Human Qualities and Apostolic Charity
Presence of God – Melt my heart, Lord, in the flame of Your charity.
The apostolate is the expression and the fruit of caritas apostolica [apostolic charity], that is to say, of love of God and neighbor, which has increased until it has become zeal for souls. But besides this essential aspect of the charity which must animate the apostle, there are secondary aspects; we might almost say human ones, that are, nevertheless, of great importance, since they permit the apostle to exercise influence over souls. We here speak of such qualities as affability, thoughtfullness, courtesy, sociability, sincerity, understanding, which although human gifts in themselves, acquire supernatural value when elevated by grace and placed at the service of the apostolate. It is a matter, in substance, of those qualities which St. Paul attributes to love: “Charity is patient, is kind … is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil … rejoiceth with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
It is not sufficient to love souls in the secret of our heart, working and sacrificing ourselves for them; this love must also be manifested exteriorly by an agreeable and pleasant manner, in such a way that those who approach us may feel themselves loved, and consequently encouraged to confidence and to trust. A rude, brusque, or impatient manner might cause some to go away offended, and perhaps, even scandalized. The apostle may well have a heart of gold, rich in charity and zeal, but if he maintains a rough and sharp exterior, he closes access to souls, and considerably diminishes the good he could realize. The saints, while being very supernatural, never neglected these human qualities of charity. St. Francis de Sales liked to say that, as more flies are attracted with a drop of honey than with a barrel of vinegar, so more hearts are conquered by a little sweetness than by rough manners. And St. Teresa of Jesus, who wished her daughters to be united by the bond of pure supernatural charity, did not believe it superfluous to make recommendations of this kind: “The holier you are, the more sociable you should be with your sisters. Although you may be sorry if all your sisters’ conversation is not just as you would like it to be, never keep aloof from them if you wish to help them and to have their love. We must try hard to be pleasant, and to humor the people we deal with” (Way of Perfection 41). This is very useful advice for anyone who wishes to win souls for God.
O Lord, “if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal … if I should have the gift of prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it would profit me nothing.
“Grant me charity, then, O my God, for charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7).
Grant, O Lord, that in consecrating myself to Your service, my tenderness toward my neighbor may not diminish, but may grow in my heart, and may become ever more pure, more supernatural. Teach me to love tenderly all who draw near to me. Make me gentle, affable, agreeable, not to attract to myself the affection of creatures, but to conquer their hearts for You.
O Jesus, if the apostle should be a copy of You, not only in broad lines, but even in details, how shall I be such if I do not try to imitate the gentleness of Your heart? O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Yours.
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Art for this post on human qualities and apostolic charity: Saint Francois de Sales en gloire (Saint Francis de Sales in Glory), Anonymous, 1677, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.