power, but to employ them as wonderful instruments of apostolate in the sense of defense and conquest. Defense against the assaults of hostile publications, in accordance with a precise program "to combat arms with arms". Conquest so as to make provision that this "progress of the arts, of the sciences, and of human technique and industry, since they are all true gifts of God, may be ordained to his glory and to the salvation of souls."1
So as not to run the danger of deviating from such a vast and sublime ideal, it helps, above all, to rely on principles that put the publishing apostolate in its true light.
We shall deal with three of its main ones here in this chapter. These are its nature, its importance and its purpose.
Nature of the publishing apostolate
When we speak of the "publishing apostolate" here we do not mean simply that series of initiatives which rejects what offends morals and the Christian faith or which proposes some particular ideal for good. What we mean is a true mission, which can be properly defined as preaching God's word by means of publishing.
"Preaching God's word", or proclamation, evangelization of the good news, of the saving truth.
It is preaching to be undertaken in every age and in every place, in accordance with God's command: "Euntes in mundum universum, prœdicate Evangelium omni creaturæ";2 to everyone, because just as all fall heir to ignorance as a result of original sin, so all are gifted with intelligence to understand and to raise their mind to God, all have a soul to be saved.
"A preaching which is nonetheless original, made by means of publishing."
Like oral preaching, the written or the imprinted form spreads the word of God. It copies it over and over, giving it access everywhere, even there where the spoken word cannot reach or cannot be retained unaltered. This is to follow God's way who gave us his divine Word in the seventy-two books of the Bible. It is to follow the Church's way, which, in every age, linked the imprinted form with oral preaching.
For quite some time many people failed to evaluate fully the positive aspect of the publishing apostolate's importance. The "children
of darkness" took advantage of this to subordinate it to the stimulus of base passion and the greediness of gain, so much so that Pope Pius X, referring in particular to the press, burst out: "Oh, the press!... Its importance is not yet understood. Neither the faithful nor the clergy dedicate themselves to it as they should!"
Before long, however, the most praiseworthy undertakings in the publishing apostolate increased far and wide.
Catholics have worked and continue to work in the difficult and devastated field of the press, the cinema and the radio, but there are still many possibilities for positive action and real success. What can now be asserted is that without a wider use of these powerful propagators of thought, vast areas will always remain beyond the range of Christianity's action.
We can easily deduce why not only from the nature of the apostolate, which is preaching God's word, but also from the intrinsic value of publishing. The press, the cinema and the radio are the arms of mysterious influence which guide human beings to their genius since they generally base their opinions and regulate their lives on what they read, see and hear. There is nothing absurd about that, since we know that speech and writing
speak to the mind and embed ideas there, while the will follows the mind and draws on ideas for its life.
As Béranger rightly states, in reference to the press, "Good or bad, deceitful or truthful, dishonest or virtuous, it is, in a free country, all-powerful. It creates public opinion and customs; if good, it strengthens the family and the school, if bad it destroys them; it can bring down governments or put them in place; it lays claim to peace and war."
In 1936, in a talk to the writers and friends of La Croix, who came to a meeting in Rome, Pope Pius XI, the enlightened and staunch animator of the international Catholic Press Exhibition, after having drawn attention to the "omnipotence of the press", said:
"This expression hardly does justice to the reality. The spoken word by itself is already all-powerful... What can we say then of this already all-powerful word when it can employ such an organized body, such a means of dissemination, as is the press? Thanks to this organization and to this means of dissemination it is indeed omnipotence which is extended over and beyond all bounds."
There are no less authoritative and convincing proofs regarding the cinema and the radio. We will refer to these in the second part of this
book. After dealing at length with the press apostolate, we will touch on the apostolate of the cinema and that of the radio.
For now the following points should suffice:
Pope Pius XI was an animator and supporter of the cinema. He saw it as a wonderful outcome of science, well nigh a gift that God's goodness willed to lavish on humanity but which had become, only too well, "a source and medium of tremendous evil." This concern made him exclaim, heart-broken: "How many ruined lives! These are souls. It is a frightful thing to contemplate."3
Pius XI's opinion as regards the modern invention of the radio was along the same line. He had seen its birth, its rapid advance, and its marvelous applications and he wanted to employ it himself to broadcast his radio messages to the whole of humanity.
The reigning Pope, Pius XII, like his Predecessor, rates highly the power of the press, the cinema and the radio and is concerned about them. Testimony of this is his countless speeches, writings and events. Among these last we like to recall the "Decree of Praise and Approval", given on 10 May 1941 to the Pious Society
of Saint Paul, a modern religious Congregation whose members set themselves the publishing apostolate as their special aim.
The specific aim of the publishing apostolate is the glory of God and the salvation of people's souls.
It is the same program that the Angels put into song at Bethlehem's crib: "Gloria Deo, pax hominibus."4 It is the program of Jesus Christ and of his perennial life in the Church.
[It is] a very lofty aim, therefore; a divine aim.
The sole ideal of the publishing apostle is to have God reign in people's souls. It is, in other words, to have people submit their mind to God and thus to stir up faith and, if necessary, to instill it; to submit their will to God, thus observing his law in practice; and to submit their heart to him, thus inspiring in them supernatural love of God, charity.
The sole treasure it focuses on is eternal glory in heaven. It is a treasure that apostles want essentially to guarantee, resolutely and relentlessly, for themselves, and to acquire for their brothers and sisters, all men and women.
1 Pius XI, Vigilanti cura. * 1936 encyclical on Motion Pictures.
2 Mk 16:15. * "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation."
3 Discourse to the Committee of the International Federation of the Motion Pictures Press, given at Castelgandolfo on 10 August 1934.
4 * Cf. Lk 2:14: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men."