BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
“Go you also into My vineyard
and I will give you what shall be just.”
(Matt. xx, 4.)
“For He must reign.”
(1 Cor, xv, 25.)
IF IT is, written, ”he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive the reward of a prophet,” (Matt. x. 41.) we can and must believe that many souls will receive this “reward” for sharing freely ,and lovingly in the sacrifices, labors and glories of Apostleship. This will be so with you, beloved apostles of the Heart of Jesus, although if I am to speak the truth, the only reward you covet is the glory and victory of the King of Love, while you yourselves remain in the shadow of oblivion as useless servants whose task is done.
By ”your task,” I mean that you are the intermediaries between the priest and certain social classes where a priest can many a time neither offer his services nor take any direct action. In such cases, which are all too common in our day, you can serve as a bridge to span the gap.
The priest can no longer do everything himself, the Catholic laity are no longer to be considered as benevolent spectators, or beneficiaries of sacerdotal action; they often occupy the dangerous outposts on the battlefield. It is certainly to be regretted that the priest should have a less prominent position, since he is, by right divine, the mediator between God and man, but from this evil God has drawn immense good and glory, namely, the participation of the whole Catholic body in the apostolic action. It is very consoling to see on every side ardent laymen and heroic women engaged in every kind of work, preparing the way for sacerdotal action and therefore acting as self-denying forerunners of the King of Glory, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Our Lord’s words may be applied to you whom I now address: “Lift up your eyes and see the countries, for they are white already to harvest. … The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few.” (John iv, 35. Matt. ix. 37.) Do you bear the voice of the Divine Sower? He is pointing out the vast field which awaits your labor. He could, if He wished, do all Himself. Just as He created the material worlds without you, so, too, He can convert and sanctify souls without your co-operation; but such is not His will and, as He chose to solicit the free and loving co-operation of Mary, Queen of Clergy and Apostles, so He asks you to go forth in search of souls, to bring them to His Heart. I might almost say that He makes your co-operation a necessary condition of redemption, since it is very possible, and even probable, that not a few souls confided to your care would be lost if you refused Him your help.
A simple comparison will explain what l mean. Let us suppose that you ask me, a priest, to give you Holy Communion, and instead of opening the Tabernacle I go back into the Sacristy. Then, if Our Lord does not wish to make good my culpable negligence by a miracle, you will have to go without Communion. The same occurs in the case of your mission. The poor, the ignorant, the children in thousands are unconsciously hungering for Jesus. The priest lacks the time and funds necessary to assist them. It is for you, zealous apostles, to step in and carry the message of love to those in outlying districts. If you neglect this duty and reject this honor through indifference or fear of bad weather, many a soul will live and die in ignorance of the love of Jesus. Through your fault, the Divine Master will be deprived of incomparable glory, for Jesus entrusts Himself to you, and He would have gone wherever you chose to take Him. But, if you really covet so great an honor, fear nothing, for He will say to you as to St. Margaret Mary: “Thou shalt never lack help until My Heart lacks power,” that is to say, never!
The Apostleship is not a spiritual luxury and a work of supererogation, such as would be, for instance, to make the Holy Hour; it is a great and sweet duty. We cannot truly love Our Lord and yet stand aside indifferent whether He is loved or hated, blessed or cursed by, let us say, thousands of children, who tomorrow will have a voice in public opinion and affairs. They will, indeed, have many voices, for most of them will found families that in their turn will live in hate, indifference or love, according to what those little ones are to-day in their schools or in their homes. Far be it from us to exclaim: “Every man for himself.” “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. iv, 9.) Such is not the language of love. With a loyal heart and burning charity I would walk barefoot over live coals to any distance, if, by so doing, I could but bring a smile to the tips of Jesus and give Him even a single soul.
Traitors are always on the alert, evildoers are ever ready to use their influence and money to pay the price of the Just Man. Sinners daily renew His Passion. Shall we, His friends, whom in His mercy He has healed, pardoned and enriched, neglect our primary obligation of bringing souls to Him? I repeat that apostleship is a necessity and a law of charity if we love Jesus as we ought. Good Catholics who do not understand this obligation may be classed in the category of “the devout,” but only those afire with zeal can be admitted into the Divine Confraternity of great lovers. Thank God there are many nowadays who can repeat from their hearts the Savior’s words to St. Margaret Mary: “Not being able to contain within My breast the flames which devour Me, I wish to communicate them to others!” Let us train many souls in this doctrine of love, teaching them the lessons of the Heart of Jesus. In Catholic action we have less need of numerous workers than of great love.
Those who have no apostolic zeal are usually careless Catholics. In return for all Our Lord has done for us, we ought to work generously for His glory and His reign. Humility is truth and the truth, beloved apostles, is that the Sacred Heart has entrusted His treasures to us, enriching us freely in a thousand ways. How are we to repay such liberality? I see but one way, namely, to give Him souls and families who will know, love and serve Him. Would that we might say to Him in truth, “O Lord, in return for all I owe to Thee, and feeling my own poverty, I have tried to win hearts to Thee, that they may praise, bless and love Thee for me, in time and in eternity. I prepared that family to become Thy Bethany, I made Thee known there and spoke to them of Thy Heart. To-day, parents and children love Thee and look upon Thee as their Friend. Thou art the Master of that home. So now, all that they give Thee, their love, their hymns, their gratitude, I give Thee, too. In my name they will pay Thee what I myself could never pay.”
Why did Our Lord, in His great wisdom, permit that there should be rich and poor? To save and sanctify the rich by obliging them to be generous and charitable to the poor. But woe to him who hoards his treasures for himself, heedless of the widow, the orphan and the needy, for one day those very riches will be his ruin.
It is the same in the moral order. Those that are rich in grace, those that have been given treasures of faith and love, must liberally share with the many who are suffering for want of spiritual light and help. God may withdraw His Heart from you, if, looking upon the apostolate as the privilege of priests or religious and practising only comfortable and selfish devotions, you keep your graces to yourself, instead of sharing them with your less fortunate brethren. In any case, you will force the King of Love to be a very severe Judge in the day of reckoning. But “blessed are the merciful,” (Matt. v, 7.) and the apostles who, in spite of difficulties and fatigues, perform this work of mercy, for they shall in their turn obtain infinite mercy.
The Apostle is not a channel but a reservoir
The apostolate is not to be compared to a voice crying in the wilderness, but to John the Baptist praying, loving, doing penance and giving his very self to God, before making prophecies and baptizing others. The apostolate does not principally consist in anything exterior, such as brilliant talent, soul-stirring eloquence, or great skill for organization. It consists above all in divine and heavenly energy, often hidden in one as insignificant as a wisp of straw or a grain of sand. Yet people are always inclined to put their faith in what is showy and high sounding, hence many are deluded and deceived.
Then what is an apostle? A chalice full to the brim of Jesus, and overflowing upon souls. I do not believe in any apostle who lacks this characteristic. To convert souls, to win them to Jesus, to sanctify them, is pre-eminently a divine and supernatural work, and this cannot be obtained by human science and eloquence. In spite of the many learned scholars and eloquent preachers stones remain stones, that is, sinners are not converted, the indifferent remain indifferent, the good do not rise to greater heights. But let a true apostle speak one single word and petra becomes Petrus and Saul is changed into Paul. The chief essential is a deep interior life. If you have no time for prayer, desist from the apostolate and, instead of cultivating other souls, water your own garden, you will then lose less time and you will expose yourself to far less danger.
Great apostles are frequently to be met with in the cloister. Their self-imposed silence is far more powerful than words. Only in Heaven will they see how many souls they have converted. The world will not be saved by controversy but by immense faith. We must not forget that one drop of the Divine Blood far outweighs all human efforts. For myself, as I advance in life, I certainly believe less and less in my own activity and more and more in the voice which speaks within. But what I believe in most of all is the silent eloquence of the Host! Hence my conviction that the most intense and efficacious apostolic action emanates principally from the sanctuaries of prayer and immolation. Satan must know this by intuition and by bitter experience since he often raises up the most terrible persecutions against religious communities. A monastery where Consecrated souls pray and live fervently has — according to St. Teresa — walls of crystal, and radiates more light and life than a thousand preachers who lack deep interior life. If, on the contrary, we possess it, we can exercise our influence at a distance by a sort of mysterious telepathy, preaching without the sound of words, baptizing with fire, helping to a good death and deciding at that last hour the eternal destiny or countless souls.
I do not mean in any way to detract from the high importance and necessity of active ministry, but I do affirm that exterior activity becomes a mere feverish agitation, and even a danger to the soul, unless accompanied by a spirit of prayer, intense desire for sanctification and love of sacrifice. How many miracles would he accomplished every day if all consecrated souls were even one-tenth as saintly as the Little Flower in her hidden life of prayer and suffering. Then every religious house would be another Upper Room radiating invisibly, but none the less really, an outburst of spiritual life. St. Paul’s epithet, “cymbalum tinniens,” (1 Cor. xiii, 1.) “a tinkling cymbal,” may be fitly applied to a priest who has nothing of the Trappist recollection, or to religious and laity engaged in active works, but lacking the spirit of prayer which animates a Carmelite.
To be apostles and to glorify the Sacred Heart, we ought to meditate constantly on the fact that Jesus lived hidden in prayer and immolation for thirty years, in order to be the Redeemer of the world. At Nazareth, more even than in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is the Teacher of apostles, because there we learn from Him that preaching should be nothing but a spoken prayer, and also because not all apostles are called to preach, whereas there are and always will be many splendid missionaries after the style of the Nazarene, such as St. Teresa, St. Margaret Mary, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus. All of them will rank among apostles after winning their thrones, not by their eloquence, but by their love.
While treating a subject or such capital importance and interest, I should like, dear apostles, to insist on the fundamental theme and dominant idea of this retreat. Love much, love immensely, love even unto folly! This is the basis, the spirit, the crowning point of your apostolate. Whoever loves much, whether Bishop or catechist, whether speaking from the pulpit, or lying sick in bed, is always a great apostle. What a comfort it is to know for certain that a life, often obscure and apparently useless, is always an apostolate in the home and even far beyond its limits, when wholly transmuted into gold by love. Take the case, for example, of a poor woman who spends her days in simple household duties, but who, like Mary in Nazareth, does her work with faith and love in Our Lord’s presence, and offers everything for His glory. She is, perhaps, anxious to convert her husband — long estranged from God. This will be granted her and, even if she does not witness his conversion here below, she will one day meet him in Heaven, where together they will sing the mercy of the Sacred Heart. “Thou hast loved much,” the Divine Judge will say to her, “thou hast loved for thyself and for thy husband: by thy love thou hast paid the double debt with interest; thus thou wast My apostle, and so didst save thy husband.” There will be many surprises of this kind in the abode where those who have loved much here on earth shall rejoice with Mary Magdalen and the Little Flower.
Such is the power of prayer in winning miracles of grace. I say “prayer,” not the mere recitation of prayers, for real prayer is a sigh of the soul which rises to God and does Him violence in the measure in which it is a loving prayer. Pray much, but always with immense love. The great danger run by those who devote their life to active work consists in allowing themselves to be so much absorbed in it that they frequently neglect prayer, or hurry over it, or pray with a heart full of petty interests. This is a very grave mistake. For the glory of the Sacred Heart, and to withdraw such an apostle from the edge of the precipice, his work should be suppressed, he should go into retreat and spend some time in recollection and prayer, otherwise, while seeking to save others, he will lose his soul.
Every tree, if it is to bring forth abundant fruit, needs good soil and water for its roots, since the abundance of sap and the richness of its produce depends on these factors. So we must first of all throw out deep roots into the Heart of Jesus, by means of great love and constant and fervent prayer, and it is only in proportion as we draw sap and life from Him that we shall bring forth beautiful flowers of virtue and bear fruit a hundredfold. Every other tree, rich though it be in foliage, is not planted by our Heavenly Father, and will one day be cut down and cast into the fire, for it cumbereth the ground.
As I am addressing apostles of the Sacred Heart, I must draw your attention to an encouraging promise made by Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary. The Saint writes in her autobiography, “The Divine Heart promised me, on behalf of all those who should consecrate themselves to It, that It would receive them lovingly, would assure their salvation, and would take special care to sanctify them and to make them great in the sight of our Heavenly Father, in proportion as they generously endeavor to promote the reign of Its Love in the hearts of the faithful.” Our adorable Redeemer has therefore explicitly committed Himself to labor specially for the sanctification of those who accept all sacrifices with a view to making His Divine Heart glorified by men.
Needless to add that this promise, far from exempting us from personal labor, emphasizes the duty of developing our interior life. But it is consoling to think that Jesus gives a very special grace to those who fervently endeavor to make known the mercies of His most Sacred Heart. By this promise He seems to say to you what He once said to St. Catharine of Sienna, “Think of Me, and I will think of thee”; or more clearly still, when speaking to His confidante of Paray-IeMonial, “Make Me thy only thought and l will think of thee and thine. Evidently My first care will be to make thee holy, for otherwise thou couldst not be the apostle of My love.”
A zealous apostle thinks of nothing save the glory of the Sacred Heart. All petty interests are forgotten and everything is summed up in loving Him and making Him better known and loved. A delightful contest then occurs in prayer between this apostle and the King of Love.
“Dear child, thou seest how much I love thee, draw nigh and ask Me what thou wilt, for thou hast stolen My Heart.”
“To love Thee and to give Thee glory, O Sacred Heart!”
”Yes, my child, I understand and bless thy prayer, but hast thou no special grace to ask of Me? Speak, be not afraid, thou canst command My Heart.”
“To love Thee and to give Thee glory, O Sacred Heart!”
“Thou speakest as My Saints did. l wish to prove that if thou art Mine, I also am thine. Ask what thou wilt.”
“To love Thee and to give Thee glory, O Sacred Heart!”
“I see that thou hast forgotten everything for My glory. Here is my Heart, I give it to thee, dispose of It as thou wilt with all Its treasures. In this hour of grace, tell Me what miracle of love thou dost desire?”
“To love Thee even unto folly and to make Thee loved with the irresistible power of Thine own Heart. May Thy Kingdom come!”
If we think, speak and pray thus, Jesus will give us His Heart and help us to win souls. Then those words of St. Margaret Mary will be realized in a practical and admirable way. “Oh, that it were given to me to express what I have been taught concerning the rewards which the said apostles will receive from this most adorable Heart!” These rewards are so surpassing, rich and great that the seer of Paray, like St. Paul, could not translate them into words.
While it is currently proclaimed that the Cross is beneficial and meritorious, it has not been made clear enough that it also completes the work of prayer and is just as powerful a factor in the apostolate. A bitter trial bravely borne is not merely a source of personal merit, it may be the means of miraculous conversions, for the spirit of sacrifice is an apostolic virtue which vivifies souls and helps them on the road to Heaven. Our Lord seems to have willed to make immolation the infallible secret of victory. Though a sinner has resisted all the exterior graces that come to him in the form of a good example, advice, or arguments based on doctrines of faith, suffering will bring him to his knees and overthrow his unbelief. A wife, a mother, or a child has won the victory by tears of love and years of prayer. I have frequently witnessed quite astounding conversions that testify the truth of what I say. The cross wins the victory to-day as it did on Calvary.
We cannot all be as eloquent as Bossuet, nor conquer new worlds for God like Columbus, we are not all called to foreign missions, but all of us, whether we be young or old, priests or layfolk, rich or poor, can by our daily crosses redeem captive souls, restore sight to those whose minds are blinded by error and raise to life souls that are dead in sin. This is why I have started and organized everywhere the Crusade of the Apostolate of Suffering, begging those who suffer in soul or body to make a practical use of their crosses by offering them to Jesus for the extension of His reign. The members. of this apostleship are taught that not a single tear shed for this intention is ever lost, and that they may win many souls to adorn the diadem of the King of Love by their sufferings patiently borne.
“Would you like to be My missionary?” said Our Lord to a little girl of seven.
“A little thing like me a missionary! How could I be, dear Jesus?” she enquired.
“Yes, just because you are so little child,” He answered, “would you like to try?”
“Dear Jesus, I don’t understand how …”
“Dear little one, offer Me your daily communions, your prayers and above all your sacrifices, everything that hurts or vexes you all through the day. Offer them with great love to win Me souls, and you will be My little missionary.”
Do you understand the lesson, dear Apostles? You can convert sinners, you can purify, make reparation, and save souls by offering your sufferings as apostles of love.
The Child Jesus often conversed familiarly with a little shepherdess of five.
They would sit together on a stone beneath a shady tree for hours; watching the sheep that grazed hard by and Jesus would give her sublime lessons of virtue, expressed in childish words. Telling her; to put out her hand, Jesus placed in it a few crumbs of bread and, with a gracious gesture, invited the little birds that were twittering in the branches of the trees to come and eat therefrom. When they had flown away, Jesus said to the little shepherdess: “Prepare yourself, for when you are older I will place, not in your hand, but in the chalice of your heart, bitterness and sorrows, and souls will be nourished by the example of your patient suffering. Prepare, dear child, for that great apostolate of the Cross.”
Another day Our Lord said to the same little shepherdess: “Can you guess bow to make something very beautiful from two bits of wood?” As she could find no answer, Jesus said; “Bring Me those two sticks. See, they are quite like any others, though perhaps a little crooked.” Then, making them into a Cross, He said, smiling: “Look, can anything be more lovely now. Not even the angels could make anything more precious and more holy. Soon I, Myself, will fasten you to the Cross and if, in spite of all, you love Me more even than you do to-day and if you offer all for sinners, I promise by this cross to give you many souls and to make you an apostle of My love.”
Thus, in the apostolic crusade, each of us can have a share of merit and glory, since we are all called to suffer and to mourn. What is most touching in this apostolate is that humble souls, the weak, the poor, the ignorant, are the favorites of Our Lord. Even the youngest child and the most poverty-stricken may achieve what no orator can accomplish by his eloquence. Hence it is that, as I go from place to place preaching the Reign of the Heart of Jesus, my one great desire is to secure and strengthen Its triumph by the generous offering of some humble souls, willing to be immolated as pure hosts for this intention.
At Lyons I had been preaching for six days in the Cathedral and I had not met with one such soul. During my thanksgiving, I said to Our Lord: “Dear Jesus, I wish you would send me a little hidden soul to consecrate herself like little St. Teresa to love, pray and suffer, that You may reign in individual souls and in families. Give me that soul, to-day, immediately, as a pledge of Your approval of this Crusade of Love.” Hardly had I concluded my prayer, when the sacristan announced that a young woman was waiting to see me. She was a simple, working girl of about twenty years of age. “Father,” she said, “I have heard about the Enthronement and l believe it to be God’s work, but I know you want a soul like little St. Teresa to love, pray and suffer; I have come to offer myself, if you will have me, to be consecrated in this way for the establishment of the kingdom of the Sacred Heart.” I was silent for a moment, struck by the repetition of the very words of my prayer. And when I answered that I would joyfully do so, she begged that I should return to the altar and offer her to Jesus whilst she would kneel before the Tabernacle and devote her whole life to the Sacred Heart.
Blessed be the Crucified King for teaching us that a hidden martyrdom of love is the greatest apostolate.
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