20. APOSTOLATE OF INTERIOR LIFE
The first two articles of the Constitutions are the principal ones. Besides attending to one's own sanctification, there is an apostolate to be done by each one for the glory of God and for the good of souls.
If we follow that which is often said, we would believe that apostolate is almost solely the exterior activity. Instead, it is necessary to understand the apostolates in their order before God.
For 30 years, Jesus lived a private life, in hiddenness, in silence, in prayer. Did he do the apostolate in these 30 years? or was he an apostle only in the 3 years of public life? Jesus was apostle during the 33 years and he taught the need to appreciate the interior life. In the private life, he performed the apostolates which he wanted to precede all others, to which he gave great importance and to which he calls everyone.
Five principal forms of apostolate:
- Apostolate of interior life
- Apostolate of holy desires
- Apostolate of good example
- Apostolate of prayer
- Apostolate of suffering
Aside from these, there is the apostolate of works which is numerous and can be called:
- Missionary apostolate
- Apostolate of charity
- Apostolate of preaching
- Apostolate of the edition, etc.
What does apostolate mean? It is our action to give glory to God and peace to men. It is to do good.
Apostolate of interior life.
Many fall into the error of giving great importance to exterior activity than to interior life. You must avoid and fight such error. The book The Soul of Every Apostolate1 aims to give light on this very important point. The book The Interior Apostolate,2 which I should relate in its entirety, is also useful for this purpose. The Pope has always condemned the tendency to give priority to the life of work. The first apostolate is the apostolate of our sanctification. No one is dispensed from it.
There are even persons called only to this apostolate; no other apostolate, however, is effective without this. If you have three zeros you have nothing, but if you will place a unit before, you will have a thousand and if you add again another zero retaining the unit, the value shall always increase. Always and in the first place is the precious unit formed by the apostolate of interior life. Let us try to understand it well.
Apostolate of interior life means: to struggle to correct ourselves; to work to purify our conscience; to take care even of the small things; to try to be more patient, more kind, more united to God everyday. It means: to pray, to examine oneself, to study so as to acquire more and more loftier thoughts, purer desires; to confess with greater faith and sorrow; to receive Communion with more fervor; to improve the meditation; to participate in the Mass more devoutly. It also means to have a more sincere faith, more steadfast hope, more ardent charity; to always lead a purer and holier life.
What a life of union the Infant Jesus in the manger lived with the Father! It was so during the entire earthly life! When he was about to begin his public life, his first activity was to retire in the desert for 40 days, in penance and in prayer.1
Remember Martha and Mary. The latter was seated at Jesus' feet, humbling herself, asking pardon for sins, asking the Divine Master for advice and is uplifted with the marvelous things he tells her. Martha arrived and seeing the scene, she felt a bit envious. She got annoyed and had no less than the courage to reproach Jesus: Lord, are you not concerned that my sister has left me to do the household tasks all alone? Tell her to help me. The Lord in reply said to her: Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required. Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it.1
Think a bit if sometimes you do not also deserve Jesus' reproach to Martha. He purposely went to Bethany with the Apostles to rest, to refresh himself, but Martha forgot that which is the first duty of hospitality: to keep the guest company. Perhaps, she was doing the things more for social convention, rather than for a deep-set love and Jesus reprimanded and enlightened her.
He did not rebuke Martha's work, but her forgetfulness of the main duty and her worrying.
In the morning, you should spend the first two hours for Jesus. If you will start the day devoting yourselves to the better part, all the rest shall be blessed.
Have more care of the interior life, so as to sustain effectively the external work. Interior life enlightens the minds, stirs the hearts, strenghtens the wills, makes the persons enter into themselves, in order to prepare for their eternal salvation.
Much of the divine word is spread in the world, but most of it is dispersed on the path, on gravelly ground, among thorns1 , because there is nobody to nourish it and make it bear fruit.
The person that is full of God, insensibly, invisibly, but with the same certainty, attracts grace and does good. The Most Holy Virgin, more than any other human creature, made much grace to flow. Mothers of families do the same to sanctify the whole family.
If the Pious Disciples are persons of true interior life, how much grace would flow into our communities, into Christianity; so much would flow as to reach the infidels, pagans, schismatics; so much as to multiply vocations and to sanctify the priests.
The grace is there, what is needed is to obtain it for souls and whoever is full shall obtain it.
You may not notice the humble action of the person of interior life, but you will become aware of it on God's judgment and then, you will marvel of the many souls saved through it.
The Church, called the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, is like an organism. The head is Jesus Christ, we are the members.1 When there is pure, vigorous and sound blood in the heart, life is brought in the whole organism. Thus, in the Church, when there are souls of pure, sound blood and of hearts all of God, life is diffused in the whole Church.
In your Constitutions, there is a line that says everything: to be living and active members in the Mystical Body of the Church.1
But if interior holiness is lacking, you will neither be living nor active members.
Do you possess this interior holiness? Is your faith such that it makes you esteem above all, grace? interior life,? May this truth be at the vertex and the base of all the others. She who may not be able to work exteriorly, does the important part by living intensely the interior life.
Consider that the Lord chooses the souls who nourish the Church with the life of grace. Like the Blessed Virgin who was chosen, he calls many virgins and he called you. Get into the heart of Jesus to know his desires, his aspirations; take part, breath as he does, aim at that which he aims at. One heart with Jesus' Heart. Does this penetrate your soul well?
There are persons who work all their life, they come, go, sweat, walk, toil and end up nothing, because they lack the interior life. They are zeros without unit, empty plants who exteriorly may look smart, but they do not bear fruits.
Do you really believe in this need? are you persuaded? Let not the foundation be wanting. How many lives die away after having lived uselessly! How many works are empty! Remember what Jesus said of St. John: He was a lamp alight and shining1; ardens et lucens. First, is to be ardent, then, to enlighten.
Activity shall not save the world, but grace; nor shall those who work only exteriorly, but the Saints!
Did you come to the Exercises to strenghten your interior life? Do you detest sin as God does? There are many persons in certain communities, but few holy souls. You should be good sisters, holy sisters!
Are you persons who can say like Jesus: Quae placita sunt Ei facio semper,1 (I always do what pleases him), in the inner and sincere disposition to God's will? to do what pleases him? persons whom God can do whatever he likes, to have at his disposal as he desires? all of God up to the end? Such persons always remain united to the Lord: in health and in sickness, both in the last place as in the first. This is the true devotion: to be of God! Do not misunderstand the sense of devotion.
The first day of the Exercises brings you to a deep examination, to a sincere knowledge of yourselves. Tell Jesus: Noverim Te, noverim me!1 (Lord, that I may know You, so that I may know myself). I am nothing, I am sin, You, instead, are Everything, you are grace: all that I have is your gift.
Few words to the confessor, great intimacy with God.
Bow your head, humble yourselves, be grateful and have trust.
1 The Soul of Every Apostolate of John the Baptist Chautard.
2 The Interior Apostolate. There is the work of Francis Pollien entitled: The interior life simplified; of Dagnino S. entitled: Manual of interior life; of Wendelin Meyer entitled: The true interior life, 2 vols., EP. It is not known which book Fr. Alberione was referring to.
1 Cf. Mt. 4, 1-2.
1 Cf. Lk. 10, 38-42.
1 Cf. Lk. 8, 5-8.
1 Cf. Col. 1, 18.
1 Cf. Constitutions of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, (1947), art.3.
1 Jn. 5, 35.
1 Jn. 8, 29.
1 St. Augustine, Invocations. Cf. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1952), n.88.