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Thursday, 9 July 2015

Continued The Soul of The Apostolate

Elizabeth of the Trinity, like Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, will be on hold until the books I am borrowing come in the post. But, I still want to share ideas from The Soul of the Apostolate, and, as everything is connected, this is good.

“Outside of Christ,” says St. Jerome, in his turn, “I am powerlessness itself.” The Seraphic Doctor, in the fourth book of his Compendium Theologiae, enumerates the five chief characteristics which the power of Christ takes on in us. The first is that it undertakes difficult things and confronts obstacles with courage: “Have courage and let your heart be strong.” 29 The second is contempt for the things of this earth: “I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them but as dung that I may gain Christ.” 30 The third is patience under trial: “Love is strong as death.” 31 The fourth is resistance to temptation: “As a roaring lion he goeth about . . . whom resist ye, strong in faith.” s” The fifth is interior martydrom, that is, the testimony not of blood but of one’s very life, crying out to Christ: “I want to belong to Thee alone.” It consists in fighting the concupiscences, in overcoming vice and in working manfully for the acquisition of virtues: “I have fought a good fight.”  

While the exterior man counts on his own natural powers, the man of interior life, on the other hand, sees them as nothing but helps; useful helps, no doubt, but far from being everything that he needs. The sense of his weakness and his faith in the power of God give him, as they did to St. Paul, the exact limit of his strength. When he sees the obstacles that rise up one after another before him, he cries out in humble pride: “When I am weak, then am I powerful”  

“Without interior life,” says Pius X, “we will never have strength to persevere in sustaining all the difficulties inseparable from any apostolate, the coldness and lack of cooperation even on the part of virtuous men, the calumnies of our adversaries, and at times even the jealousy of friends and comrades in arms . . . Only a patient virtue, unshakably based upon the good, and at the same time smooth and tactful, is able to move these difficulties to one side and diminish their power.” “ By the life of prayer, comparable to the sap flowing from the vine into the branches, the divine power comes down upon the apostle to strengthen the understanding by giving it a firmer footing in faith. The apostle makes progress because this virtue lights his path with its clear brilliance. He goes forward with resolution because he knows where he wants to go, and how to arrive at his goal. 

The Illuminative State becomes a reality.

This enlightenment is accompanied by such great supernatural energy in the will that even a weak and vacillating character becomes capable of heroic acts. Thus it is that the principle, “abide in Me,”in union with the Immutable, with Him who is the Lion of Juda and the Bread of the strong, explains the miracle of invincible constancy and perfect firmness, which were united, in so marvelous an apostle as was St. Francis de Sales, with a humility and tact beyond compare. The mind and the will are strengthened by the interior life, because love is strengthened. Christ purifies our love and directs and increases it as we go on. He allows us to share in the movements of compassion, devotion, abnegation, and selflessness of His adorable Heart. If this love increases until it becomes a passion, then Jesus takes all the natural and supernatural powers of man, and exalts them to the limit, and uses them for Himself. Thus it is easy to judge what an increase of merit will flow from the multiplication of energies given by the interior life, when one remembers that merit depends less upon the difficulty that may be entailed by an action, than upon the intensity of charity with which it is carried out. 

It Gives Him Joy and Consolation only a burning and unchangeable love is capable of filling a whole life with sunlight, for it is love that possesses the secret of gladdening the heart even in the midst of great sorrows and crushing fatigue. The life of an apostolic worker is a tissue of sufferings and hard work. What hours of sadness, anxiety, and gloom await the apostle who has not the conviction that he is loved by Christ — no matter how buoyant his character may be — unless perhaps the demon fowlers make the mirror of human consolations and of apparent success glitter before this simple bird, to draw him into their inextricable nets. Only the man-God can draw from a soul this superhuman cry: “I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.”  In the midst of my inmost trials, the Apostle is saying, the summit of my being, like that of Jesus at Gethsemane, tastes a joy that, though it has nothing sensible about it, is so real that, in spite of the agony suffered by my interior self, 1 would not exchange it for all the joys of the world. 

When trials come, or contradiction, humiliation, suffering, the loss of possessions, even the loss of those we love, the soul will accept all these crosses in a far different manner than would have been the case at the beginning of his conversion. 

From day to day he grows in charity. His love has nothing spectacular about it, perhaps; the Master may give him the treatment accorded to strong souls and lead him through the ways of an ever more and more profound annihilation or by the path of expiation for himself and for the world. It matters little. Protected by his recollection, nourished by the Holy Eucharist, his love grows without ceasing, and the proof of this growth is to be found in the generosity with which he sacrifices and abandons himself; in the devotedness which urges him to press forward, careless of the difficulty, to find those souls upon whom he is to exercise his apostolate with such patience, prudence, tact, compassion, and ardor as can only be explained by the penetration of the life of Christ in him. Vivit vero in me Cbristus. The Sacrament of love must be the Sacrament of Joy. There is no interior soul that is not in the same time a Eucharistic soul, and consequently, one who enjoys inwardly the gift of God, delights in His presence, and tastes the sweetness of the Beloved possessed within the soul and there adored.

The life of the apostolic man is a life of prayer. And the Saint of Ars says: “The life of prayer is the one big happiness on this earth. O marvelous life! The wonder of the union of a soul with God! Eternity will not be long enough to understand this happiness …. The interior life is a bath of love, into which the soul may plunge entirely…. And there the soul is, as it were, drowned in love. . . . God holds the interior soul the way a mother holds her baby’s head in her hand, to cover him with kisses and caresses.” Further, our joy is nourished when we contribute to cause the object of our love to be served and honored. The apostle will know all these joys. Using active works to increase his love, he feels, at the same time, an increase of joy and consolation. A “hunter of souls” — venator animarum — he has the joy of contributing to the salvation of beings that would have been damned, and thus he has the joy of consoling God by giving His souls from whom He would have been separated for eternity. 

Zeal for souls is a real sign of the Illuminative State. One sees constantly with the Mind of Christ.

And finally he has the joy of knowing that he thus obtains for himself one of the firmest guarantees of progress in virtue and of eternal glory. 

Refines His Purity of Intention The man of faith judges active works by quite a different light from the man who lives in outward things. What he looks at is not so much the outward appearance of things, as their place in the divine plan and their supernatural results. And so, considering himself as a simple instrument, his soul is all the more filled with horror at any self-satisfaction in his own endowments, because he places his sole hope of success in the conviction of his own helplessness and confidence in God alone. 

Thus he is confirmed in a state of abandonment. And as he passes through his various difficulties, how different is his attitude from that of the apostle who knows nothing of intimacy with Christ! Furthermore, this abandonment does not in the least diminish his zeal for action. He acts as though success depended entirely on his own activity, but in point of fact he expects it from God alone.38 He has no trouble subordinating all his projects and hopes to the unfathomable designs of a God who often uses failure even better than success to bring about the good of souls. 

Amen to that!

Consequently this soul will remain in a state of holy indifference with respect to success or failure. He is always ready to say: “O my God, Thou dost not will that the work I have begun should be completed. It pleases Thee that I confine myself acting valiantly, yet ever peacefully, to making efforts to achieve results, but that I leave to Thee alone the task of deciding whether Thou wilt receive more glory from my success, or from the act of virtue that failure will give me the opportunity to perform. Blessed a thousand times be Thy holy and adorable Will, and may I, with the help of Thy grace, know just as well how to repel the slightest symptoms of vain complacency, if Thou shouldst bless my work, as to humble myself and adore Thee if Thy Providence sees fit to wipe out everything that my labors have produced.”

Those who love the Bride of Christ, the Church both mourn and love her.

The heart of the apostle bleeds, in very truth, when he beholds the sufferings of the Church, but his manner of suffering has nothing in common with that of the man animated by no supernatural spirit. This is easily seen when we consider the behavior and the feverish activity of the latter as soon as difficulties arise, and when we look at his fits of impatience and of dejection, his despair sometimes, his complete collapse in the presence of ruins beyond repair. 

This next section could be called a description of a saint in action and in contemplation.

The genuine apostle makes use of everything, success as well as failure, to increase his hope and expand his soul in confident abandonment to Providence. There is not the slightest detail of his apostolate that does not serve as the occasion for an act of faith. There is not a moment of his persevering toil that does not give him a chance to prove his love, for by practicing custody of the heart he manages to do everything with more and more perfect purity of heart, and by his abandonment he makes his ministry day by day more selfless. Thus, every one of his acts takes on ever more and more of the character of sanctity, and his love of souls, which at the outset was mixed with many imperfections, gets purer and purer all the time; he ends up by only seeing these souls in Christ and loving them only in Christ, and thus, through Christ, he brings them forth to God. “My children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you.” 30 f. 

It Is a Firm Defense Against Discouragement --important for our times.

Bossuet has a sentence which is beyond the comprehension of an apostle who does not realize what must be the soul of his apostolate. It runs: “When God desires a work to be wholly from His hand, he reduces all to impotence and nothingness, and then He acts.” Nothing wounds God so much as pride. And yet when we go out for success, we can get to such a point, by our lack of purity of intention, that we set ourselves up as a sort of divinity, the principle and end of our own works. This idolatry is an abomination in the sight of God. And so when He sees that the activities of the apostle lack that selflessness which His glory demands from a creature, he sometimes leaves the field clear for secondary causes to go to work, and the building soon comes crashing down. The workman faces his task with all the fire of his nature — active, intelligent, loyal. Perhaps he realizes brilliant success. He even rejoices in them. He takes complacency in them. It is his work. All his! Vent, vidi, vici. He has just about appropriated this famous saying to himself. But wait a little. Something happens, with the permission of God; a direct attack by Satan or the world is inflicted upon the work or even the person of the apostle; result, total ruin. But far more tragic is the interior upheaval in this ex-champion — the product of his sorrow and discouragement. The greater was his joy, the more profound his present state of dejection. Only Our Lord is capable of raising up this wreck. “Get up,” He says to the discouraged apostle, “and instead of acting alone, take to your work again, but with Me, in Me, and by Me.” But the miserable man no longer hears this voice. He has become so lost in externals that it would take a real miracle of grace for him to hear it — a miracle upon which his repeated infidelities give him no right to count. Only a vague conviction of the Power of God and of His Providence hovers over the desolation of this benighted failure, and it is not enough to drive away the clouds of sadness which continue to envelop him. What a different sight is the real priest, whose ideal it is to reproduce Our Lord! For him, prayer and holiness of life remain the two chief ways of acting upon the Heart of God and on the hearts of men. Yes, he has spent himself, and generously too. But the mirage of success seemed to him to be something unworthy of the undivided attention of a real apostle. Let storms come if they will, the secondary cause that produced them is of no importance. In the midst of a heap of ruins, since he has worked only with Our Lord, he hears clearly in the depths of his heart the “Fear not” — noli timere — which gave back to the disciples, in the storm, their peace and confidence. He runs to renew his love of the Blessed Sacrament, his deep, personal devotion to the Sorrows of Our Lady; and that is the first result of the trial. His soul, instead of being crushed by failure, comes out of the wine