Dear Father John, With the social media we have today (Facebook, etc.), why do I feel hesitant to share God’s messages such as scripture, prayers, testimonies, etc. due to a concern of “negative ramifications.” Although there are few times I am moved by the Spirit to share without a concern, I am mainly too shy to share; when I do share I can’t help feeling my efforts were done in vain as if expecting positive reinforcement. I tell myself it’s my own vanity, pride and concerns of what people think about me that cause this and praying to our Lord to take this away. Father, do you have any words of wisdom or insights to help me? When coming across moving information, do I share only when I am moved by the Spirit, where I have no hesitations and is rare, or do I put effort to share against my shyness? I fear not being fruitful when an opportunity arrives and I want to make the best of my one little talent.
Certainly, we are all called to be apostles of Christ’s Kingdom. As baptized Christians, we all participate in the mission to spread the faith that we have received. Before I get to the crux of your question – how to deal with your natural shyness as you try to fulfill your Christian calling – let’s pause to recall this fundamental truth of our faith.
We Are All Called to Be Apostles
Every Christian is a missionary. The Catechism (CCC) expresses this clearly and powerfully:
“The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. ‘The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.’ Indeed, we call an apostolate, ‘every activity of the Mystical Body’ that aims ‘to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth” (CCC #863).
So we are all missionaries, but we are called to sharing in this mission “in various ways.” The second Vatican Council identified three basic forms of apostolate, of sharing our faith. It discussed them in its document, Apostolicam Actuositatem (AA). I like to refer to the three forms as our Way, our Words, and our Works.
Apostolate of Our Way of Living
By the way that we live, by the way that we do the normal things of life, we can reflect God’s goodness and draw other people close to the Lord. This is the power of our example, of our simplicity, of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our souls shining out in the mundane realities of every day. Picture St. Joseph working in his carpenter’s shop; Mary interacting with the other women of Nazareth at the town well; Jesus himself spending 30 years in a normal, working class life-style. The way we do our everyday activities is meant to be a form of apostolate. Here’s how the Council explained it:
“The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to draw men to belief and to God…” (AA, paragraph 6).
Apostolate of Words
But we are also called to share our faith in God with our words. Here again are the words of the Council:
“…a true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. ‘For the charity of Christ impels us’ (2 Cor. 5:14). The words of the Apostle should echo in all hearts, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1 Cor. 9:16)” (AA 6).
This means we need to know our faith, and be willing to talk about it, to announce the Good News to other people. Here, it seems, is where you find your natural shyness causing some turbulence. We will come back to that.
Apostolate of Works
Finally, we are called to build Christ’s Kingdom through our works, through projects and activities that promote God’s plan for ourselves and the world around us. These may be projects of evangelization (teaching catechism classes at the parish, for example), projects that renew the temporal order (contributing to society’s justice and prosperity through an honorable profession or honest labor or other initiatives), or projects and activities that show forth God’s mercy (caring for the sick, for orphans, for the homeless, etc.). These are activities that all can engage in that help spread the light of Christ and roll back the powers of darkness. The Council pointed out that renewing the temporal order is a task particularly entrusted to the laity, as opposed to clergy and religious:
“The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. …the good things of life and the prosperity of the family, culture, economic matters, the arts and professions, the laws of the political community, international relations, and other matters of this kind, as well as their development and progress…” (AA 7).
So the general forms of apostolate are our way, our words, and our works.
In our next post, we will talk about discerning where and how to serve in accordance with our natural temperament.
Art for this post on faith: Die Schüchterne (The shy), Hermann Kaulbach, before 1909, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.