THE FORMATION OF THE APOSTLEGiven the grandeur and the responsibility of the publishing apostolate, it is obvious that, as well as a special vocation, the apostle requires a preparation or, rather, a particular formation, which is both specific and generic. The specific formation is in view of a direct exercise of the apostolate in its various forms, depending on the person and the commitment. We shall discuss this later when we deal with the apostolate of the press, the cinema and the radio. The generic formation is for the most part moral and it is the same for all those who devote themselves to one or another initiative of the publishing apostolate. This is what we intend to discuss now, under three headings: formation of the mind, the will and the heart.
Formation of the mind1
This involves the study of religion, the study of the apostolate, and the study of secular sciences.
The study of religion must be correct, complete and solid. Correct, that is, error-free; complete, in that it embraces Catholic dogma, morals and worship; solid, hence based on the principal truths.
The study of the apostolate, and of the publishing apostolate in particular, must be theoretical and practical. As such, it has to include the apostolate in general, the apostle, the parts of the apostolate, and practical know-how.
The study of secular sciences must be undertaken in relation to the study of religion and, in relation to the apostolate, to the degree necessary for its employment.
If, for example, we are talking of priest writers (and proportionately also of religious and lay people) the preparation of the mind is, in general, the same as is required for the priest preacher and pastor, since it is a question of the one mission. However, within one or another office of the one mission some interrelated subjects dominate; these can be called specializations. For example, pulpit eloquence, the ability to write, to print, to distribute, and so on.
The publishing apostle's need for intellectual preparation is obvious. As such, he is a teacher by nature, call and position. He is one who has the highest teaching post; one who expounds doctrine with breadth and accuracy; one who has an incredible variety of disciples.
All this is proof that his knowledge must be broad-based, deep and practical.
Results will be in proportion to preparation. Thus the time given to studies is invaluable. Requisites are an above average to high intelligence, sufficient time, good teaching methods, practical exercises, exemplary concentration, avoidance of what could impede or be a drawback to study, or hinder application or progress.
Before setting about the apostolate candidates will have to undergo tests and exams, and be duly authorized as for the apostolate of the word.
Formation of the will
This consists in the training of intense spiritual activity by means of combating one's bad inclinations and by practicing virtue.
This spiritual battle will be enhanced if it is undertaken in a systematic way. Among the many, the one suggested by Saint Ignatius is advocated; that is, to focus
the battle on the predominant passion. You study it and isolate all its manifestations and forms. Then you resolutely declare war with all your strength - spiritual, moral and physical - until you defeat and master it, so as to make it a humble servant of good under the sway of reason and faith. You cling, in case of need, to the examination of conscience: general, particular, preventive, daily, weekly, monthly and annual.
You gradually become adept in the exercise of virtue through systematic and constant toil. You start, depending on your temperament, with the most necessary virtue; then you cultivate it intensely and put it into practice until the soul is able to carry it out "prompte, faciliter et delectabiliter."2
You will have to give primary importance to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity; then, in due proportion, to the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance; and consequently, to the moral virtues of obedience, purity, poverty, humility, and so on.
Remember that charity is the essence of perfection; hence, focus everything on the study of this virtue and how to acquire it.
If the need for spiritual battle holds true for all Christians, it is easy to understand how imperative it is for the apostle. What is required of him is to lead not only an exemplary life but also to possess the social virtues reinforced by humility,
the spirit of sacrifice, constancy and the love of God and people.
In fact he cannot be satisfied just with the practice of the Christian life; he has to aspire to the life of perfection, to the highest possible degree of union with God.
In practice such intense spiritual activity to acquire virtue and the moral formation of the apostle lasts as long as the time of intellectual formation and continues with the self-same constancy for the whole of life. The passage of time will bring new works and new needs; it will require greater virtue and new sacrifices. The result will be in proportion not only to the formation of the intellect, but also to that of the will.
Formation of the heart
This entails a negative and a positive approach in order to bring one's feelings into line with God.
The first, the negative approach, is to see that the heart does not become dispirited or downhearted, or be put under strain and brought into conflict with reason.
The positive has three steps and already supposes the negative. The first is to have the heart cherish the true, the beautiful and the good; indeed to foster the beauty of the truth. The second is to direct and excite the heart
to love God and his law in a supernatural way. The third, and the most important, is to motivate it to ardent charity.
This third step leads to training the spirit. This is achieved by making use of the Sacraments, the Sacramentals and Prayer, in such a way that these become direct channels through which the life of grace passes from the heart of Jesus to the heart of the apostle. He can thus direct to God all his inclinations, his whole life, in order to produce that "Mihi vivere Christus est."3
Among the Sacraments greater emphasis is placed on Penance and the Eucharist, and the need for assiduous frequency. The apostle is to have particular devotion to the Mass since he has to atone a great deal for himself and much more for others.
Linked to the practice of the Sacraments are the Sacramentals, at least the most common ones.
The apostle must take literally the Divine Teacher's exhortation regarding prayer: "Oportet semper orare et non deficere."4 Mental, vocal and life-giving prayer - God-given nourishment - so that he can communicate God to others.
Recommended for mental prayer is the meditated reading of Holy Scripture, particularly that of the Holy Gospel, as well as the works of the Fathers, and the Lives of the Saints.
To be added to this are daily meditation of at least a half hour, the monthly day of recollection and the annual retreat.
Vocal prayer is to be inculcated in a direct way: a few good practices but not excessive ones.
The apostle is to be trained in good time to life-giving prayer, that is, to the practical way of transforming all action into prayer, offering it to God through Jesus Christ, with love-filled faith.
The need for the apostle to train his heart is, within this context, undeniable, for it is invariably true that to preach to others does not convert us. Likewise true is that the more recollected an apostolically-minded person is the more wide-ranging is his effectiveness: "Attende tibi et doctrinæ..." Saint Paul already admonished his faithful disciple5 "hoc enim faciens et te ipsum salvum facies et eos, qui te audiunt."6 We are never so useful to others as when we attend to ourselves. The secluded corner, "elige tibi remotum locum",7 is surely
more useful to people's souls than the pulpit and the pen itself.
In practice, foster the devotions which give greater spiritual nourishment: the devotion to the Divine Master Way, Truth and Life; the devotion to Mary, Queen of the Apostles; to Saint Joseph, protector of the universal Church; to the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, so as to keep us firmly in the Church's embrace; to the holy Guardian Angels, and to the Souls in Purgatory. Let there be an intense sharing in the life of Jesus Teacher as it is set out in the Church's liturgical year. Here the apostolate acquires its passion, for every apostolate is in the Church and in Jesus Christ; outside of them is semblance and void.
Pre-eminent among the practices of piety and on which depends to a great extent the formation of the apostle and the outcome of the apostolate are the Mass, Communion, Meditation, the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and the examination of conscience. In the chapters that follow, the apostle will receive practical guidance on how to fulfill these practices.
Since, at least for beginners, it is helpful to follow a method in these practices, we propose one - characteristic of the publishing apostolate - which is based on the gospel trinomial - "way, truth and life."
1 The term "mind" is used here, and throughout this book, as a synonym of intellect.
2 * "Resolutely, easily and joyfully."
3 Phil 1:21. * "For me to live is Christ."
4 Lk 18:1. * "[One] ought always to pray and never lose heart."
5 * Timothy.
6 1 Tim 4:16. * "Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
7 * Cf. Mk 6:31: "Come to a lonely place."