The Interior Apostolate
Presence of God – I place myself before Jesus, my sweet Savior and Redeemer, asking Him to teach me how to collaborate with Him in the salvation of souls.
The apostolate, considered in its totality, consists in everything we can do in collaboration with Christ to diffuse the supernatural life in souls. The apostolate is always a collaboration with Jesus and attains its end only when it helps to bring God’s grace to souls and to develop it in them. Catholic doctrine gives us two fundamental means for our collaboration with Christ: prayer and sacrifice. Even the Encyclical Mystici Corporis speaks first of “prayer and voluntary mortification,” and only then speaks of the exterior activity of the clergy and the faithful. Our cooperation with Jesus for the salvation of souls must be deeply rooted in prayer and sacrifice, for it was mainly by prayer and sacrifice that Jesus Himself redeemed the world.
Jesus saved us not only by His exterior activity of preaching, teaching, instituting and administering the Sacraments, but also by the obedience and silence of His hidden life, by His prayer which is expressly mentioned so often in the Gospel, and above all by the Sacrifice of the Cross, in which all His work of redemption reached its culmination. St. John of the Cross says, “Just then He wrought the greatest work that He had ever wrought … which was the reconciliation and union of mankind with God through grace” (Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 7, 11). The “interior apostolate” of prayer and immolation, then, holds the first place. Upon it is founded the exterior apostolate of action which draws its strength and efficacy from the interior one.
“To be Your spouse, O my Jesus … and by my union with You to be the mother of souls, should not all this content me? Yet other vocations make themselves felt, and I would wield the sword, I would be a priest, an apostle, a martyr, a Doctor of the Church, I would fain accomplish the most heroic deeds—the spirit of the crusader burns within me, and I would gladly die on the battlefield in defense of the Church…. Like the prophets and doctors, I would be a light to souls. I would travel the world over to preach Your name, O my Beloved, and raise on heathen soil the glorious standard of the Cross…. But the greatest of all my desires is to win the martyr’s palm. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth! Yet this too is folly, since to slake my thirst for suffering, not one, but every kind of torture would be needful. O Jesus, to folly such as this, what answer will You make?… Is there on earth a soul more feeble than mine? Yet precisely because of my feebleness You have been pleased to grant my least, my most childish desires, and now You will to realize those others, more vast than the universe.
“I understand that love alone imparts life to all the members of the Church, so that should love ever fail, apostles would no longer preach the Gospel and martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I realize that love includes every vocation, that love is all things, that love is eternal, reaching down through the ages and stretching to the uttermost limits of earth!
“O Jesus, my Love, my vocation is found at last—my vocation is love! Yes, I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this place, O my God, You Yourself have given to me: in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!… Thus, I shall be all things and my dream will be fulfilled” (Thèrése of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).
O Lord, love alone will give value to my prayers, efficacy to my works. Love will make me eager to embrace all the mortifications and penances which the faithful observance of my rule continually offers and demands of me, as well as every opportunity for sacrifice which the actual circumstances of my life present. Give me this love, I beseech You, O Lord, so that in the bosom of the Church and in union with You I may exercise a fruitful, efficacious apostolate. “A very little of this pure love is more precious in the sight of God and of the soul, and of greater profit to the Church than are all other works together” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 29, 2). O my God, how I want to have this “pure love!” How I desire to strip myself generously of all selfishness and self-love; how I would like to forget myself entirely so that I may attain to possessing a love which is so efficacious for the Church and souls!
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Art: Mirror of Picture of old woman in Normandy, France, Nicholas Laurens, undated, PD-US published in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1923, Wikimedia Commons; Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.