The Duty of the Apostolate
Presence of God – O Jesus, You who have accepted me as a member of Your Mystical Body, grant that I may not be in it as a stranger, but that I may work for the good of all my brethren.
Regardless of the degree of charity to which a soul may have attained and of its particular vocation, there is for every Christian a duty of apostolate based on the very fact of his being a Christian, that is, a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. “So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5); for as in our body each member is interested in the welfare of the other members, “and if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the others rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26), so every Christian is bound to be concerned about the welfare of others.
“If a thorn,” says St. John Chrysostom, “gets into the sole of the foot, the whole body feels it and is solicitous for it: the back bends, the hands reach down to draw it out, the head is lowered, and the eyes watch very carefully and anxiously.” As the back, the hands, the head, and the eyes do not disregard the good of the foot, nor say, ‘What is this to me?’ but each, in its own way, hastens to help the suffering member, so no Christian can be unconcerned about his brother, but is obliged, according to his ability, to work for the good of his neighbor’s soul, and this by reason of his Baptism, which constitutes him a member of the Mystical Body, making him one with the other members, so that the good of others is his good, the suffering of others is his suffering.
“The cause of all evils lies in the fact that we consider as alien the things that concern our own body [the Mystical Body of Christ]. No one is fulfilling his own duty if he ignores his neighbor’s salvation. If you dare to contend that you have nothing in common with your fellow member; if you think you have nothing in common with your brother, then neither have you Christ for your Head.” These strong words of St. John Chrysostom remind us that the apostolate is not an extra, it is not something optional, left to the free will and generosity of individuals; it is the express duty of every Christian, a duty which comes from the very nature of Christianity, a duty so binding that one cannot be a true Christian without complying with it.
“O Lord, turn Your merciful eyes upon Your people and upon Your Mystical Body, the Holy Church, since You will receive more glory from pardoning many souls than You will by pardoning only me, a wretched creature who has offended You so often. I beseech You, therefore, divine eternal Charity, to avenge Yourself on me and be merciful to Your people; I shall never depart from Your presence until I see that You have shown mercy to them. How could I be happy if I had eternal life and Your people were condemned to death?… Therefore, I wish, and as a favor I implore You, to show mercy to Your people by that same charity which moved You to create man to Your image and likeness so that He might have a share in You and in Your life.
“O Lord, I offer You my life now and forever, whenever it shall please You to take it, and I offer it for Your glory, humbly beseeching You, by the merits of Your Passion, to cleanse and purify Your Spouse, the Church, from every defect; delay no longer!… I turn my gaze in another direction and I see the lost souls of countless sinners. My heart is broken at the sight of them, or rather, it is dilated by the force of bitter regret. I am overcome with compassion, and I cannot help weeping for their misery as if I found myself—like them—soiled with the mire of their guilt.
“Lord, during Your mortal life, You bore the weight of two crosses by carrying in Your body the heavy burden of our sins. In order that I may be conformed to You, You have burdened me with the weight of two crosses: one crushes my body with infirmities and other distresses, the other transfixes my soul which grieves for the perdition and blindness of so many poor, obstinate sinners” (St. Catherine of Siena).
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Art for this post on The Duty of the Apostolate: Modified Menino tirando espinho do pé (Boy removing a thorn from his feet), Bento Barbosa, 1897, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons; Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.