BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
THE SPIRIT OF APOSTLESHIP
Characteristics of the
Apostolate of the Sacred Heart
MARY is the perfect type and ideal of apostles and priests. Neither St. Paul “the Apostle of the Gentiles” nor St. Peter, nor St. John, were such powerful instruments in the Hands of God as she, because apostleship consists in giving Jesus to souls and souls to Jesus, and no one can ever do this in so eminent a degree as Mary, Mother of Jesus and mother of men. The more Mary possesses Jesus the more she gives Him to us. Thus, at the Nativity her Motherhood seems greater than at the Annunciation and on Calvary, where she consented to the death of Jesus, her maternity had something even more sublime. She went there as Mother of her Divine Son, she came down the Mother of the human race.
Do not forget then, that we, like Mary, shall give Jesus in the measure in which we ourselves possess Him and He, in his turn, will be the more ours in proportion as we give Him to others in an ardent and supernatural apostolate. This being so, let us now see what should be the dominant characteristics of apostleship in general and of the apostolate of the Heart of Jesus in particular.
A supernatural spirit.
All zeal is not good, because all zeal is not holy and supernatural. Even in the organization and direction of good works we often find dross mixed with the gold; the work is beautiful but the method of carrying it out is too human. Petty interests and personal preferences, too, often hamper Catholic action. The gold must be purified of its dross. Let there be no contentions among us as there were in the days of the Apostle when some said: “I indeed am of Paul,” and others “I am of Cephas.” (l Cor. i, 12.) Let us all be apostles of Christ, and of Christ alone and prove it by our works, especially by forgetting ourselves, not trying to promote our own honor and credit, or that of our Confraternity. We should even be ready to yield — not so much out of courtesy as in a supernatural spirit — to anyone who can do the work of God better than ourselves. Let us not say, “I was here first”; work done for God should never become a race. Our thoughts must soar above selfseeking and claims for preference. Such things hamper good works and do evil among the children of light.
Brilliant success in Catholic works should never be our primary goal. Let us trust the issue to Our Lord, putting it out of our thoughts, in part at least, and this for several reasons; among others, because the true issue is a divine lottery, so to speak, depending neither on our zeal, nor on the co-operation of others. God gives success where and how He pleases and very often He does not permit the result to correspond with the good work which has been accomplished. The fact that Jesus does not always reward zeal by grand achievements proves that such are not always in His Eyes a sign of true success, a divine victory for Him. A great spirit of faith is needed to understand this and to prevent our feeling discouraged because our wings are clipped.
Also the Gospel promises and those made at Paray-le-Monial concerning the triumph of the King of Love should not be looked at — as too often happens — in the light of our human judgment, but only from a supernatural point of view. In this divine combat, apparent defeats are often great victories. Success, as far as we are concerned, dear apostles, ought to consist exclusively in His calling the souls whom He thinks worthy and in His crowning Himself with the glory which is His due, even though nothing accrues to us but disaster and confusion. Provided He triumphs as He wishes, we should be satisfied.
If you really seek the glory of the Sacred Heart, if you desire that glory above your own and above all your personal interests, however legitimate; if you are “de facto” and “de jure,” true and generous apostles, formed in the school of St. Margaret Mary, then I must emphatically say that you ought to bless Our Lord for allowing in His wisdom contradictions and obstacles, for these very difficulties will more and more refine your zeal. In these hours of trial, when both good and wicked seem to have conspired together to ruin a project, grand and beautiful in itself and which has cost you many tiring days and sleepless nights; when you see the hurricane wrecking the work which you had so long cherished, learn how to bless God Who opens and shuts the floodgates of Heaven in His own good time. At such moments do not be too much troubled or alarmed. If you are tempted to accuse and condemn your opposers, control yourself, hasten before the Tabernacle, offer your heart very lovingly to the Divine Master and be at peace, for He cannot be indifferent to His Father’s glory and His own.
Opposition has always been and ever will be the divine seal upon all works and such contradictions come only when God wills they should and last only as long as He permits. Such storms have never ruined a work dear to God when the thoughts of the apostle were inspired by a great spirit of faith. We must confess with sorrow that this spirit is sometimes greatly wanting. It is not for lack of money or human support that many excellent works have no real life, so the apostles of the Enthronement should carefully avoid attributing an exaggerated importance to wealth and high patronage. In our work, money and influence are not all. Relegate them to the background. Jesus will provide. When the glory and love of the Sacred Heart are at stake, I beg of you, do not weigh the cost in money only. The saints never triumphed in this way.
The Spirit of Faith.
“Levantes autem oculos suos,
neminem viderunt, nisi solum Jesus.”
(Matt. xvii, 8.)
“And they lifting up their eyes
saw no one but only Jesus.”
OUR Lord Said to St. Margaret Mary: “I will reign in spite of My enemies.” This “in spite of” has given courage to many inexperienced and timid apostles who believed too much in the power of Satan and his followers. The power of the wicked comes from the weakness of the good. The issue of the fight mostly depends on the fidelity of Our Lord’s friends. “O ye of little faith,” (Matt. viii, 26.) Jesus said to His disciples and He might well say the same to those who tremble when menaced by the enemy.
It is a want of faith to long to see our work crowned as quickly as possible with striking and brilliant success and to desire that it should be known and published abroad that these grand results are to be attributed to us.
It is a want of faith to expect to reap at eventide what we sowed at dawn and to seek for admiration and applause while professing purity of intention. Dear apostles, ask Jesus for a great and living faith that you may not betray His confidence, for He expects many victories from your spirit of faith.
I firmly believe that there is no such thing as failure in good works when they are undertaken and carried out by a true apostle. If by failure we mean the ruin of our own plans, however good, of the castle in the air we built with excellent intentions but which has come to nothing, then there may be and even ought to be failure; God would not be what He is if He had promised to set His seal on any wild idea of ours, however honest and honorable our intentions may have been. If, however, my only purpose is the glory of God, I will not mind being disappointed in my projects. By upsetting them, God will not destroy the true spiritual results of my apostolate, the King of Love will be glorified and that is enough for me. The failure was mine and only apparent, the victory was His, a real, effective and complete one. Blessed be Jesus, the true Victor! I have come out of the combat humbled and wounded, He has come out with palms and laurel wreaths. Praised be for ever His Most Sacred Heart!
It is a want of faith to be easily discouraged. Difficulties are so indispensable to divine works that if there were none we should have to invent or provoke them in order to ensure the victory. We forget that Jesus does His best work in times of tribulation provided we believe that He is faithful and All Powerful. During the early persecutions, Bishops, Priests and faithful were put to death in thousands. The persecutors sought to destroy the Infant Church. And they might have succeeded had those early Christians reasoned as we do and taken too much thought for the morrow, saying in their dejection: “If we die, who will care for souls and for the altars? God has forgotten us. Woe to us! Woe to the Church!” But they did not speak thus, they died with a hymn of victory upon their lips.
If we could only believe as they did in the Savior’s affirmation: “I have overcome the world,” (John xvi. 33.) what miracles we should work, in spite of exterior obstacles and our own incapacity and failings. Man has changed into means of communication even the greatest obstacles, such as the sea, the air, the mountains. How much more should our faith invent means of turning every difficulty to the glory of God. If we have labored for many a weary day and night without making any apparent progress in our works, we must humbly acknowledge that this may be because of our sins and, with immense faith, launch out into the deep, letting down our nets in the name of Our Lord. Like the Apostles, we shall then be rewarded by a miraculous draught.
Believe in the loyalty of the Heart of Jesus, He may well treat you as He did the woman of Canaan, making you ask and suffer a refusal many times to test you, but His Heart cannot deceive nor be deceived. Knock once again and He will open to you. God has His own times. Let us hasten the coming of the hour of grace and mercy by believing with invincible faith. Do not stand arguing like St. Thomas. “Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed,” (John xx, 29.) for they are the only true apostles and they alone will one day experience that “the word of the Lord shall not pass” (Matt. xxiv, 35.) and that His Heart, the fountain of mercy, is divinely faithful. Say to Him humbly again and again, “Jesus, I believe, but increase my faith.”
The Spirit of Burning Charity.
“Lord, Thou knowest all things:
Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
(John xxi, 17.)
GOD is charity. The Incarnation, the Redemption and the Church being the manifestation of that infinite love. All our duties are summed up in the first commandment of the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy hole heart and with thy whole soul and with all thy strength.” (Luke x, 27.) This love should animate our whole life. I insist on this point because, if we explain the law of God, the Redemption, the Eucharist, the Sacraments and describe these marvels with no more ardor and conviction than if we were putting forward physical or chemical theories, people may understand and remember what we say, but they will go away as cold as they came — knowing a little more, perhaps, but not having learnt the one thing that matters, namely, to love that God Who is all charity. What a difference it would make if we could speak and teach as the Cure d’Ars did, as the Little Flower would have done. What a difference, when our words, tone and gesture all betray a loving conviction; when, during a simple catechism lesson, our hearers feel that Jesus Himself is speaking by our lips.
We should always depict Him as He is, most lovable, meek, full of kindness and tender mercy, “patient and slow to anger” as Holy Scripture says. There is no need to exaggerate nor to alter a single feature of His true portrait when endeavoring to inspire souls with love for His sovereign beauty. He, Who created the Blessed Virgin so sweet, so compassionate, so motherly, has fashioned the hearts of all mothers out of the best of His Own tenderness. If, then, the Blessed Virgin and our own mothers are patterns of loving kindness, what must He not be, He the eternal and infinite source of all love?
Moreover, by preaching a very lovable Jesus, a God of love, we at the same time emphasize His justice, for we show that because He is just He is also merciful. To limit the justice of God to the act of condemning most of His creatures to hell, for mere trifles, is contrary to justice and to that love which brought a God of Charity down to earth to die as our Redeemer.
Inspire souls with loving confidence in God and you will give them wings. Treat others with that compassion and patience God shows to you. Remember that few people are really bad, many are ignorant and all are weak. Therefore, to be just to souls and do them good, be kind and gentle, be “mothers” to those whose salvation may depend on you. In Jesus and for the sake of Jesus love the treasures which His Heart has confided to your care.
Now that you understand your mission as apostles, it will be easy to speak to you of self-abnegation, which consists in giving yourselves wholly to souls for the love of Jesus, as Jesus gives Himself to you.
I have met with many touching examples of such self-abnegation. I remember a little school girl who used to help me as secretary and copyist. She said to her mother: “I have promised to help the Father in his apostolate, so will you, please, let me stay up from nine to ten, three evenings a week, to do some work that he has given me?”
“What work?” inquired her mother.
“I have to copy out some letters in four or five different languages. Please let me, mother.”
“But why stay up from nine to ten?” asked her mother. “You could do the work on Thursdays and Sundays when you have no school. It might hurt your health to stay up so late.”
“Yes,” said the child, “I know the work could be done on those days, but I want to make a little sacrifice, even if it hurts my health. By love and sacrifice I may win back father’s soul.”
The lady, who was a good Catholic, felt deeply touched and gave consent. Three evenings a week, from nine to ten, the child lovingly copied hundreds of circular letters destined to make known the Work of the Enthronement. This she did kneeling on her bare knees upon the floor, as a penance for the conversion of her father.
I shall never forget an old beggar woman who helped me at the outset of this Crusade. She often came to see me after having spent her day going from cottage to cottage in the pouring rain to speak of the Sacred Heart.
“But, my child, you are wet through. What are you going to do now?”
“Dry myself at a neighbor’s stove.”
“And have you had anything to eat?”
“A piece of bread … but don’t let’s talk of that. What does anything matter when the soul is happy? I have succeeded in making Jesus loved.”
In Heaven many an orator of note will be put to shame by apostles such as these. Let us speak in schools and homes of Jesus and Jesus Crucified and we shall conquer many of them for the King of Love.
← Prior Chapter 16 – Apostleship
Current — Chapter 17 – The Spirit of Apostleship
Next →: Chapter 18 – Reparation