A Right Intention
Presence of God – O God, remove from my heart all secondary intentions and all movements of self-love so that I may seek only Your glory.
Difficulties encountered in the apostolate often arise because apostolic activity is not exercised under conditions which are required by its very nature, conditions which are indispensable if this activity is to be transformed into an intense exercise of the spiritual life. There is question here of a certain disorder, arising from the more or less natural motives which insinuate themselves into the work and cause it to descend from the supernatural to the natural level. Thus it becomes an occasion for deviation and lukewarmness in the interior life, which in turn, makes the soul feel dissatisfied and uneasy. [Venerable] Pope Pius XII, in his Motu Proprio Primo Feliciter, expressed very clearly the necessary conditions for a holy activity. He said:
“The apostolate should always be exercised in a saintly manner, with such purity of intention, such interior union with God, such generous forgetfulness and abnegation of self, and with so great a love for souls that it [the apostolate] flows from the interior spirit which informs it and at the same time nourishes and renews this same spirit.”
Examining our apostolate in the light of these words, we shall be able to detect its weak points, to discover the defects to be avoided and the remedies to be applied. There are four conditions proposed: purity of intention, union with God, self-abnegation, love for souls. They are so important that while guaranteeing a fruitful apostolate, they constitute an efficacious means of spiritual progress. Striving to realize them, we shall simultaneously raise the level of our activity and of our interior life.
Let us first consider purity of intention. If no one can “serve God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24), much less can the apostle give himself to apostolic works with the double intention of serving God and his own self-love, of pleasing God and the world, of being zealous for the interests of souls and for his own personal interests. Strength, peace, and life come from unity; dividing one’s forces especially in the realm of the spirit, can only lead to weakness, conflict, and ultimately to death. An apostle whose heart is torn between opposing intentions will look in vain for peace in his work; he will always be disturbed and dissatisfied.
“When I desire to pray or work for the good of others, I must, first of all, turn the eyes of my mind toward You, O eternal Light, and to Your splendor, so that You will give me light, strengthen my spirit, and help me to withdraw, as much as possible, from external things in order to turn wholly toward that which is interior. Grant that I may see only the interior man in my neighbor, paying attention to the exterior only insofar as it helps the interior, so that everything else will be put aside as vanity and I may not be attracted by vain things.
“O my God, grant that I may be drawn to the apostolate, to prayer, and to giving good example, not by vainglory, ambition, human complacency, or any worldly interest, but only by the desire to save souls. You alone, O my crucified Christ, do I wish to seek! I want to inebriate souls with Your Blood, and not with vain curiosities, in order that they may desire You alone. I would say to each one of them, ‘I know only Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ Hence I not only have no desire of worldly advantages or of being pleasing to men; I do not even judge myself as knowing anyone or anything but You, Christ crucified.
“O Lord, inebriate me so thoroughly with Your love that, if anything else but You presents itself to my sight or taste, to my hearing or any other sense, I shall consider it as nothing, so much so that I shall not take my delight, nor my glory, nor my rest except in Your Precious Blood, toward which I desire to be completely turned. Grant that my eyes may not be filled with the things of earth, but only with Your sufferings; grant that my mouth may not be filled with vain words, but with what concerns Your Passion, and may it be the same with all my other senses” (cf. St. Bonaventure).
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Art for this Divine Intimacy post on “A Right Intention”: Saint Bonaventure, Claude François (dit Frère Luc), 1650-1660, PD-US, author’s life plus 70 years or less; Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.