The Formation of Apostles
Presence of God – Jesus, divine Teacher, deign to accept me in Your school, so that, under Your direction, I may prepare myself for the apostolate.
No special preparation is necessary before giving oneself to the interior apostolate, for, if a soul dedicates itself to prayer and sacrifice, not only will it help others, but at the same time it will draw great profit for its own sanctification. In fact, the practice of the interior apostolate coincides perfectly with the fundamental exercises of the spiritual life. However, the same cannot be said of the external apostolate which, by its very nature, involves cares and occupations beyond those required for one’s personal progress. One who is just setting out in the spiritual life is not capable of attending to his own sanctification and the sanctification of others simultaneously; he should first have time to concentrate all his powers on his own spiritual formation. Furthermore, since the effectiveness of the apostolate corresponds to the degree of love and union with God which the apostle has attained, it is evident that a beginner will not be capable of exercising a very fruitful apostolate. Hence, if he engages in the active apostolate prematurely, he will dissipate his energy uselessly, with consequent harm to his own interior life and to the fruitfulness of his apostolate.
Jesus Himself spent thirty years in prayer and retirement although, being God, He had no need to do so. It was as if He wanted to show us that before we plunge into the work of the exterior apostolate, we must have reached a certain spiritual maturity by the exercise of the interior life. He treated the Apostles in a similar way: the three years they spent with Jesus were years of true formation for them. Our Lord instructed and admonished them, taught them how to pray and to practice virtue. Only occasionally, and then with precaution, did He entrust some mission to them, in order to give them experience. Finally, before He sent them out to conquer the world, He wished to strengthen their spirit by nourishing them with His Body, calling them to witness His Passion, and reuniting them in the Cenacle to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Thus true Catholic tradition demands that, before apostles go out into the field of battle, they must prepare themselves by the practice of an intense interior life, which will make them qualified, fruitful instruments for the good of souls.
“O Lord, my whole yearning is that, as You have so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones. Therefore I am determined to do the little that is in me: namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I can, and … to pray for those who are defenders of the Church, and for the preachers and learned men who defend her. O Lord, since I am not strong enough to defend Your Church myself, I want to strive to live in such a way that my prayers may be of avail to help these servants of Yours, who, at the cost of so much toil, have armed themselves with learning and virtue and have labored to defend your Name.
“O my God, I wish to try to live in such a way as to be worthy to obtain two things from You: first, that there may be many of these very learned and religious men who have the qualifications for their task, and that You may prepare those who are not completely prepared already; for a single one who is perfect will do more than many who are not. Secondly, that, after they have entered upon this struggle, You may have them in Your hand so that they may be delivered from all the dangers that are in the world, and, while sailing on this perilous sea, may shut their ears to the song of the sirens. If I can prevail with You, my God, in the smallest degree about this, I shall be fighting Your battle even while living a cloistered life.
“I beseech Your Majesty to hear me in this; miserable creature that I am, I shall never cease to beg You for this, since it is for Your glory and the good of Your Church, and on these my desires are set. The day that my prayers, desires, disciplines and fasts are not performed for the intentions of which I have spoken, I shall not have fulfilled the object for which You, O Lord, called me to the contemplative life” (cf. Teresa of Jesus, Way 1-3).
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Art for this post on the formation of apostles: St. Teresa of Avila, in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral of Caxias do Sul, Brazil, Pietro Stangherlin (1842-1912), photographed by Ricardo André Frantz, 2007, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.