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Monday, November 14, 2016

Soul of the Apostolate: A Reflection Essay

November Supermoon.
Reflective Essay on The Soul of the Apostolate authored by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard

I first heard of this book during the Seminar (2016) from one of Fr. McFarland’s conferences. The impression I got was that it was a recommended book to read. After reading it, not only is it strongly recommended but it is a necessary publication that should be required reading for all.

Dom Chautard exhorts the reader to understand that God desires good works from us, hence paving the way to zealous actions with the principal or basis of all our works revolving around Christ. There is no conflict between the Interior Life and the salvation of souls; in fact, the two go hand in hand. To reject the truth or to ignore it in one’s actions, always constitutes an intellectual disorder in doctrine or in practice.” Therefore those who are involved in some apostolic work, whether they are priests or religious, single or married, younger or older, regardless, all have a duty to become closer to Christ through the cultivation of their Interior Life and the realization that all their works should be Divinely anchored for a fruitful and successful apostolate, “transmitting this divine life to souls, ought to consider themselves mere channels...

Jesus imparts to those who are unobstructed and pure, something of Himself, and in the long run they become more like Him in their thoughts, actions, demeanor, speech, etc... The lack of the Interior Life can be and is a source of many faults, trials, tribulations, dryness, trepidation, etc… A balance in the Interior Life in proportion to the world is like maintaining one’s own health: If I eat too much candy and unhealthy things, it makes me invariably weak and sick, therefore making me weaker, and my daily living will not be productive or even enjoyable. If I balance myself physically by eating less junk food and more vegetables and exercising often, if not daily, I will stay healthy and become strong, making my life more productive and very enjoyable. So in this case, the candy and unhealthy things would be relishing worldly desires; a weak prayer and sacramental life coupled with lack-lustered virtues would make me spiritually weak and sick -- just to name some afflictions. The healthy living would be a Rule of Life, receiving the Sacraments often and with fervor, strengthening virtues, spiritual reading, meditation, perseverance, and custody of the senses -- just to name some -- and these would make me spiritually strong.

He mentions some of the ways that we acquire the presence of God: meritorious acts (acceptance of pains and humiliations, self-denial, prayer, Mass, etc…), offering of my daily activities/sacrifices/ joys to Him, and frequent use of the Sacraments. This acquisition will help me in my progress in the Interior Life. One excellent way is custody of the heart or of the senses. A surefire way is maintaining the observance of my spiritual duties with promptness and perseverance, thus cultivating discipline. Furthermore, custody of the senses comes with vigilance, and vigilance itself must be strengthened. As St. Pius X says “we will never have strength to persevere in sustaining all the difficulties....Only a patient virtue, unshakably based upon the good, and at the same time smooth and tactful, is able to move these difficulties to one side and diminish their power.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori (Aug 1or2) -- consider this quote as you remember that saints' feast days are normally on the day they died (their birth into eternity) - trust: This custody is accompanied by a certain peacefulness of spirit as well as an “unexcited anxiety”, which is based on a childlike confidence in God, though it demands a certain amount of recollection and discipline. When that custody is violently assaulted due to temptations or some other malady, “they can do no harm as long as my will resists them.”
Meditations have a way of ensuring this certain custody by the recollection of spirit and mind to the thought of God, reminding me of my good works and ways to become a better Catholic and perhaps a Saint. When I give myself to Christ in all things -- if all things are equal I find that He is able to dwell within myself and then, only then, am I able to share the love of Christ with others. “Not until we have formed Christ within ourselves will we find it easy to give Him to families and to societies.”

I cannot give what I do not have. The Interior Life compels me to regard Christ in all my undertakings, offering every piece of the patchwork quilt of my life up to Him.
All that Jesus wants is my desire as well as my heart in order for Him to work in me, but before that simple action in myself I have to maintain that desire, persevering in furthering my abandonment to God. With the help of Our Lady it will be so, for she is ever powerful and intercedes on my behalf.
This offering up everything to God is a way of practicing simplicity: “Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly”- St. Francis de Sales. If I can recognize my joys and sorrows, my qualities and faults, my difficult or happy situations, I can place them all as they are in God’s hands, trusting that He’ll magnify the good and root out the bad, as well as simply seeing and knowing me as I am, without adding or subtracting anything from my identity. God will do what He does with me; at least I can give Him my desire.

Humility is pivotal in gaining ground in the Interior Life. “Humility, true humility has a special charm that comes directly from Christ.” If one is humble, that person radiates firmness and gentleness, kindness, Charity, mortification, Faith, Hope, etc. … essentially mirroring Christ.

Furthermore, the best way to gain ground in the Interior Life is through the Liturgical Life of the Church. The Liturgy is important because it helps the soul to be steeped in the virtue of religion. Everything in the Liturgy speaks to me of God, of His perfections, of His mercies, of His Love and graces. Everything takes me back to Him. The Liturgy is like a constant interchange with Him where, in union with the priest, I can participate in the Mass in some small way, either through Liturgical prayer in common, or through the physical actions at Mass.

.Lastly, there is the soul’s outward disposition or comportment. Demeanor should be a natural response to the movements in the Interior Life of the soul, in the light of God’s grace. The behavior of those who love and revere God may be shown in one's conduct as one progresses in the Interior Life, and this ordinarily flows through the person to an external manifestation. A person's spiritual state commonly manifests itself on the outside because of the joining of the spiritual and the temporal realms in the body-soul combination of a human being, in which each side always affects the other, either positively or negatively. One’s fervor may be shown in how one makes the Sign of the Cross, a genuflection, etc…. If a person is lax in his spirituality, then that laxness will generally manifest in his actions. Demeanor is not the goal of the Interior Life, but it is an effect of the invisible inner workings of the soul trying to correspond with God in the advancement to union with Him.

In short, I really enjoyed this recommendation and I hope by this reflective essay  that others will be inspired to read it. This book was originally written for religious with particular emphasis on the spirituality of priests and the work of spiritual direction.
For the layperson who reads this book, it develops the Interior Life for a solid foundation of their particular apostolate -- which is to primarily to live the Faith in which they profess belief -- and its instructions can easily be adapted to one’s state of life under the guidance of a confessor or spiritual director.


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