principle of fruitfulness in good works. Everything is summed up in the Cross. And as long as we have not made the mystery of the Cross sink deeply into the souls of men, we have, as yet, barely touched their surface. But who will ever be able to get people to accept this mystery which so repels that horror of suffering which is so natural to mankind? Only the man who can say, with the great Apostle: “With Christ I am nailed to the Cross.”

Christo confixus sum Cruci (Gal. 2:19).

The only ones capable of such a task are those who carry in themselves Jesus crucified: “Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.”

Semper mortificationem Jesu in corpore nostro circumferentes ut vita Jesu manifestetur in corporibus nostris (2 Cor. 4:10).

To mortify oneself is to reproduce the “Christ who did not please Himself.”

Christus sibi no placuit (Rom. 15:3).

That is, to renounce ourselves under all circumstances, to get to love everything that displeases our nature and, finally, to tend to the ideal of being a victim that is immolated without ceasing every moment of the day.

Now, without the interior life, it is simply impossible to uproot all our most stubborn instincts in this way.

The Poverello of Assisi could walk in silence through the streets of the old hill-town preaching the mystery of the Cross by his mere appearance: but an apostle who knows no mortification wastes his time preaching Calvary even if he is able to borrow the finests flights of Bossuet to do so. The world is so firmly entrenched in the spirit of pleasure that ordinary arguments, and even the most brilliant analyses and intuitions will be incapable of destroying its citadel. What is needed is for some minister of God to make the Passion a vivid, living reality by his own mortification and detachment.

They are “enemies of the Cross of Christ,”

Inimicos Crucis Christi (Phil. 3:18).

St. Paul would say of those numerous Christians who only see in Christianity a form of social conformity: men for whom our religion is nothing but a habit of certain external practices, handed down by tradition and carried out from time to time with respect, of course, but without any relation to the amendment of life, the combat against the passions, or the introduction of the Gospel spirit into our practical living. The Lord might well say of such as this: the people appear to honor Me; “They honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”

Populus hic labiis me honorat, cor autem eorum longe est a me (Matt. 15:8).

“Enemies of the Cross of Christ,” those weakkneed Christians who think it is indispensable that they should surround themselves with every comfort, and give in to all the demands made by the world, to seek its inordinate pleasures, and to follow with passionate interest all its changing fashions. Such people are shocked by these words of Our Lord, which they can no longer understand; and yet it is something He said for the benefit of every man:

Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.”

Luc. 13:5.

As St. Paul says, the Cross has become to them a “stumbling block.”

Cor. 1:23.

And yet how is the apostle going to produce other Christians if he himself has no interior life?

Any true priest will naturally feel great satisfaction when he sees large crowds at his various services: and yet he will have no real enthusiasm over all this if he knows that they have all come as a matter of routine, merely out of fidelity to certain respectable family customs, to certain habits which do nothing to influence the course of their lives in general. Nor will he draw any joy from this big attendance if he finds that its only cause is the pleasure the people take in hearing good music, in seeing nice decorations, or listening to a rhetorical exercise which they have come to enjoy for its form and style alone.

One might think that this enthusiasm would be quite legitimate when there was question of many people making frequent Communions. But at this point, a memory of my trip to America

The previous translator of the Soul of the Apostolate into English, writing in English, saw fit to omit this passage from his translation, perhaps with an undue regard for the sensitiveness of American readers. But such solicitude is no compliment to us! Did the good Father think that we would listen complacently to Dom Chautard pointing out faults in his own country, and yet fall into despair if he suggested that there might be a few imperfections over here too?

comes to my mind. As I visited certain parishes, I was delighted to find out that a good number of men there were faithful to the Communion of the First Friday of the month. But a holy New York priest commented on my delight with: “homo videt in facie, Deus autem in corde”—Man sees the face, but God sees the heart! “Do not forget,” he went on, “that you are in a country where nobody is held back by human respect, and where bluff is fairly universal. Restrain your admiration until you come to a parish where a reliable observer can testify that frequent Communion is a genuine indication, if not of a complete amendment of life, at least of sincere efforts to lead a Christian life, and a loyal desire not to compromise with heavy drinking and the ruthless ambition to make a lot of money.”

Far be it from us to underrate the slightest traces of Christian life, however paltry. But the real burden of these pages is to deplore our lamentable incapacity, without interior life, to produce any effects except these trivial, though not altogether negligible, results.

All that Jesus wants is our heart. The reason why He came to reveal to men the sublime truths of faith was to conquer their hearts, possess their wills, and inspire them to follow Him in the path of renunciation.

An apostle who is accustomed to an interior life based on Our Lord’s words, “Let him deny himself,”

Abneget semetipsum (Matt. 16:24).

will be fully capable of producing in others this selfdenial, which is the foundation of all moral perfection. But one who only lags far behind Our Lord, in carrying the Cross, will be incapable of such a result: Nemo dat quod non habet.

Nobody gives what he does not possess.

Since he himself is such a coward, when it comes to imitating Christ crucified, how will he ever preach to his people the holy war against the passions—the war in which Our Lord sounded the rallying cry for us all?

Only an apostle who is disinterested, humble, and chaste can lead souls on into the battle against the ever-growing forces of greed, ambition, and impurity. Only an apostle who has learned the science of the Crucifix will be able to check that everlasting search for comfort and ease, that worship of pleasure that threatens to sweep the whole world and undermine families and whole nations to their eventual destruction.

St. Paul summed up his apostolate as “preaching Christ crucified.” Because he lived in Christ, and in Christ crucified, he was able to give souls a taste for the mystery of the Cross, and teach them to live it.

Too many apostles in our own day no longer have enough interior life to fathom this life-giving mystery, to steep themselves through and through with it, until it shines forth from everything they do. They look at religion too much from the point of view of philosophy, sociology, or even of esthetics. They see in it only those elements which appeal to the mind and excite the sensibilities and imagination. They give free scope to their inclination to regard religion as a sublime school of poetry and of incomparable art. It is quite true that religion possesses all these qualities; but to consider it only under these secondary aspects would be to subject the economy of the Gospel to a grievous distortion, making an end of something that is nothing but a means. But it is a species of sacrilege to take the Christ of Gethsemani, of the Pretorium, of Calvary, merely as a good subject for a holy picture. Ever since man sinned, penance, reparation, and spiritual war have become necessary conditions of our life. At every turn, the Cross of Christ is there to remind us of the fact. The Incarnate Word’s zeal for His Father’s glory will not be satisfied with mere admiration: He wants imitation.

Benedict XV invited all true apostles, in his Encyclical of November 1, 1914, to put their hand to the plow with greater determination than ever, in their labor of getting souls away from their love of comfort, their egotism, their flippant tastes, and their forgetfulness of eternal values. That amounted to an appeal to all ministers of our crucified God to lead an interior life.

God, who has given us so much, asks of the Christian, as soon as he has reached the age of reason, to unite something of himself to the bitter bloodshedding of Christ’s passion: to unite what we might call our soul’s blood, that is, all the sacrifices that are required in the observance of the law of God. How will the faithful be inspired to generosity in sacrificing wealth, pleasure, and honor? Only by the example of a director of souls who has made himself familiar with the spirit of sacrifice.

When we see the repeated victories of our infernal foes, we may well wonder, in our anxiety, where to look for the salvation of our society. When will it be the Church’s turn to win a few battles? The answer is easy: we can say with Our Lord, “This kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.”

Hoc autem genus non ejicitur nisi per orationem et jejunium (Matt. 17:20).

It will be our turn when the ranks of the clergy and of the religious orders will have begun to produce a body of mortified men who will make the great splendor of the mystery of the Cross blaze in the eyes of all peoples: and the nations of the earth, seeing, in mortified priests and religious, how reparation is made for the sins of the world, will also understand the Redemption of the world by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Only then will the army of the devil begin to retreat, and the ages of human history will no longer echo with the terrible anguished cry of our outraged Lord—that cry that will at last have found some to make reparation: “And I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before Me in favor of the land, that I might not destroy it, and I found none.”

Et quaesivi de eis virum qui interponeret sepem et staret oppositus contra me pro terra, ne dissiparem eam, et non inveni (Ezech. 22:30).

Someone has tried to find out why a single Sign of the Cross from Fr. de Ravignan was enough to electrify indifferent Catholics and even unbelievers who had come to hear him out of mere curiosity. The conclusion to which he was led after questioning many of those who had heard the holy Jesuit, was that it was the preacher’s austerity of life which was given a most striking manifestation by this Sign of the Cross, uniting him with the mystery of Calvary.

What we are talking about is, of course, that eloquence which is effective enough as a vehicle of grace to bring about the conversion of souls and lead them to virtue. We have already treated of it in an incidental fashion. We will only add a few words to these considerations here.

In the Office of St. John we read this responsory: “reclining on the breast of the Lord, he drank in from the sacred fountain itself, of the Heart of the Lord, the fluency of his Gospel, and he spread the grace of the word of God over the whole world.”

Supra pectus Domini recumbens, Evangelii fluenta de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris Fonte potavit et verbi Dei gratiam in toto terrarum orbe diffudit (Monastic Breviary, R. xi, Third Nocturn). The Roman Breviary, R. viii, Third Noct. of Matins has part of this quotation: sc., Fluenta Evangelii de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris fonte potavit, but that is all.

What a profound lesson is to be found in these few words for all those whose duty it is as preachers, writers, or catechists to spread abroad the word of God! In these powerful words, the Church reveals to the priests the source of all true eloquence.

All the Evangelists were equally inspired. All had their providential purpose. And yet, nevertheless, each one has an eloquence all his own. St. John, more than all the others, has the power to reach our wills by filling our hearts with the grace of God’s word, verbi Dei gratiam. His Gospel, together with the Epistles of St. Paul, is the favorite book of souls for whom life here below is meaningless without union with Jesus Christ.

Where did St. John get an eloquence of such power? In what mountain is the source of that great river whose life-giving waters spread their bounty over the whole earth? (Fluenta in toto orbe terrarum diffudit.)

The liturgical text tells us: he is one of the rivers of Paradise. Quasi unus ex Paradisi fluminibus Evangelista Joanne.

What is the use of so many high mountains and glaciers, in this earth? Some people who know nothing might perhaps come to the conclusion that it would be much more profitable if all these vast mountainous areas were nice fertile plains. But they would be forgeting that without these high peaks, all the plains and valleys would be as barren as the Sahara. For it is the mountains that give the earth its fertility, by means of the rivers for which they serve as reservoirs.

This great peak of Paradise, where springs the fount by which is fed the Gospel of St. John, is nothing else but the Heart of Jesus: Evangelii fluenta de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris fonte potavit. It was because the Evangelist, by his interior life, was able to detect the beatings of the Heart of the Man-God, and the immensity of His love for men, that his word is the vehicle of the grace of the divine Word: Verbi Dei gratiam diffudit.

In the same way it can be said that all men of prayer are in a way rivers of Paradise. Not only do they draw down from heaven, upon the earth, by their prayers and sacrifices, the living waters of grace, and deflect or mitigate the chastisements which the world deserves, but ascending even to the height of heaven, they draw from the Heart of Him in Whom the inner life of God resides, the floods of that very life, and distribute it in great abundance upon souls. “You shall draw waters out of the Savior’s fountains.”

Haurietis aquas de fontibus salvatoris (Is. 12:3).

Called to give forth the word of God, they do so with an eloquence of which they alone possess the secret. They speak to the earth of heaven. They bring light, warmth, consolation, and strength. Without all these qualities together, no eloquence is quite complete. And the preacher will only be able to combine them all if he lives in and by Jesus Christ.

Am I really one of those who depend upon their mental prayer, their visits to the Blessed Sacrament, above all upon their Mass or their Communion, to put real moving power into their preaching? If I am not, I may perhaps be a loudly “tinkling cymbal,” or even give forth the more pompous din of “sounding brass,” but I am not communicating to others any love, that love which makes the eloquence of the friends of God impossible to resist.

A preacher endowed with learning but of only mediocre piety may be able to paint a picture of Christian Truth that will stir souls, bring them a little closer to God, even increase their faith. But if one is to fill souls with the life-giving savor of virtue, he must first have tasted the true spirit of the Gospel and made it enter into the substance of his own life by means of mental prayer.

Let us repeat once more that only the Holy Spirit, the Principle of all spiritual fruitfulness, can make converts and impart the graces that determine men to flee vice and follow virtue. The preaching of the apostle, when it is filled with the unction of the sanctifying Spirit, becomes a living channel which holds back nothing of the divine action. Before Pentecost the apostles had preached almost with no result at all. After their ten-day retreat, given entirely to the interior life, they were overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, and transformed by Him. Their first attempts at preaching were miraculous draughts of fishes. It will be the same with the sowers of the Gospel. Their interior life will make them true Christ-bearers. They will plant and water their seedlings with great success and the Spirit of God will always give them increase. Their word will at the same time be the seed that is sown and the rain that waters. There will be no lack of the ripening sun, giver of growth.

“It is vain merely to give light,” says St. Bernard, “and it is but little merely to burn; but to burn and give light together is perfection.” Further on he adds: “It is in a particular manner to apostle and apostolic men that are addressed these words: Let your light shine before men. For such as these ought to be ardent, yea, very ardent.”

The Saint is commenting on the text. “He was a burning and a shining light,” applied to St. John Baptist in a Sermon for the feast of the Great Precursor—a model for all apostles. “Est tantum lucere vanum tantum ardere parum, ardere et lucere perfectum.—Singulariter apostolis et apostolicis viris dicitur: Luceat lux vestra coram hominibus, nimirum tamquam accensis, et vehementer accensis.”

This eloquence in preaching is to be drawn, by the apostle, not only from a life of union with Jesus by prayer and custody of the heart but also from the Sacred Scriptures, which he will study with great zeal, and in which he will take a genuine delight. God’s every word to men, every word fallen from the lips of Jesus, will be treasured by him as a diamond; and he will admire all its facets by the light of the gift of wisdom, which has reached a considerable per fection in him. But since he never opens the inspired book without first having lifted his mind and heart to God in prayer, he not only admires but relishes the teachings he finds in it, just as if they had been dictated by the Holy Spirit for him personally. With what unction, then, will he quote the word of God in the pulpit, and what a difference there will be between the light that he draws forth from it and the ingenious and learned applications worked out by a preacher with no other resources than reason and an abstract, half-dead faith. The former will show us truth as living, surrounding souls with a reality that desires not only to enlighten them, but to give them life. The latter is only able to talk of truth as of a sort of algebraic equation, possessing, of course, certitude, but cold and unrelated to the inmost realities of our life. He leaves it in the abstract state, a simple record, or, at best, something that may touch our hearts by virtue of the so-called esthetic aspect of Christianity. “The majesty of the Scriptures fills me with astonishment; the simplicity of the Gospels goes straight to my heart,” the sentimentalist, J. J. Rousseau, admitted. But what difference did these vague and sterile emotions make, to the glory of God?

The true apostle, on the other hand, knows how to bring out not only the truth of the Gospel but the actuality of that truth, and the fact that it is ever renewed, and (because divine) ever active in the soul that enters into contact with it. And without stopping to move the feelings, he goes on, by the word of divine life unil he reaches the will, where correspondence with the Life of all takes place. The convictions that he produces are of a kind to arouse love and determination. He alone knows how to preach the Gospel.

No interior life would be complete without devotion to Mary Immaculate, the most perfect of all channels of grace, above all of those special graces that make saints. The experienced apostle is always having recourse to Mary, a fact which St. Bernard could never conceive as being lacking in a true disciple of that incomparable Mother; and the apostle, when he sets forth the dogmas on the Mother of God, and of men, will find himself speaking with a warmth that not only interests his hearers and deeply moves them, but also excites in them a similar need to fly, in all their troubles, to this Mediatrix of all the Graces won for us by the Precious Blood. Such a one has only to let his experience and his heart do the talking, and he will win souls for the Queen of Heaven, and, through Her, cast them into the Heart of Jesus.

It might be a good idea to write this chapter in the form of a letter to the heart of each one of our confreres. Such a form would be very appropriate.

In any case, we have been looking at good works in their dependence above all on the interior life of the apostle. Prayer and reflection have led us to the analysis of the sterility of certain enterprises from another point of view, and it would seem to be quite reasonable and true to sum up our findings in this proposition:

No work takes deep root, or has real stability, or will perpetuate itself, unless the apostle has begotten the interior life in other souls. Naturally, he cannot do this unless he himself is strong in the inner life.

In the third chapter of Part II we quoted the words of Canon Timon-David concerning the importance of forming, in every work of Catholic Action, a nucleus of very fervent Christians who should in their turn carry on a regular apostolate among their companions. It is easy to see the great value of this leaven, and to what an extent these co-workers can multiply the active power of the apostle. He does not have to work alone: his resources for action are increased a hundred per cent.

Let us hasten to repeat that only a really interior man of works will have enough life to produce other centers of fruitful life. Any purely worldly and nonChristian enterprise is able to obtain eager proselytes who will spread propaganda, and make friends and influence others, in general, whether prompted by brotherly spirit or by rivalry. In such a case, fanaticism or a spirit of competition, sectarianism, or vainglory, solidarity or rivalry are all that is needed to stir them up to activity. But when it comes to creating apostles after the Heart of Christ, apostles who share His gentleness and humility, His disinterested goodness and His zeal for the glory of God His Father alone, is there any other force than can pretend to do this work than an intensive interior life?

As long as an enterprise has not been able to produce such a result as this, its survival is uncertain. It is almost a foregone conclusion that it will not outlive the one who started it. But there is no doubt whatever that the reason for the long life of certain other works is generally to be found in the single fact that interior life has begotten more interior life.

Consider this example.

Father Allemand, who died in the odor of sanctity, founded, before the Revolution, in Marseilles, a youth movement for students and workers. This movement still bears the name of its founder, and for more than a century it has continued to enjoy a remarkable success. And yet, from the natural standpoint, this priest had very few gifts. Half blind, shy, devoid of any talent as a speaker, he was, humanly speaking, incapable of the prodigious activity that his work called for.

A certain lack of proportion in his features should, ordinarily, have aroused derision in young people, but the beauty of soul that was reflected in his looks and in all his bearing prevented it. Thanks to that beauty, the man of God gained a great ascendancy over these energetic youths, by which he dominated them and gained their esteem, respect, and love. Fr. Allemand wanted to build on no foundation but the interior life, and he was strong enough to form a nucleus of young men, at the center of his movement, men of whom he did not hesitate to ask, to the extreme limit permitted by their condition, a complete inner life, uncompromising custody of the heart, morning meditation, and so on. In a word, he asked the complete Christian life, in the sense in which it was understood and practiced by the Christians of the earliest times.

And these young apostles, succeeding one another, have continued to be the true center of this movement at Marseilles; and the movement has given to the Church several Bishops, and continues to give her many secular priests, missionaries, religious, as well as thousands of family men who are at all times the chief support of the parochial works in the great Mediterranean seaport, where they form a group that not only does honor to business and industry and the professions, but constitutes a real center for the apostolate.

We have mentioned “family men.” That brings to mind the burden of the refrain that can be heard almost everywhere: “The apostolate is relatively easy in the case of young men and girls and especially married women, mothers. But when it comes to mature men, it is just about impossible. And yet so long as we have not made the fathers of families not only into Christians but also into apostles, the influence of Christian mothers, great as it is, will be obstructed or short-lived and we will never set the social kingdom of Christ on a firm basis. Now in such and such a parish, or district, or hospital, or factory, there is just no way of getting the men to become deeply Christian.”

When we thus admit helplessness, do we not display our poverty in the exterior life, which alone can teach us the means of preventing so many men from getting away from the influence of the Church? Do we not prefer the easy sermons that are so successful with youths and women to the intensive labor of preparation demanded by sermons that have power to arouse convictions and love and lasting resolutions in the minds and hearts of men? Only the interior life can sustain us in the hidden, backbreaking labor of planting the seed that seems to go so long without fruit. Only the interior life can teach us how much active power there is to be derived from the labor of prayer and penance, and how great an increase in our efficacy in preaching to men would follow from progress in the imitation of all the virtues of Jesus Christ.

So surprising were the reports we received, concerning Catholic Action among the soldiers in a city of Normandy, that we hesitated to believe such success. For instance, how was it possible that the attendance of soldiers at the club should be much greater when there was a long evening of adoration in reparation for the blasphemy and debauchery of the barracks than when a concert or show was presented? And yet we had to give in before the evidence. But our surprise vanished when we were shown to what an extent the chaplain realized the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and what apostles he had thus been able to form around him.

After that, what are we to think of those apostles for whom movies, plays, and athletics appear to constitute a fifth Gospel for the conversion of nations?

When all else is lacking, no doubt these means may obtain some result by attracting practicing Catholics, or keeping others away from occasions of sin; but how limited and short-lived such a result usually is! God preserves us from cooling the zeal of our beloved confreres who can neither imagine nor employ any other tactics, and who have already conjured up visions (as we did ourselves, in our youth and inexperience) of an empty clubhouse or parish hall, if they should happen to devote less time to putting on these modern amusements, which are, in their estimation, indispensable to success. Let us simply put them on their guard against the danger of giving these things too important a place, and wish them the grace to grasp the doctrine of Canon Timon-David, whose views we presented towards the beginning of this book.

One day—it was only two years after our ordination—this venerable priest was forced to close one of his conversations with us by saying fraternally, but not without a certain amount of pity: “You cannot bear them now.”

Non potestis portare modo (Joan. 16:12).

Wait a little, until you have made a little progress in the interior life, and you will understand better. At present, all things considered, you probably cannot do without such things. All right, then, go ahead, use them, if they are all you have. For my part I am well able to hold on to my young workers and clerks, and to get new recruits, even though in our place we don’t have anything much but a few of those old-time games that are always new and which don’t cost anything, and relax the soul because they are so completely simple. Listen,” he added slyly, “you were up in the attic and saw the band instruments that I, too, thought indispensable when I started out. Well, in a moment the band we have today will be coming this way. You will be able to judge for yourself.”

Sure enough, in a few minutes a group of youths between twelve and seventeen went marching by. There were forty or fifty of them. What an uproar! It was impossible to keep from bursting out laughing at this fantastic brigade upon which the old Canon gazed with such delight. “Look,” he said, “you see that fellow marching backwards at the head of the gang waving his stick like an orchestra leader, and, now, putting it up to his lips and playing it like a clarinet? He is a non-commissioned officer on leave, and one of our most energetic workers. He does his best to get to Communion every day, but, above all, he never misses his half-hour of mental prayer. This real saint is also a terrific joker, and he knows how to use all his talents to see that the games we use as our means don’t get dull. He has no limit to his original ideas, and so he keeps all these little fellows happy all the time. But nothing escapes his adjutant’s eyes, or his apostle’s heart.”

Really, it was extremely funny to see and hear this band of musicians “playing” all the old tunes. They would change as soon as the leader gave the signal by his example. Each member of the “band” imitated some instrument. Some had their hands in front of their mouths like a horn, others were humming into a sheet of tissue-paper, and one or two had mouthorgans. I forgot: in the front rank of the musicians there were a slide-trombonist and a big drummer.

The first had two sticks, and moved one of them back and forth while the other was beating on an old gasoline can. The shining faces of all these youngsters showed that they were really carried away by their game.

“Let’s follow the band,” said the Canon. At the end of the garden path was a statue of the Blessed Virgin. “On your knees, men,” cried the leader, “let’s sing an Ave Maris Stella to our dear Mother, and say a decade of the Rosary.” All these little fellows were quiet for a minute, and then answered the Aves just as piously and slowly as if they were in the chapel. These little southerners, most of them with their eyes down, had been real rascals a few minutes ago, and now they were transformed into angels out of a picture by Fra Angelico!

“Don’t forget,” said the guide, “that is the thermometer of the movement. All our workers aim at this one end: to hold even our most mature youths, those of twenty or more, by simple games, and to get them to like to come here for their time of prayer and recreation, to become children again, and get fun out of any little thing, but above all to get them to pray, and really pray, even in the middle of their games.” The whole group was on its feet again, and off to further musical exploits that echoed throughout the big yard. A moment later the place was in an uproar with “prisoner’s base.” Meanwhile we had noticed that the adjutant, when he got up after the Ave Maris Stella, had whispered a few words in the ear of two or three of the youngsters, who at once, gaily, and as though following a familiar practice, went to change into their street clothes and then were off to the chapel to spend a quarter of an hour with the Divine Prisoner in the Tabernacle.

“Our ambition,” continued Canon Timon-David, speaking with profound conviction, “our ambition must be to form workers in whom the love of God is so strong that after they have married and left the club they should remain apostles, eager to share their charity with the greatest possible number of souls.” And the holy priest continued: “If our apostolate were to aim only at forming good Christians, then our ideal would be feeble indeed! What we have to do is create legions of apostles so that the family, the fundamental social unit, may become in turn a center of the apostolate. Now this whole program cannot be realized unless we lead lives of sacrifice and of intimate friendship with Christ; otherwise we shall never be strong enough, nor discover the secret of success. On these conditions alone will our activity make itself felt in society, or the word of our Master be fulfilled: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?”

Ignem veni mittere in terram, et quid volo nisi ut accendatur? (Luc. 12:49).

Not until long afterward, alas, did we understand the drift of the living lessons of the Canon, who was such a profound psychologist and tactician, and compare the results of the different means employed, under the eye of God, to whom merely apparent successes mean nothing at all.

According as the means employed are simple, like the Gospel, or complicated, after the fashion of all things that have too much that is merely human in them, we can evaluate both a movement and those who are running it.

The mighty men of Israel, armed from head to foot, had fought in vain against Goliath. But young David took the field against him with a sling, a stick, and five stones from the brook. That was all the boy needed. Yet his cry: “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts”

In nomine Domini exercituum (1 Reg. 17:45).

sprang from a soul capable of attaining sanctity.

We hear a lot today about postgraduate training offered by secular groups. It will make little difference if these movements have at their disposal huge sums of money officially contributed by the state, luxurious quarters, and all that. The Church’s postgraduate training groups, for all their poverty, will have nothing to fear from their competition, if they are built on the interior life, and the charm of their ideal, which is the thing that attracts youth before everything else, will win over the pick of the younger generation.

Finally, one more example. It will help us to analyze those active workers who appear to be drawing souls to God so effectively as to make apostles of them, but who, in actual fact, are only working up a certain amount of enthusiasm based on their own natural personal appeal, and on the magnetic influence they exercise on all who come in contact with them. Their following, delighted to be on friendly terms with so attractive and holy a man, and proud to see that he takes an interest in them, form a sort of a court around him and vie with one another even in accepting the painful tasks and duties that appear to reflect true devotion; but they do so mostly to please him.

A Congregation of nuns, excellent catechists, was under the direction of a religious whose life has just been written. He was a man of prayer. One day he said to the local Superior, “Reverend Mother, I think it would be a good thing if Sister So-and-So were to give up teaching catechism for at least a year.”

“Father! What are you saying! Why, she’s the best we have! Children come from every part of town to be in her class, she has such a marvelous knack of teaching! If we take her off, it means most of these little boys will simply desert us!”

“I followed her class from the gallery,” said Father, “and it is true that she sweeps them all off their feet, but it is in all too human a way. Give her another year in the novitiate, and let her get a better foundation in the interior life; then she will sanctify both her own soul and the souls of the children by her zeal and the use of her talents. But at the present time, without being aware of it, she is standing in the way of the direct action of Our Lord upon these souls that are being prepared for First Communion. Come now, Mother, I see that my insistence in this matter makes you unhappy. Very well, I will make a bargain with you! I know a certain Sister N__, a very interior soul, but without any special talent. Ask your Superior General to send her here for a while. The other Sister can come for the first fifteen minutes and start the class off, just to calm your fears of desertion; but little by little she will drop out of the picture. Then you will see that the children will pray better, and will sing their hymns with much more devotion. Their recollection and docility will reflect a more supernatural character. That will be your barometer.”

A fortnight later the Superior was able to verify this forecast. Sister N__ was teaching all alone, and yet the number of children grew larger. It was really Christ that was teaching catechism through her. Her looks, her modesty, her gentleness, her kindness, her way of making the Sign of the Cross all spoke Our Lord. Sister X had been able to take the dryest topic, give it a clever exposition, and make it interesting. Sister N__, did more than that. Of course, she did not neglect to prepare her explanations, and to express them in all clarity; but her secret, and the thing that was paramount in her class, was unction. And it is by this unction that souls really enter into contact with Jesus.

In Sister N__’s class there were far fewer bursts of noisy enthusiasm, or looks of astonishment, far less of that fascination that could have been equally well produced by an interesting lecture by some explorer, or by the account of a battle.

On the other hand, there was an atmosphere of recollected attention. These little boys behaved in the catechism class as they would in Church. No human methods were brought into play to dispel boredom or prevent dissipation. What, then, was the mysterious influence that dominated this group? Make no mistake, it was Christ, working directly. For a soul of interior life teaching a catechism lesson is like a harp that sounds under the fingers of the Divine Musician. And no human artistry, no matter how wonderful, can be compared to the action of Jesus on the soul.

Returning once more to that striking conversation with Father Timon-David,

nd Part, Chap. iii. page 52 ff.

surely, the reader must have been struck by one of the words that fell from the lips of that experienced founder of good works. I refer to the vivid metaphor of “crutches,” with which the Canon summed up his opinion on the use of various modern amusements (like plays, bands, movies, complicated and expensive games, and so on) to attract youths to their clubs and keep them there. These attractions more often than not serve only to wear everybody out, and leave all listless and depressed, instead of resting and expanding the soul. Or else they merely cater to physical health, or flatter vanity, or overstimulate the imagination and the emotions. For the rest, the term “crutches” in no way supplies to those refreshing though extremely simple games which relax the soul and strengthen the body, and which have been found sufficient by so many generations of Christians.

Translating Dom Chautard’s ideas into English and American terms, we see that he approves and heartily recommends all those games that form a part of the social heritage, and which appeal spontaneously to all the young people in a given environment. Hence, cricket and baseball, football and soccer and basketball, all receive his approval provided they are kept on a simile and spontaneous basis, and do not demand any outlay for special equipment, and involve no fanfare. When however it is a question of athletics on the scale reached by college and even high school football in America, Dom Chautard justly points out the futility of any pretense that such things serve the interests of Christ on this earth.

If one were to make a comparison between the advice of this extremely prudent Canon with that of other able leaders of Catholic Action, without quite seeing his correct meaning, one might well wonder if he was not too sweeping in his enumeration of the cases when “crutches” can be discarded.

Leaving to one side works that are founded chiefly for the relief of bodily ills, we may divide the others into two classes: those which take only carefully selected members, and those which exclude none but the scabby sheep.

But we also assume that even in the latter case, a nucleus of “shock troops” will be formed, youths who will be able, by their fervor, to bring home to the others what the principal aim of the movement is, and to bring all the other members to lead a life that is Christian not merely on the surface, but deep down in the soul. Otherwise, what have we got? “An ordinary social club, run by a priest,” according to the ironical expression of a state-school teacher of great ability who was able to detect, behind the clerical front, just about as many weaknesses as he deplored in those establishments that were beyond the reach of the Church’s influence.

Directors who do not hesitate to reject from their movements members that are clearly incapable of being incorporated into the shock troops, will find the term “crutches” exactly expresses to what an extent they consider as secondary those means that they can well do without, or which they only tolerate with unfeigned repugnance.

And as a matter of fact, they do not easily run short of arguments in favor of their viewpoint.

As far as they are concerned, the regeneration of society, and especially of France, can come only as a result of a more intense radiation of the holiness of the Church. It is by this means, they say, rather than by lectures and apologetics that Christianity developed so rapidly in the first centuries of its history, in spite of the power of its enemies, of prejudices of all sorts, and of the general corruption.

They put an end to all argument by an answer like this: Can you quote any fact, just one fact, to show that during that time the Church needed to think up amusements to turn aside the souls she was going to conquer from the filth of pagan shows?

One of these directors of Catholic Action remarked, in allusion to the thirst for money and the infatuation for the films which keep the bulk of the population in our days in a fever of excited craving for enjoyment: “The Panem et Circenses (Bread and Circuses) of the decadent Romans might be translated into modern terms as ‘Relief and Movies.’ ” Now look at St. Augustine, or St. Ambrose, for example: what a prodigious attraction they exercised over souls! And yet do we ever see them, at any time in their lives, organizing some movement to provide amusements that would make their flock forget the pleasures held out by paganism?

And when St. Philip Neri set out to convert Rome, lukewarm with the spirit of the Renaissance, do we read that he needed any of those “crutches” that so aroused the scorn of Canon Timon-David?

It is very certain that the primitive Church, as we have already hinted, knew how to organize magnificent and numerous shock troops, in the midst of the faithful, and their virtues both struck the pagans with astonishment and excited the admiration of honest souls, even those most prejudiced against Christianity by their principles, their traditions, and their social background. Conversions were the result, even in circles to which no priest had access.

In the presence of these lessons from the past, how can we avoid asking ourselves if, in our own century, we do not have an excessive confidence not only in certain garish forms of amusement, but even in various other means (like pilgrimages, ostentatious festivals, congresses, speeches, publications, syndicates, political action, and so on), which are lavished upon us with such abundance in our day and which are doubtless very useful, but which it would be a great mistake to put in the first place. Preaching by example will always be the foremost instrument of conversions. Only exempla trahunt. Lectures, good books, Christian newspapers and magazines, and even fine sermons must gravitate around this fundamental program: that we need to influence people by an apostolate of good example, the example of fervent Christians, who make Jesus Christ live again on this earth by spreading about them the good odor of His virtues.

Priests who allow themselves to be absorbed by all the other functions of their ministry and do not give themselves, except in an insufficient manner, to the chief of them, which is the formation of perfect Christians who will do the great work of propaganda by good example, have no right to be surprised when they see that three-quarters of the male population in France (and in many other nations the proportion is still greater) remain steeped in indifference and see nothing in the Church but a worthy institution with a certain social usefulness but do not see that it is the one true source of all personal strength, and the keystone of the whole structure of families and nations, and above all the great distributor of truth and of eternal life.

“What is this religion that can give such light and strength and fire to the hearts of men?” cried the pagans when they saw the wonderful effects of the silent League of action by good example.

The strength of this League which existed among the early Christians was surely not derived solely from the practice of “Declining from evil.”

Declina a malo (Psalm 36).

Merely to shun the acts forbidden by the Decalogue would not have been enough to arouse both admiration and a strong urge to imitate such men. The principle of exempla trahunt springs rather from the second half of the Psalmist’s admonition, fac bonum (do good). What was needed, then, was the full splendor of the Evangelical virtues as they were proposed to the world in the Sermon on the Mount.

An eminent but unbelieving statesman once said to us: “If the Church could find a way to impress more deeply on the hearts of men the testament of her Founder, “Love one another,” she would become the one great power indispensable to all nations.” Might we not also apply the same thought to several other virtues?

With his deep understanding of the needs of the Church, Pius X often saw things with a most remarkable clarity. An interesting conversation of the Holy Pontiff with a group of Cardinals was reported in the French clerical publication, “L’Ami du Clerge.”

Prédication, January 20, 1921.

The Pope asked them:

“What is the thing we most need, today, to save society?”

“Build Catholic schools,” said one.

“No.”

“More churches,” said another. “Still no.”

“Speed up the recruiting of priests,” said a third. “No, no,” said the Pope, “the MOST necessary thing of all, at this time, is for every parish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute, and truly apostolic.”

After comparing certain passages from Pius X’s first Encyclical with various later statements made by him, it becomes evident that in the interview we quote here he is depending on the fervor of priests to produce the shock troops he mentions. But that it is on the latter, the select laymen, that he counts, more than on any other means, for the increase in numbers of the true faithful. Once this has been accomplished, the recruitment of priests and construction of new schools and churches will be assured.

But when quantity does not spring from quality we run a tremendous risk of producing nothing but a display of noisy empty, delusive pseudoreligion.

Further details enable us to assert that this holy Pope at the end of his life saw no hope for the salvation of the world, unless the clergy could use their zeal to form faithful Christians full of apostolic ardor, preaching by word and example, but especially by example. In the diocese where he served before being elevated to the Papacy, he attached less importance to the census of parishioners than to the list of Christians capable of radiating an apostolate. It was his opinion that shock troops could be formed in any environment. Furthermore, he graded his priests according to the results which their zeal and ability had produced in this regard.

The views of this saintly Pope give immense weight to the opinion of the directors of Catholic Action who fall into the first class mentioned above. The ones, that is, who believe that if the only true strategy for action on the bulk of the population is to form shock troops of perfect Christian laymen, it follows that to retain in the movement members who arouse no hope that they will ever become fervent is a real fault insofar as one thus exposes himself to lowering the level of the elite to such a point that it is only “select” in name, not in fact.

Other leaders, who confine themselves to discarding the positively noxious candidates, will still have much to say against the expression of “crutches” as a name for certain of their methods which appear, in their own estimation, most effective.

They come forward with the argument that unless souls will be exposed to great danger, or that if one Catholic Action provides a shelter for them, such aimed only at forming select groups, one would have to be satisfied with a microscopic recruitment, or that those who are to be evangelized live in a plagueinfested atmosphere, and so on. It would be unjust and cruel, they say, to neglect the masses and to seek only to reach them through the operations of shock troops without attempting direct action upon the mediocre souls, were it only in order to keep them from falling lower—if not to produce among them some candidates for the select corps.

We have listened with great respect to these various opinions as expressed by both men and women engaged in Catholic Action, all of them persons of incontestable zeal and good faith. We will not make any attempt to reconcile the opposing factions. Writing, as we do, with our venerated confreres in the priesthood chiefly in mind, we prefer to ask ourselves what kind of an answer would have been given by the saintly Fr. Allemand, or Fr. Timon-David if they were asked to bring these two doctrines into harmony with one another in a just mean.

These two priests had the following plan:

1. To bring to light, from among the hundreds of young Christians in their movement, a minority, even though infinitesimally small, capable of really desiring and seriously practicing the interior life.

2. Then to enkindle their souls to white heat with love for Our Lord, inspiring them with the ideal of the evangelical virtues, and isolating them as much as possible from contact with other students, clerks, or workers, etc., as long as their interior life had not reached the point where it could truly make them immune to all contagion.

3. Finally, at the right time, to give these young men a zeal for souls, in order to use them to reach their comrades more effectively.

It would take too long to say precisely what was the minimum which these two priests demanded of non-fervent candidates, to keep them for a certain length of time in the movement. Let us, rather, draw attention to the great importance they gave to spiritual direction in carrying out their plan.

Fr. Allemand

La Vie et l’Esprit do Jean-Joseph Allemand, by Fr Gaduel, Paris, Lecoffre.

undertook the individual direction of each youth, and excelled in arousing holy enthusiasm for perfection, and in convincing them that the best proof of devotion to the Sacred Heart is to imitate the virtues of our Divine Model.

As for Canon Timon-David, he was not only an excellent confessor, highly skilled in discovering and dressing wounds of the soul, but also a remarkable spiritual director. No one knew better than he did how to set hearts on fire with love of virtue, and he stirred up those who shared this work of direction with him not to be content, in their guidance of souls, with the principles of moral theology proper to the purgative life, but to make use of their directions to steer souls towards the illuminative life. His earnest desire to make his priestly collaborators true directors of souls was something hard to equal.

Both of these men considered that their short exhortations before the weekly absolution were not enough, nor were they content to stop at their talks to the youths as a group, their organization of the liturgical life, nor even their extremely interesting conferences for the select group. They considered that personal direction, for each member, once a month, was indispensable.

They were convinced that after prayer and sacrifice the most effective means of obtaining from God the grace to form these shock troops, which are to rebuild the world, is the activity of a real priest in all the branches of his ministry, but especially in spiritual direction.

Let us leave the limited area of youth movements and consider the whole field which the Church is to cultivate: works of every sort, parishes, seminaries, communities, even missions.

No man is capable of being his own guide. Everyone has weakness to overcome, attractions to keep in order, duties to fulfill, dangers to undergo, occasions of peril to be avoided, difficulties to overcome and doubts to resolve. If one needs help in all this, a fortiori he will require it in his struggle for perfection.

It would be an omission, and sometimes a grave omission, in a priest, bound by his duty as teacher and surgeon of souls, if he were to deprive them of this great supplement to confession, this indispensable source of energy for the spiritual life, which is spiritual direction.

It is too bad for those enterprises, or movements, or institutions whose confessors, always in a hurry, scarcely give their penitents anything before absolution except a pious but vague exhortation, often the same for everyone, instead of providing the specific remedy which an experienced and painstaking doctor would know how to select, according to the state of each patient. Even though he may have great faith in the efficacy of the Sacrament, is the penitent not exposed in such a case to view the confessor as a sort of “automatic dispenser,” like those slot machines on station platforms which mechanically slip you a piece of candy?

How privileged, on the other hand, are those clubs, schools, orphanages, etc., where the confessor knows the art of direction, and is convinced that he must, before everything else, make use of it if he wants to make all these souls, potentially attuned to a high ideal, throw themselves wholeheartedly into the practice of the interior life!

How many fathers and mothers have noticed that their influence on their children and their friends has greatly increased because they have found a real director!

What wealth there is to put into circulation in a child’s soul! The tree is just about to lean one way or another—and stay that way. For lack of spiritual direction to fit their age and dispositions, from childhood on, many of them become adults whom we will no longer be able to number among the fairer flowers of Christ’s garden. How many priestly and religious vocations might have blossomed forth among them!

Often a parish or a mission will go on for several generations showing the influence of some priest who was able to do something besides giving absolution. Besides Ars and Mesnil-Saint-Loup, we could cite other places which are true centers of the spiritual life in the midst of a general tepidity because they once had the happiness to possess a zealous, prudent and experienced director.

Some years ago when I was in Japan I was astonished and deeply moved when I had the happiness to come in contact with some members of the numerous Christian families which were discovered years ago near Nagasaki. I have never heard anything so amazing! Surrounded by pagans, forced to conceal their religion, deprived of priests for three centuries, these Christians of staunch courage received from their parents not only faith but fervor. Where are we to find the moving power strong enough to explain the strength and duration of this extraordinary heritage? The answer is easy. Their ancestors had been trained by a superb director of “shock troops,” St. Francis Xavier.

How can some of our minor seminaries, having no spiritual directors, serve as nurseries for future priests? When most of their students have not been put on the path to perfection at an early age, how will they be able to avoid mediocrity later on, in the exercise of their priesthood? Indeed, they will be fortunate enough, these souls who are groping to find their way, if they are not completely derailed from their desire to become priests by their admiration for the glitter of natural talents in certain of their teachers who manifest indifference for the interior life and disdain for consistent spiritual direction.

The proof of the fact that many subjects in religious communities, contemplative as well as active, merely vegetate, for lack of spiritual direction, is to be found in the radical change we have frequently observed in tepid souls who have returned to the fervor they had at profession as soon as they finally found a conscientious director.

Some confessors seem to forget that the consecrated souls in their charge are obliged to tend to perfection and have a real need of help and encouragement to achieve that continuous progress which may be applied the words of the psalm: “In his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps . . . they shall go from virtue to virtue,”

Ascensiones in corde suo disposuit . . . ibunt de virtute in virtutem (Psalm 83).

and to become, after that, true apostles of the interior life.

How many priests, too, would be far more fervent and find all their happiness in the eucharistic and liturgical life, and in the progress of souls, if the confessor of their choice showed them a genuine friendship, tactfully drawing them, by persuasion, into monthly direction in view of obligation to strive for that perfection which is incumbent upon them even more than it is upon religious.

Have you ever noticed what a great importance the writers of the lives of saints give to the spiritual directors of those whose biographies they compose?

Do you not think that the Church would have many more saints if generous souls, especially priests and religious, received more serious direction?

If the priest had not given such intimate direction to the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and if, later on, the representatives of God had not exercised a direct influence upon this soul chosen by Our Lord, would the earth now be receiving from Heaven the showers of roses that cover it?

Father Desurmont often returns, in his writings, to the thought that for certain souls salvation is completely tied up with sanctity. All or nothing. Burning love of Christ, or adoration of the world and allegiance to the direction of Satan. Sanctity or damnation!

If this is the case, would it be rash for us to fear that many priests will receive a frightful shock at the Last Judgment when they find out that they are, to a certain extent, responsible for the mediocrity and even the loss of souls, because they neglected to study the art of spiritual direction and would not take the trouble to practice it? They may have been good administrators, wonderful preachers, full of solicitude for the sick and the poor, but they have nonetheless neglected this outstanding feature of Our Lord’s own strategy: the transformation of society by means of chosen souls. The little flock of Disciples chosen and formed by Christ Himself, and afterwards set on fire by the Holy Spirit, was enough to begin the regeneration of the world.

We compliment those ever more numerous bishops who follow Pius X in believing that a course of ascetic and even mystical theology is much more valuable, in their major seminaries, than lectures on sociology.

To emphasize the importance of direction they demand above all that their seminarians be faithful to it for the sake of their own personal progress, and that all the professors hold it in high esteem and prove that they do so by radiating the interior life.

In addition to this, they also want all their candidates for the priesthood to learn everything that has anything to do with the direction of souls, regimen animarum, an art based on well established principles and on wise counsels which have been actually lived by those who learned the art by experience. Of this art of arts is it especially true that it is not enough to know merely what to do, one must also know how to do it.

Consult the authors whom the Church considers masters of the spiritual life, and you will find that there are plenty of false ideas and prejudices about spiritual direction, and we must get rid of them.

Just let the priest allow his zeal to wander off the course, without a compass, let him hold the tiller with too weak a grip, and he will find out that some people excel in leading spiritual direction away from its true object.

It soon becomes a session of sterile gossip or he has to coddle the penitent’s feelings, or flatter his self love; or else things take a quietistic turn, and he begins minimizing personal responsibility for sin. Then it is a mere school of fake piety and sentimentality which encourages the growth of sensible emotions, or of a sham religion made up of purely external devotions. Perhaps it becomes a sort of attorney’s office where the penitent comes, out of habit, to get advice about all the trifling incidents of his life, his temporal affairs and all the little material problems of the home. How many other wrong roads there are, for the director and those he directs to go astray!

Furthermore, the priest must take care that the character of his spiritual direction does not get warped. Everything ought to converge upon the object stated in this definition: Spiritual direction consists in the sum total of methodical and continuous advice given by a person having grace of state, knowledge, and experience (especially a priest) to an upright and generous soul, in order to help that soul advance towards solid piety and even towards perfection.

It is above all a training of the will, that queen of faculties, which St. Thomas calls vis unitiva and the only one, in the last analysis, in which we will achieve union with Our Lord and the imitation of His virtues.

A director worthy of the name will find out not only the inner cause of the faults a soul may have, but also its various attractions. He will analyze the difficulties and repugnances it meets with in the spiritual combat. He will show it the beauty of an ideal, and will try out, and select, and control ways of living that ideal; he will point out the pitfalls and illusions; he will give the torpid a good shaking, will encourage and reprimand and console as required, but only to freshen up the will and steel it against discouragement and despair.

Generally, direction is inseparable from confession as long as the soul clinging to attachment to sin, remains mostly in the purgative life. When the soul has seriously begun to advance towards fervor, it becomes easier to give direction distinct from confession. Certain priests, in order to make sure that the two will not be confused will only give direction after the absolution, and ordinarily grant it only once a month to those who confess once a week.

It is not part of the program of this volume to develop the method of giving direction. However, since we are convinced that many priests ought to take this spiritual art more seriously, we admit that it would give us great pleasure to attempt to offer certain of our confreres, who balk at the study of ponderous tomes, a short and practical synthesis of the best that has been said on the subject.

Bibliography on Spiritual Direction.

Special works:

English Readers will find the following easily accessible: The Spiritual Life, A. Tanquerey, Society of St. John the Evangelist; Growth in Holiness, Fr. Faber (Ch. xviii); The Graces of Prayer, Poulain, Kegan Paul, London; Spiritual Director and Physician, V. Raymond, O.P.; Catholic Encyclopedia, Art. “Direction”; The Degrees of the Spiritual Life, Abbe Saudreau, London, Burns Oates; Christian Perfection and Contemplation, Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Among other authors who have treated of Spiritual Direction: Cassian, Conferences, C, II, 1–13; St. Gregory the Great; St. Bernard; St. Bonaventure; St. Vincent Ferrer; St. John Climacus, Ladder of Paradise, 4th Deg., 5–12; St. Theresa of Avila, especially in her Autobiography; St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel.

La Direction Spirituelle, Ven. Libermann, Oeuvre de Saint Paul, Paris; L’Esprit d’un Directeur des âmes, M. Olier, Poussielgue, Paris; La Charité Sacerdotale, P. Desurmount, Paris, Sainte-Famille; The various works of Fr. Timon-David, see page 55; La pratique progressive de la confession et de la direction, Fr. Saudreau, and other works on moral and religious formation, Paris, Lib., Saint Paul; Direction des Enfants, Simon, Paris, Téqui: Pratique de l’Education, Monfat, Paris, Téqui; L’Educateur Apôtre Guibert, Gigord, Paris.

Also: L’Ascétisme Chrétien, Ribet. Paris, Poussielgue; works of Fr. Meynard, O.P., and of Mgr. Gay; L’Ideal de l’âme fervente, La Voie qui mène a Dieu. Manuel de Spiritualité, by Saudreau; Principes de la Vie Spirituelle, Fr. Schryvers, C.SS.R., Brussels, De Vit; St. François de Sales Directeur d’âmes, F. Vincent; Direction de Conscience, Agnel et Espiney; Lacordaire apôtre et directeur de jeunes gens, H. Noble, O.P.; Traité de l’obéissance, Tronson, Pt. II., Praxis Theol. Mysticae. Lib. viii, c.1., Godinez; Instit. Theol. Myst., Pt. II, c.i., Nos. 327–353, Schram; also the works of Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., incl. Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure.

In short, a serious study of Fr. Desurmont’s Charité Sacerdotale, of Lagrange’s Christian Perfection and Contemplation, or Sandreau’s Degree of the Spiritual Life, will . . . [sentence is incomplete in the orginal].

This compendium will not only facilitate the diagnosis and classification of souls but will also give precise information on the methods suggested to help souls in every state to launch out into the deep, and strive after serious progress.

Every soul is a world by itself. It has its own shades of difference. Still, as an ordinary rule, we may classify Christians in various groups. We have thought fit to attempt such a classification here below, testing souls on one hand by sin and imperfection, and on the other by their degree of prayer. Let us hope that this classification may lead some of our respected confreres to think over the necessity of studying these things, in order to learn the practical rules for directing each soul according to its state.

In the first two categories, the priest may not be able to work directly upon the souls in question but if he is a good director he will be able to give much more effective guidance to those relatives and friends who have set their hearts on winning back these dear ones, even though they may be hardened in sin, before they are entirely rejected by God.

1. Hardened in Sin

Mortal sin. Stubborn persistence in sin, either out of ignorance or because of a maliciously warped conscience.

Prayer. Deliberate refusal to have any recourse to God.

2. Surface Christianity

Mortal sin. Considered as a trifling evil, easily forgiven. The soul easily gives way and commits mortal sin at every possible occasion or temptation.—Confession almost without contrition.

Prayer. Mechanical; either inattentive, or always dictated by temporal interest. Such souls enter into themselves very rarely and superficially.

3. Mediocre Piety

Mortal sin. Weak resistance. Hardly ever avoids occasions but seriously regrets having sinned, and makes good confessions.

Venial sin. Complete acceptance of this sin, which is considered as insignificant. Hence, tepidity of the will. Does nothing whatever to prevent venial sin, or to extirpate it, or to find it out when it is concealed.

Prayer. From time to time, prays well. Momentary fits of fervor.

4. Intermittent Piety

Mortal sin. Loyal resistance. Habitually avoids occasion. Deep regrets. Does penance to make reparation.

Venial sin. Sometimes deliberate. Puts up a weak fight. Sorrow only superficial. Makes a particular examination of conscience, but without any method or coherence.

Prayer. Not firmly resolved to remain faithful to meditation. Gives it up as soon as dryness is felt, or as soon as there is business to attend to.

5. Sustained Piety

Mortal sin. Never. At most very rare, when taken suddenly and violently by surprise. And then, often it is to be doubted if the sin is mortal. It is followed by ardent compunction and penance.

Venial sin. Vigilant in avoiding and fighting it. Rarely deliberate. Keen sorrow, but does little by way of reparation. Consistent particular examen, but aiming only at avoidance of venial sin.

Imperfections. The soul either avoids uncovering them, so as not to have to fight them, or else easily excuses them. Approves the thought of renouncing them, and would like to do so, but makes little effort in that direction.

Prayer. Always faithful to prayer, no matter what happens. Often affective. Alternating consolations and dryness, the latter endured with considerable hardship.

6. Fervor

Venial sin. Never deliberate. By surprise, sometimes, or with imperfect advertence. Keenly regretted, and serious reparation made.

Imperfections. Wants nothing to do with them. Watches over them, fights them with courage, in order to be more pleasing to God. Sometimes accepted, however, but regretted at once. Frequent acts of renunciation. Particular examen aims at perfection in a given virtue.

Prayer. Mental prayer gladly prolonged. Prayer on the affective side, or even prayer of simplicity. Alternation between powerful consolations and fierce trials.

7. Relative Perfection

Imperfections. Guards against them energetically and with much love. They only happen with halfadvertence.

Prayer. Habitual life of prayer, even when occupied in external works. Thirst for self-renunciation, annihilation, detachment, and divine love. Hunger for the Eucharist and for Heaven. Graces of infused prayer, of different degree. Often passive purification.

8. Heroic Perfection

Imperfections. Nothing but the first impulse.

Prayer. Supernatural graces of contemplation, sometimes accompanied by extraordinary phenomena. Pronounced passive purifications. Contempt of self to the point of complete self-forgetfulness. Prefers suffering to joys.

9. Complete Sanctity

Imperfections. Hardly apparent.

Prayer. Usually, transforming union. Spiritual marriage. Purifications by love. Ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations.

Few and far between are the souls that belong to the last two, even to the last three categories. Nor is it hard to understand that a priest will wait until he actually comes across such a penitent before making a study of what the best authors have to say, in order that his direction may then be prudent and safe.

But is there any excuse for a confessor who should prove too lazy to learn and to apply what is proper to the four classes of mediocre piety, intermittent piety, sustained piety, and fervor, and for that cause allow souls to moulder in their ghastly tepidity or to come to a standstill far below the degree of the interior life destined for them by God?

As for the points to be taken up in the direction of beginners in piety, one might reduce them, as a general rule, to the four following:

1. PEACE. Find out if the soul has genuine peace, not simply the peace which the world gives, or the peace that results from absence of struggle. If it has none, try to give the soul a relative peace, in spite of all its difficulties. This is the foundation of all direction. Calmness, recollection, and confidence also come in here.

2. A HIGH IDEAL. As soon as you have collected enough material to classify the soul and to recognize its weak points, as well as its strength of character and temperament and its degree of striving for perfection, find out the best means of reviving its desire to live more seriously for Jesus Christ and of breaking down the obstacles which hinder the development of grace in it. In a word, what we want here is to get the soul to aim higher and higher all the time: always excelsior.

3. PRAYER. Find out how the soul prays, and in particular, analyze its degree of fidelity to mental prayer, its method of mental prayer, the obstacles met with, and the profit drawn from it. What value does it get out of the Sacraments, the liturgical life, particular devotions, ejaculatory prayers, and the practice of the presence of God?

4. SELF-DENIAL. Find out on what point, and especially how the particular examen is made, and in what manner self-denial is practiced, whether through hatred of sin or love of God. How well is custody of the heart kept: in other words, what amount of vigilance is there in the spiritual combat, and in preserving the spirit of prayer throughout the day?

All the essentials of direction come down to these four points. Take all four, if you will, as the basis for a monthly examination, or confine yourself to one at a time if you do not wish to take too long.

In this way the priest will paralyze the deathgerms in the soul and revive the elements of life, and in his zeal he will come to have a passion for the exercise of this supreme art, and the Holy Ghost, whose faithful minister he is, will not be sparing in dispensing those unutterable consolations which make up, here below, one of the great joys of the priesthood. He will pour them out upon him in proportion to his devotion in applying to souls the principles he has studied. Did anyone ever taste the joys of the apostolate more than St. Paul? Yet, on the other hand, what a burning fire had to consume him to make him write: “For three years I ceased not with tears to admonish every one of you night and day.”

Per triennium nocte et die non cessavi cum lacrymis monens unumquemque vestrum (Acts 20:31).

Once I heard a prelate address the following admiring and grateful words to a doctor who had fought hard to pull him through the crisis of a mortal illness, and who was now rapidly restoring strength to his body:

“My dear doctor, I know that your son is going to be a priest. If he and his confreres, when the time comes for them to take care of souls, model themselves upon your devotion and professional conscientiousness in diagnosing sicknesses and in prescribing remedies and a diet to bring the sick man back to vigorous health, then neither Jews nor Freemasons nor Protestants will be able to prevent the triumph of the faith among us.”

Apply your knowledge: be devoted to duty, and you will receive the blessing of God. Of this there can be no doubt.

And yet, take these two factors, and see what superhuman power they acquire when the priest who uses them is one of those to whom the priesthood is incomprehensible unless it means progress towards sanctity.

What holy revolution would sweep the world if in every parish, in every mission, for every community, and at the head of every Catholic group there was a real director of souls! Then, indeed, even in institutions where mediocre subjects have to be retained (such as orphanages, asylums, and homes) you would always find the whole program of activities based on this principle of the formation of a select group, isolated as far as possible from the ordinary run of the members, until such time as they can be trained to exercise a discreet but fervent apostolate upon the rest!

Anyone who wants to compare various Catholic enterprises in terms of the results that Christ expects from them, will be forced to come to the conclusion that wherever there is a center of genuine spiritual direction, there is no need of those wonderful “crutches” for rapid and easy progress to be made. Yet at the same time, you can take all the most fashionable “crutches” at once, and use them all in the same enterprise at the same time, and you will never be able to do anything but thinly disguise the lack of direction, without ever diminishing the crying need for it.

The more zealous priests become in perfecting themselves in the art of spiritual direction, and in devoting themselves to it, the more will they realize how unnecessary are certain exterior means which might, it is true, have some use to begin with, in establishing contact with the faithful, and drawing them in, grouping them, arousing their interest, holding on to them, and keeping them under the influence of the Church. But the Church, faithful to her true end, will never be fully satisfied until souls are intimately incorporated into Jesus Christ.

The aim of the Incarnation, and, therefore, the aim of every apostolate, is to raise humanity to a divine level. “Christ became man that man might become God.”

Christus incarnatus est ut homo fieret deus (St. Augustine).

“The only-begotten Son of God, desiring us to be sharers of His Divinity, assumed our nature, in order that having become man, He might make men gods.”

Unigenitus Dei Filius suae divinitatis volens nos esse participes, naturam nostram assumpsit, ut homines deos faceret, factus homo (St. Thomas, Office of Corpus Christi).

Now it is in the Eucharist, or, more accurately, in the Eucharistic life, that is in a substantial inner life, nourished at the divine Banquet, that the apostle assimilates the divine life. We have Our Lord’s own words. They are absolutely clear, and leave no room for equivocation: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.”

Nisi manducaveritis carnem Filii hominis et biberitis ejus sanguinem non habebitis vitam in vobis (Joan. 6:54).

The Eucharistic life is simply the life of Our Lord in us, not only by the indispensable state of grace, but also by the superabundance of His action. “I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

Veni ut vitam habeant, et abundantius habeant (Joan. 10:10).

If the apostle is going to overflow with divine life and pour it out upon the faithful, and if the richest source for divine life he can find is the Eucharist, how can we get away from the conclusion that his works will have little efficacy except through the action of the Eucharist on those who are to be, either directly or indirectly, dispensers of that life through these works.

It is impossible to meditate upon the consequences of the dogma of the Real Presence, of the Sacrifice of the Altar, and of Communion without being led to the conclusion that Our Lord wanted to institute this Sacrament in order to make it the center of all action, of all loyal idealism, of every apostolate that could be of any real use to the Church. If our whole Redemption gravitates about Calvary, all the graces of the mystery flow down upon us from the Altar. And the gospel worker who does not draw all his life from the Altar utters only a word that is dead, a word that cannot save souls, because it comes from a heart that is not sufficiently steeped in the Precious Blood.

It was not without a profound purpose that Our Lord uttered the parable of the vine and the branches, right after the Last Supper, in order to bring out with emphasis and precision how useless it would be for men to attempt any active ministry without basing it upon the interior life. “As the branch cannot bear fruit itself . . . so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Sicut palmes non potest ferre fructum a semetipso . . . sic nec vos nisi in me manseritis (Joan. 15:4).

But He goes on at once to show how powerful will be the action of an apostle who lives by the interior, Eucharistic life. “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit.”

Qui manet in me, et ego in eo, hic fert fructum multum (Joan. 15:5).

The same, but he alone. God exercises His powerful action through him, not through others. The reason is, says St. Athanasius, “we are made gods by the flesh of Christ.” When a preacher or catechist retains in himself the warm life of the Precious Blood, when his heart is consumed with the fire that consumes the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, what life his words will have: they will burn, they will be living flames! And what effects the Eucharist will have, radiating throughout a class for instance, or through a hospital ward, or in a club, and so on, when the ones God has chosen to work there have nourished their zeal in Holy Communion, and have become Christ-bearers!

Whether the fight be against the demon with all his wiles, enmeshing souls in ignorance, or against the spirit of pride and impurity, trying to make souls drunk with pride or to drown them in the mire, the Eucharist, the life of the true apostle, will have an influence beyond compare against the enemy of salvation.

Love is made perfect by the Eucharist. This living memorial of the Passion revives the divine fire in the soul of the apostle when it seems on the point of going out. It makes him relive Gethsemani, the scene in the Pretorium, Calvary, and teaches him the science of sorrow and humiliation. The apostolic worker will then be able to speak to the afflicted in a language that will make them share the consolations he has drawn from this sublime source.

He speaks the language of the virtues of which Jesus is the only exemplar, because every one of his words is like a drop of the Eucharistic Blood falling upon souls. But for this reflection of the Eucharistic life the active worker will produce no other effect, by his words, than a passing enthusiasm. It will be merely a matter of captivating the secondary faculties, and occupying the outworks of the fortress. But the stronghold itself, that is the heart, the will, will generally remain impregnable.

The efficacy of an apostolate almost invariably corresponds to the degree of Eucharistic life acquired by a soul. Indeed, the sure sign of a successful apostolate is when it makes souls thirst for frequent and fruitful participation in the divine Banquet. And this result will never be obtained except in proportion as the apostle himself really makes Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament the source and center of his life.

Like St. Thomas Aquinas, who practically entered the Tabernacle, so to speak, when he wanted to work out a problem, the apostle also will go and tell all his troubles to the Divine Guest, and his action upon souls will be simply his conversations with the Author of Life put into practice.

Our wonderful Father and Pope, Pius X, the Pope of Frequent Communion, was also the Pope of the interior life. “Re-establish all things in Christ”

Instaurare omnia in Christo (Eph. 1:10).

was the first thing he had to say, above all to active workers. It summarizes the program of an apostle who lives on the Eucharist and who sees that the Church will gain successes only in proportion as souls make progress in the Eucharistic life.

So many enterprises in our time, and yet so often fruitless: why is it that they have not put society back on its feet? Let us admit it once again: they can be counted in far greater numbers than in preceding ages, and yet they have been unable to check the frightful ravages of impiety in the field of family life. Why? Because they are not firmly enough based on the interior life, the Eucharistic life, the liturgical life, fully and properly understood. Leaders of Catholic Action, at the head of these enterprises, have been full of logic, and talent, and even of a certain piety. They have poured forth floods of light, and have managed to introduce some devotional practices: and that, of course, is already something. But because they have not gone back nearly enough to the Source of life, they have not been able to pass on to others that fervor which tempers wills to their great task. Vain have been their attempts to produce that hidden but powerful devotion to the cause, that active ferment working through whole groups of men, those centers of supernatural attraction for which there is no substitute and which, without noise, unceasingly spread the fire around about them and slowly but surely penetrate all classes of persons with whom they come into contact. These results are beyond such apostles because their life in Christ is too weak.

Infection from the ills of former ages could well enough be countered, and souls preserved in health, by a merely ordinary piety. But the virulence of the pestilence in our own times, a hundred times more deadly and so quickly caught from the fatal attractions of the world, must be fought with a much more powerful serum. And because we have had no laboratories in which to produce any effective antitoxins,

Catholic Action has either done little more than produce a certain fervor of the feelings, great spasms of enthusiasm which sputter out as quickly as they burst into flame, or else, in cases where it is effective in itself, Catholic Action has reached little more than a small minority. Our seminaries and novitiates have not turned out the armies of priests, religious, and nuns, inflamed with the wine of the Eucharist, that we might have expected from them. And therefore the fire which these chosen souls were supposed to spread among the pious lay people engaged in Catholic Action, has remained latent. No doubt some pious apostles have been given to the Church. But only very rarely has she received from us workers who possess by their Eucharistic lives that total, uncompromising holiness based on custody of the heart and on ardent, active, generous, and practical zeal, all of which goes by the name of the interior life.

Sometimes we hear a parish spoken of as good or even wonderful because, in it, the people take off their hats to the priest, speak to him with respect, and show a certain liking for him, even going so far as to do him a favor, and gladly, if need be: and yet in that parish the majority work instead of going to Sunday Mass, the Sacraments are abandoned, ignorance of religion is widespread, intemperance and blasphemy reign supreme, and morals leave everything to be desired. A heart-rending spectacle! Is that what you call an excellent parish? Can these people, whose lives are totally pagan, be called Christians?

Men of Catholic Action, we who deplore these sad results, why have we not been more frequent in our attendance at that school where the Divine Word instructs His preachers? Why have we not drawn deeper draughts from that intimacy of love which brings us close to the God of the Eucharist, the Word of life? God has not spoken by our lips. That is our fatal weakness. Let us no longer be astonished, then, if our human words have proved almost entirely sterile.

We have not appeared to souls as a reflection of Christ, and His life in the Church. Before the people could believe in us, there had to be about our brow something of the sheen of Moses’ halo when he came down from Sinai and approached the children of Israel. In the eyes of the Hebrew people, this halo bore witness to the intimacy of God’s ambassador with the One by Whom he was sent. And the success of our own mission demanded not only that we be known as men of honor and conviction, but also a ray of glory from the Eucharist, to give to the people some intimation of the living God, Whom none can resist. Orators, leaders, lecturers, catechists, and professors: we have all had nothing but a mediocre success simply because there has not been, about us, a strong enough reflection of nearness to God.

We apostles who bewail the futility of our works: did we not know all along that in the last analysis the only thing that moves men is the desire of happiness? Let us ask ourselves, then, whether anybody has seen in us the reflected light of the eternal and infinite happiness of God which we might have secured by union with Him Who, though concealed in the Tabernacle, is nevertheless the delight of the heavenly court.

Our Master, for His part, did not forget to feed His

Apostles with this indispensable food of joy. “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled,”

Haec locutus sum vobis ut gaudium meum sit in vobis et gaudium vestrum impleatur (Joan. 15:11).

He said, right after the Last Supper, to remind them to what an extent the Eucharist was going to be the source of all the great joys of this life.

We ministers of the Lord, for whom the Tabernacle has become mute and silent, the stone of consecration cold, the Host a venerable, but lifeless, memento: we have been unable to turn souls from their evil ways. How could we ever draw them out of the mire of their forbidden pleasures? And yet we have talked to them about the joys of religion and of good conscience. But because we have not known how to slake our own thirst at the living waters of the Lamb, we have mumbled and stuttered in our attempts to portray those ineffable joys, the very desire of which would have shattered the chains of the triple concupiscence much more effectively than all our thundering tirades about hell. God is, above all, Love: yet we have only been able to present to souls the picture of a stern Lawgiver, a Judge as inexorable in His judgments as He is terrible in His chastisements. Our lips have been unable to speak the language of the Heart of Him Who loves men, because our converse with Him has been as infrequent as it has been cold.

Let us not try to shift all the blame onto the profoundly demoralized state of society. After all, we have only to look, for example, at the effect on completely de-Christianized parishes of the presence of sensible, active, devoted, capable priests, but priests who were, above all, lovers of the Eucharist. In spite of all the efforts of Satan’s minions, these priests, a terror to the demons, facti diabolo terribiles

Tamquam leones igitur ignem spirantes ab illa mensa recedamus facti diabolo terribiles (St. John Chrysostom, Hom., 61 ad Pop. Ant.).

Let us therefore go down from that Table breathing fire, like lions, and terrible to the demons. (This passage of St. Chrysostom is used in Lessons ii and iii of the nocturn of the Votive Office of the Blessed Sacrament in the Cistercian Breviary).

drawing their power from the source of all power, the furnace of the Tabernacle, have found a way to temper the steel of invincible weapons which the conspiring demons have been powerless to break. But such priests are, alas, all too rare.

And yet, for such as these, mental prayer before the altar has ceased to be a fruitless and barren affair, because they have become capable of understanding these words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Prayer is the source of grace. Preaching is the channel that pours out the graces we ourselves have received from Heaven. The ministers of the word of God have been chosen by the Great King to carry to the people of the earth what they themselves have learned and gathered from His lips, especially before the Tabernacle.”

Our one great hope is the fact that the present day has seen the genesis of a brand of Catholic Action, in our own generation, which is no longer satisfied merely to get people to go to Communion for the sake of appearances, but works at the formation of real and generous communicants.








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