The Call to the Apostolate
Presence of God – I place myself in the presence of Jesus, the Head of the Mystical Body, the Church, begging Him to show me how to collaborate with Him in the work of saving souls.
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Lk 3,4). This cry of St. John the Baptist is implicitly a call to the apostolate, to that apostolate practiced by St. John himself, when he tried to prepare the hearts of his brethren for the coming and for the work of the Messiah. This invitation is addressed to us, too, not only by St. John, but also by Jesus, who wants to make of every Christian a collaborator in the work of Redemption.
We know that Jesus alone has merited the vast, precious treasury of grace necessary to redeem and sanctify the whole human race. Yet He has not disdained our humble cooperation; rather He has positively willed “to have need of us.” Pope Pius XII says in his Encyclical, Mystici Corporis: “It is manifestly clear that the faithful need the help of the Divine Redeemer…Yet, this, too, must be held…Christ requires the help of His members…This is not because He is indigent and weak, but rather because He has so willed it for the greater honor of His spotless Spouse.”
The Spouse of Christ is the Church; the Chuch is the “company” of His faithful, that is, we ourselves. Certainly, Jesus had absolutely no need of us. As He alone merited grace for us, so He alone can apply it directly to each soul. “It was quite possible for Him personally to impart these graces immediately to men; but He wished to do so through a visible Church that would be formed by the union of men, and thus through that Church every man would perform a work of collaboration with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption” (ibid). Jesus, then, in His infinite goodness, has willed to associate us with Him, to give us the honor and joy of being His collaborators in the greatest work to be accomplished in the world: the salvation of souls.
“O my God, You give me the keenest desire not to displease You in any respect whatsoever, however trivial, or to commit so much as an imperfection if I could avoid doing so. For this reason alone, if for no other, I would like to flee from other people, and I envy those who live, or have lived, in the deserts. on the other hand, I would like to plunge right into the heart of the world, to see if by doing this I could help been one soul to praise God more. I am distressed at being prevented from doing this by my natural weakness and am very envious of those who are free to cry aloud and proclaim abroad this great God of Hosts.
“Have pity on me, O my God, and dispose things so that I may be able to do something toward fulfilling my desires for Your honor and glory. Remember not my want of merit or of the baseness of my nature. Did no You, O Lord, order the sea to be divided, and the great Jordan to recede, and allow the children of Israel to pass over them?
“Stretch out Your mighty arm, O Lord; let Your greatness appear in this unworthy creature, so that men may realize that I can do nothing and may give You praise. Cost what it may, this is what I desire, and I would give a thousand lives if I had them, so that one soul would praise you more. I would consider them all well spent, because I know that in actual fact I do not deserve to suffer the very smallest trial for You, still less to die for You.
“Lord, do not forget that You are a God of mercy; have mercy on this poor sinner, the miserable worm who is so bold with You. Behold my desires, my God, and the tears with which I beg this of You; forget my deeds, for Your Name’s sake and have pity upon all these souls that are being lost, and help Your Church. Do not permit more harm to be done to Christendom, Lord; give light to this darkness” (T.J. Int C VI, 6 – Way, 3).
O Lord, grant me, too, a great love for souls; kindle in me an ardent thirst for their salvation, and grant that I may use my feeble powers to collaborate in Your great redemptive work.
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Art for this post on “The Call to the Apostolate”: Fire, 18 April 2007, Pedroserafin, own work, PD-Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.