Tag Archives: apostolate

Friendship, Interior Life, Apostolate

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A pretty bluebell forest in my new neck of the woods 🙂 Sadly only had phone camera with me

We’re approaching the height of Confirmation season. One of the things our Bishop is telling all the Confirmation candidates (spoiler alert to anyone in our diocese) is that they need good, Catholic friends. How true this is for Every Single One Of Us! In my own life, Catholic friends have been a source of joy, fun, consolation, laughter, inspiration, spiritual growth. Whatever state of life we are in – married or single – we need our friends. I’ve discovered, as friends get married and begin families, they need friends in new and different ways. Friends who are very different from you and who inspire you to try harder or challenge you to see beyond your own viewpoint and ways of doing things (sometimes learned the hard way). Friends who don’t really get your line of work and so will take you out of yourself by doing or talking about something completely different. Friends who do share your work and will help you laugh about it. Friends you’ve known so long you can happily curl up on the sofa with, each with your own book. Friends are the remedy and the consolation for much in our life. I do think that the need for good friendships for own interior growth cannot be underestimated. There is a wonderful chapter about this in this fabulous book – for all you ladies out there.

Of course, it is rare (especially as you grow older, don’t you think?) for friendships just to happen, with very little effort. Some friendships just click – you both adore each other – and not very much work is involved at all – or at least it doesn’t feel like work. When I was younger, I only bothered with these kind of friendships and pretty much ignored everyone else. (Yes, how obnoxious.) Now I am older, I am valuing friendships all over the place. Do you know why? Hopefully because I’m a little maturer. But also because, over the last four or five years, I’ve realised the potential within friendship for our apostolate.

Each of us, if we’re baptised, has an apostolate – whether it’s active or kinda dusty. Each of us, through our union with Christ as his disciples, are called to be busy and active in bringing others to him. All the people we are in contact with in our daily life. All of them. The lady on the desk at the gym. The lovely lady who shows me new eye makeup at the Clinique counter. My driving instructor. The people I went walking with in the bluebell forest at the weekend. (Just a quick scan through my past week…) Building up friendships is the absolute best way to bring others to him. It creates the foundation which, once developed, can be the basis for evangelisation. Our friendship is the first stage Sherry Weddell talks about in her book.

This is the obvious kind of apostolate. The less obvious kind is with our Catholic friends who are maybe a little less strong in their faith. Jesus uses our friendships here, too, if we pray for our friends and about them. What would he have us do? How can we help them grow deeper in their faith? After all, the more passionate disciples he has, the more the new evangelisation can spread.

I admit it, I prefer this kind of apostolate to the previous one, and some things I’ve tried here include: inviting someone to a talk, a retreat, a course (discern what they’re ready for); invite someone to be a catechist-helper on a programme (not teaching, but helping with a small group – it is the best way to ensure they get the catechesis they never had themselves as a teen); invite friends round for dinner – a mixture of on-fire Catholics and on-the-edge ones; let friends know you really need some help with cooking food/giving lifts/registering people for your Catholic event; invite them on a hike with your Catholic friends; start a reading group (you want to be careful here – inviting Sunday-Mass-going-only-Catholics to study Church documents with you is not going to cut it; however, there are some interesting, less threatening books that gently introduce people to the faith – Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning; Walter Ciszek’s With God in Russia (oh dear, notice the concentration camp theme); Jacque Philippe’s Interior Freedom). Above all, pray and offer small mortifications for them – this is the most effective thing we can do in our apostolate.

Just because we’re catechists doesn’t mean we’re not called to be evangelists too 😉 In every sphere of our lives… using all our creativity, imagination, effort…

Friendship is a wonderful gift. As we grow into our catechising-evangelising lives, we realise that some of our best friends are those we have brought to the faith or catechised, or both… And we have received much, much more grace than the little drop of water we have poured in.


Lay People – Be Who You Are!

Photo: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

Photo: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

OK, I hope this is not going to shock you, people… I am a massive defender of lay identity, spirituality, apostolate because that is who I am – a lay person! I love the lay vocation. When I read what the Church teaches about laity (I’ve found Lumen Gentium and Christifidelis Laici particularly inspiring) I have wanted to take this into my heart and let it form who I am. (Please read these if you haven’t had a chance to – they are wonderful.)

I sometimes think though that we have forgotten this wonderful teaching. We forget that the lay vocation is one in its own right, not simple a negation of ‘not being a priest or religious’. It has its own distinct “secular character” (see CL). It has its own dignity and beauty. We are the ones who do what priests and religious cannot – carry Christ into the world, be co-redeemers with him in the temporal realm. We are the “authentic, secular dimension” to the Church “inherent in her nature and mission” (Pope Paul VI). When we are having a drink with friends and we respond to their questions about being a Catholic, or when we end up having a conversation with a taxi driver, or when (as a friend and I did recently) we ask at a restaurant what fish is on the menu as it’s Friday – then we are living in small ways our lay vocation in the secular realm. Clearly, when we exercise our vote in political debate, or contribute the Christian viewpoint, or fight against anti-Christian decisions in our workplace, our action in the secular world is more visible. But it doesn’t detract from the dignity of Christianising our workplaces, homes, friendships, with our more hidden witness.

Why do I say all this? Isn’t it obvious? Well, no… it doesn’t seem so. To me it seems that ‘to be a faithful Catholic’ is often equated with being on the reader’s rota or taking Holy Communion to the sick. Both are praiseworthy things – don’t get me wrong. But if, tomorrow, there were suddenly enough priests to take Holy Communion to all the sick – would we still go and visit them anyway? My point is that we have a tendency to beg our priests to ‘clericalise’ us. Somehow it seems easier to do the reading at Mass than speak with our next-door neighbour about God. If the focus of our Christian life becomes the reading we do at Mass, or the next Sunday we’re down to be a minister of Holy Communion, we are missing out on the beauty of our lay vocation!

Christifidelis Laici spells it out like this:

“the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world”

To be fair – I think priests sometimes love to ‘clericalise’ their laity just as much as lay people love to be clericalised. I think for decades now we’ve failed to form people for their specifically lay vocation which has left people thinking that to be holy, they must spend a lot of time around the sacristy, or hours a day praying.

Let’s pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood so that we can let lay people be lay people and priests be priests.


Sacrificial Effort

20120321-155448.jpgSome days, I get a teeny-weeny glimpse of the efforts God makes in seeking us out and drawing us to himself. Some days, you feel like you’re chasing after people all day long. “Sorry you couldn’t make it!” “We missed you last week – such a shame you couldn’t be there!” when inside you’re thinking, “Where were you?!” Now amidst everything, I need to squeeze in an extra hour somewhere to catch up. To be honest, this often works out for the best: it usually means a good chance for a one-on-one which is often very fruitful.

One of the tricky things about initiation catechesis is people’s lives. We can prepare everything beautifully, but the most important thing that needs preparation is people’s hearts – to receive the catechesis. And it helps if they’re actually there in the first place.

This means that, almost as important as our catechetical work with people, is our pastoral support. The one-on-one time. Ensuring that people are neither overburdened, or need more input to spur them on. I try to keep good contact with each adult in our initiation process (believe me, we’re talking a wide range of stages… from very early enquirer to very-nearly-almost-there). Some of them long to become Catholic like they have never longed for anything before, while others are resistant, slightly cynical, unsure. Some need more help than you can give them, and that’s why it’s helpful to know some good Catholic counsellors.

The sponsors, too, are engaged in this mission of “sacrificial effort”. The best effort that we make for others are the prayers and sacrifice we offer for them without them knowing. I know some incredible sponsors and others in our parish who I am certain – simply by seeing the fruitfulness of their lives – pray and offer sacrifice for those they sponsor or befriend, for their conversion. And who knows who has done this for us?

I wanted to write this post following the previous one on “Fruitfulness”, simply because God wants to see our desire for others’ conversions, he wants to see our passion and zeal for souls, and we show him our desire through our prayer and sacrifice. This is essential to being a lay apostle, a co-redeemer with Christ. How much do we want it?