Humility in the Apostolate
Presence of God – Impress in me such a deep sense of my poverty, O Lord, that I may look to You for everything and attribute to You, to You alone, all that is good.
Humility is the indispensable foundation of the whole spiritual life; hence it is the basic condition of every apostolate and constitutes the principal part of the program of abnegation and forgetfulness of self which the apostolate requires. Because the apostle is placed, as it were, on a candlestick, he needs more than others to protect himself from pride and vainglory by a deep humility. In glancing through the Gospels, it is significant to note how much Jesus insisted on this point relative to the training of His Apostles. While they were debating among themselves who would be the greatest in the messianic kingdom, the Master answered: “Unless you be converted and become as little children, You shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). On another occasion, when the mother of James and John asked the first places for her sons, Jesus replied: “He that will be first among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 20:27). And on the evening of the Last Supper, while washing the feet of the Apostles, He showed them to what extent they should make themselves servants: “If then, I, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Finally, before sending them into His vineyard to bear “much fruit,” He repeatedly told them, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Yes, the apostle is the friend of Jesus, chosen by Him and destined to evangelize the world. Some have been appointed by Him to govern the Church, clothed with the dignity of the priesthood, with the power “to loose and to bind.” All—cleric or lay—have been elevated to the dignity of collaborators with the Hierarchy in the work of saving souls. But at the base of all these privileges, all these honors, are found the great words: “You must become as little children…. Without Me you can do nothing.” Oh! If we were truly convinced that, although God may will to make use of us, He alone possesses the power to make our action fruitful, He alone can produce fruits of eternal life, He alone can give grace to souls, and we are nothing but instruments! In fact, the smaller we make ourselves by acknowledging our poverty, the more qualified we become to be used as a means for the salvation of others. What glory can a brush claim if a skillful artist uses it to perfect a work of art? Can the marble used by Michelangelo to sculpture his Moses boast of any merit? “You have not chosen Me,” Jesus said to His Apostles, “but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).
“O Lord, You wish that in my apostolate I may feel and recognize my nothingness, but at the same time You want me to let myself be taken and carried by You to accomplish the mission that You confide to me, and then enter again into obscurity and silence, boasting of nothing and saying only: ‘servi inutiles sumus’; I am a useless servant, without You I can do nothing.
“O Lord, help me to flee praise and the applause of creatures; help me to act always with an upright intention, seeking only Your good pleasure. I beg You to put far from me those defects which could distract me from working only to please You: ostentation, compliments, adulation, the desire of making a good appearance, of being agreeable to others. Grant that I may never seek my glory but only yours. All to please You, nothing to satisfy myself” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).
“I beg You, Lord, to direct the heart and the will of Your apostles to Yourself so that they may follow You, immolated Lamb, poor, humble, and meek, by the way of the Holy Cross, in Your way and not in their way. Dispel the darkness of their hearts and give them Your light; take from them all self-love and kindle in them the fire of Your charity. Make them close the faculties of their souls, shutting their minds to vain delights and earthly benefits, leaving them open only to Your benefits, that they may love nothing outside of You, but love You above all things, and everything else according to Your will; may they follow You alone.
“Grant that, with well-ordered charity, they may seek the salvation of all, disposing themselves to give their life for the good of souls. And may they be angelic creatures, earthly angels in this life, and burning lamps in the Holy Church!” (cf. St. Catherine of Siena).
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Art for this post on our humility in the apostolate: Saint Catherine of Siena, anonymous painter, 19th century?, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.