Ever consider yourself an apostle? Last year, the 42 year-old Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, returned to Broadway for another run. The Apostles reflectively sing during the Last Supper, “Always hoped that I'd be an apostle, knew that I would make it if I tried,” as if they really knew what they were getting into when they agreed to Jesus saying “Follow me!” Of course, they didn’t. It would be like you saying, “Always hoped I’d be a volunteer, knew that I would make it if I tried.”
At some point someone, even if that Someone was speaking within, invited you to consider doing volunteer service and now you are doing it. Did you know exactly what you were getting into when you applied? Like the Apostles, probably not. You hoped to serve and give of yourself. Now after some time of service, you have much more of an idea of what you are doing and what it means to give of yourself in service. Even if your time of service is not coming to an end right now, you might be asking a couple of questions:
“What am I going to do next?”
“What am I going to do with my life?”
No need to panic over them. Spending time reflecting on these questions is important, but sometimes that reflection can move in the direction of narcissism.Obviously, service is focused on others rather than ourselves. An outward-focus, while inwardly deciding, can offer a possible way forward. A bit of wisdom from Pope Francis from this past Easter Sunday
speaks to this needed balance:“Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”
Notice that we are in the middle, not as passive participants, but actively living the mercy and love of Jesus Christ toward a world in need of care, to people in need of service. We are sent by him. We are apostles.
Ever think of yourself as an apostle? We are. Each one of the baptized is an apostle of faith and charity to a world in need of the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. We share in his mission. This is our primary vocation (from Latin vocare – “to call
”) in life. We have a vocation to be an apostle. Don’t believe me? I’m not the one who said it, Blessed John Paul II did. He was talking to my religious family, the Union of Catholic Apostolate
, but his point was meant for all:“Continue to multiply your efforts so that what was prophetically announced by Vincent Pallotti, and the Second Vatican Council authoritatively confirmed, may become a happy reality, that all Christians are authentic apostles of Christ in the Church and in the world”
(Homily of June 22, 1986
Blessed John Paul II was simply expanding on what was said during the Second Vatican Council in a document that he helped to write, the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity
. But, what does it mean to be an “authentic apostle of Christ in the Church and in the world?” It means living as one who is sent, and not simply living for ourselves or being only a follower. We are sharers in the mission of Christ in his priestly, prophetic, and royal offices (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 783-786). We are “consecrated” through baptism (priestly) to “witness in the midst of the world” (prophetic), in service, especially to “the poor and the suffering” (royal). Nothing passive here! Our vocation as apostles of Jesus Christ is an active one that moves us outward beyond ourselves to a world in need of his presence through us.
Our vocation as baptized is our primary vocation
. All of the other vocations as married
, or priest
are all secondary to this primary vocation as follower of (disciple) and sent by (apostle) Jesus Christ. Each is a way one can live out the primary vocation. How does one decide? Through a process of discernment
, one is called to be informed, pray, make a choice, and take action
. I make it seem easy. The process is not an easy one, but necessary in order to make a truly informed choice about how to live our vocation as an apostle. You might not be ready to make a choice about what way to live this vocation for life, but living it out as an apostle is what you are already doing in your volunteer service and probably did long before now.
Maybe the Apostles in Jesus Christ Superstar
were not so far off then, we do want to be apostles; we only need to try.Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center. This piece was written for the Catholic Apostolate Center partner Catholic Volunteer Network, "Shared Visions" Newsletter.
Being a “cradle catholic” I never questioned why we had 4 different statues of Mary in our kitchen or why every May we put a crown of flowers on our “Garden Mary” outside. It was common to hear the advice of praying to the rosary if you couldn’t sleep and thus one would be able to find countless glow-in-the-dark rosary beads tucked into my bed. Almost every woman in my family had Marie as their middle name and like myself, if it wasn’t a middle name it was taken as a confirmation name. It wasn’t until college, living under the shadow of “Mary’s House”, the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, that I began to understand that it was through Mary that I would come to know her Son.
St. Vincent Pallotti understood this and had a deep connection with Our Lady and entrusted himself to her. He wrote “I resolve, my God, from all eternity and for all eternity . . . to love, honor and glorify my beloved Mother Mary; and to behold her loved, honored and glorified to the same degree that You, O Eternal Father, have showered her as Your Daughter, that You, O Divine Lord, have esteemed her as Your Mother, and that You, O Holy Spirit, have accorded her as Your most pure spouse
.” (Soul of a Saint, p. 82)
His devotion went beyond the pious practice of the time and enlightened a burning love within him. He spoke of Our Lady as, “Mother of Divine Love” and “Queen of Apostles.”
It is said that he spoke, “I shall not rest until I, if this is possible, have achieved an infinitely tender love for my much beloved and much loving mother, Mary
St. Vincent, in his deep love for Mary and a desire to be humble, work a silver reliquary box around his wrist with the image of the Mother of Divine Love painted on ivory mounted on it. He did this so that when people came to kiss his hand, a practice of that time, instead of kissing how own hand they would instead kiss the image of Our Lady.
During this Month dedicated to Mary, let us look to St. Vincent as an example of how a love for our blessed mother can help us in reviving faith, enkindling charity and become an apostle of Christ. Pam Tremblay is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Prayer to Mary Queen of Apostles
Immaculate Mother of God, Queen of the Apostles, we know that God's commandment of love and our vocation to follow Jesus Christ impels us to cooperate in the mission of the Church. Realizing our own weakness, we entrust the renewal of our personal lives and our apostolate to your intercession. We are confident that through God's mercy and the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, you, who are our Mother, will obtain the strength of the Holy Spirit as you obtained it for the community of the apostles gathered in the upper room. Therefore, relying on your maternal intercession, we resolve from this moment to devote our talents, learning, material resources, our health, sickness and trials, and every gift of nature and grace, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of all. We wish to carry on those activities which especially promote the catholic apostolate for the revival of faith and love of the people of God and so bring all men and women into the faith of Jesus Christ. And if a time should come when we have nothing more to offer serviceable to this end, we will never cease to pray that there will be one fold and one shepherd Jesus Christ. In this way, we hope to enjoy the results of the apostolate of Jesus Christ for all eternity.
~St. Vincent Pallotti
“For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
–1 Corinthians 9:16
In a changing world, the Gospel does not change. The Good News always remains the same. Our vocation to be its bearers and our responsibility are always current. “The core of the proclamation always remains the same: the Kerygma of Christ who died and rose for the world’s salvation, the Kerygma of God's absolute and total love for every man and every woman” (Benedict XVI, Message for World Mission Day 2012).
I ask myself, what do we, sons and daughters of St. Vincent Pallotti, need in this era of the New Evangelisation?
Like everyone in the Church today, I need to re-examine, with courage and humility, my way of being an apostle, sent to evangelise, I need to understand the profound sense of insufficiency of my proclamation and my witness; otherwise, how can I explain the fact that so many people around me do not know God and live as if God did not exist?
“God created human beings in time only in order to lead them happily to eternity. His desire is to see all of them saved, enlightened by his graces and by the exercise of his Providence. For this reason, St. Dionysiusthe Areopagite says that the most holy, most noble, most august, most divine work of all of the Divine, august, noble and holy works is to cooperate with the merciful plans, wishes and desires of God for the salvation of human beings” (OOCC IV, 124).
At some point in the past, each one of us met Jesus, each one replied with love and courage, ‘Yes, send me’, to his invitation, ‘Follow me’. Each person lives out in their own state of life as mother, father, sister, brother, priest, young, sick etc., day after day, their being an apostle, sent by Jesus. All of us have the same desire, implanted in our hearts by our Creator, to be happy. As good Christians, we must desire the same happiness also for our brothers and sisters. We find the fullness of our happiness in Jesus Christ who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.
Without the renewing breath of the Holy Spirit there can be no New Evangelisation. Without a deep desire for the Holy Spirit on my part, “the new man, the new woman”, true witness of God, cannot be born in me. I already realize from my life experience how risky and unpredictable it is to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit and his action within us
But if we open our hearts and minds to the fire of the Holy Spirit who acted in the life and missionary activity of the first apostles, of St. Paul, of the saints of all times, including our holy Founder, we can experience unexpected change. Like the disciples of Emmaus, like the disciples who left the Cenacle after Pentecost transformed from simple chroniclers into passionate witnesses of the Risen One, from frightened apostles into courageous bearers of the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. It is the Holy Spirit who impels us to proclaim the great works of God.
I really find the need to be changed into an ardent witness of the Risen Jesus from whom life springs for me and for the whole world. Not to be simply a chronicler of facts, of events immortalised in the pages of the Gospel, but to believe strongly in the extraordinary power, and feel the life, which the Gospel possesses. The most difficult thing today for each of us, for every Christian, I think, is to take seriously the Gospel which we have in our hands, to try to translate into practise what Jesus says to us about simplicity of spirit. But this is precisely what is being asked of us with great insistence in today. The Good News of the Gospel is always the love of God for each human person; we are expected to give concrete form to this message and it is only then that those close to us will be able to understand the message of love and hope. A “theology of the face”, meaning meeting and welcoming the other in a personalised way, seems more relevant and necessary. It is very much needed today in human relationships. The most effective way to share the Good News with others is to communicate it heart to heart. Every person wants to feel themselves to be worthy of our attention, our interest, our love, and many want to see in us people of God.
This is a selection from an article titled, "The Year of Faith, The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation, and the 50th Anniversary of the Canonisation of St. Vincent Pallotti" by Sr. M. Bozena Olszewska, S.A.C., who is a member of the General Council of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters
The Catholic Apostolate Center invites you to join in prayer and thanksgiving for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and for our Church at this time of transition. Pope Benedict XVI always emphasized the intrinsic connection between faith and charity, similar to St. Vincent Pallotti, founder of the Union of Catholic Apostolate and patron saint of the Catholic Apostolate Center. His humility in this decision is a great example of a true servant of Jesus Christ. The Holy Father has been a gift to the Church, and the effects of his Petrine ministry will be felt for years to come.
May Mary, Queen of Apostles, continue to guide Pope Benedict XVI, and may the Holy Spirit be with the College of Cardinals as they soon gather to elect his successor.
Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D.Min.
Pallottines at the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti, Rome 1963
On 20 January 1963, just over a month after the close of the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the rows of tiered seating on either side of the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica meant to accommodate over 2000 Council Fathers filled to capacity again. The faithful came on that day for the canonization of one person, Vincent Pallotti (21 April 1795- 22 January 1850), a priest of Rome and founder of the Union of Catholic Apostolate. Blessed John XXIII, who canonized him that day, called Pallotti “an innovator of new ways whereby people could come to know and love God.” For Pallotti this was the way of an apostle, one who is sent on mission, urged on by the love of Christ. As Blessed John XXIII explained, “the apostle does not nourish his personal concerns, nor seek his own glory, but he works for a reward far and eternal, happy to please God alone, and to bring souls, possibly all souls to his merciful love.”
The Rome of Pallotti’s day was not a place of peace and tranquility. His lifetime was punctuated by revolution and his witnessing three times over the forced absence of a pope. He experienced Catholics throwing off their faith and, therefore, saw a great need to “revive faith and rekindle charity” among Catholics and also serve the growing needs of the Church in the missions. On 9 January 1835, he was inspired to found the Union of Catholic Apostolate as a response to these needs of the Church. Pallotti called the Union an “evangelical trumpet, calling all, inviting all, rekindling zeal and charity in all the faithful of every state, situation and condition” that “would effectively cooperate in all evangelical undertakings, and in the growth, defense, and propagation of charity and of the Catholic faith” (OO CC I, 4-5). His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State, summarized the elements and effect of this inspiration in a recent letter to the Pallottine family: “Living faith and active charity were the two pillars on which St. Vincent Pallotti rested firmly his whole luminous life and generous work, two inner forces that spurred and supported the many apostolic initiatives that filled his life. ‘Caritas Christi urget nos’ (2 Cor 5:14) was his motto, which also motivated his followers. The ripe fruit of his zeal was the foundation of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, that even at that time, valued the collaboration of all categories of the faithful of the Church – laity, priests, and religious – vivifying the faith of each to become an authentic apostle, carrying the fire of God’s love!”
In our time there is still an urgent need to revive faith, rekindle charity, and call all the baptized to live as apostles. As in Pallotti’s day, so today, faith is being thrown off, not by revolution, but by indifference, lack of engagement, disinterest. The work of the New Evangelization as articulated by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and recently reflected upon at the Synod on the New Evangelization emphasizes the intrinsic connection between faith and charity for authentic Christian living, a deepening by Catholics of their baptismal commitment through active evangelizing of self and others, and support of the missionary efforts of the Church throughout the world. These priorities of the New Evangelization were the priorities of St. Vincent Pallotti as well. They are the priorities of the Union of Catholic Apostolate today. According to Fr. Jacob Nampudakam, S.A.C., Rector General of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate and Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, “the Pallottine response to the challenge of the New Evangelization is, therefore, to revive faith and rekindle charity as apostles of Jesus in a changing world, sinking roots into a passion, the passion of St. Vincent Pallotti for Christ!”
This passion for Christ in the spirit of St. Vincent Pallotti is manifesting itself for the twenty-first century in the response of the Union of Catholic Apostolate to the needs of the New Evangelization. The Union “promotes collaboration among all the faithful in openness to new forms of evangelization” (General Statutes
, n. 12). The Catholic Apostolate Center in the United States of America is one of those responses. The Center is collaborating with various Church entities at the international, national, diocesan, and local levels to provide in-person and online formation programs for the New Evangelization and assists in fostering deeper collaboration and greater co-responsibility among all the baptized.
In this jubilee year of the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti, the Union of Catholic Apostolate actively pursues what Blessed John Paul II called it to do over twenty-five years ago, “Continue to multiply your efforts so that what was prophetically announced by Vincent Pallotti, and the Second Vatican Council authoritatively confirmed, may become a happy reality, that all Christians are authentic apostles of Christ in the Church and in the world.” Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D. Min, Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center wrote this piece for the January 23rd English edition of © L'Osservatore Romano, 2013 To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the cannonaization of St. Vincent Pallotti check out the new PALLOTTI APP featuring daily meditations, St. Vincent Pallotti’s vision, and Pallotine Community Prayers.
As we arrive at a new year, we offer you a name for the Catholic Apostolate Center blog, Ad Infinitum.
Where does this name come from? At the beginning of this post there are four letters that were at the top of every letter that the Center’s patron St. Vincent Pallotti
would write, A.I.D.G., Ad Infinitam Dei Gloriam
, For the Infinite Glory of God.
The letters would remind him and also his readers that all that is done is not for our glory, but for God’s. As many will recognize, this usage is an adaptation of Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
, For the Greater Glory of God, of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Why infinite? Because of Pallotti’s deep experience of God as Infinite Love, a love which is infinitely communicated to us, and in which we are called to respond. In the writings of Pallotti, the Apostle-Mystic of the Infinite, we witness his experience, one in which we can share, “Oh the excess of incomprehensible love! Ah my God, infinite love of my soul, ineffable mercy! Oh the divine inventions of your infinitely merciful love…My God, my infinite Mercy, Eternal, Immense, Incomprehensible, one and only Infinite, infinitely Communicable.”
The infinitely communicable God of Infinite Love works in and through us to communicate this love to the world. The logo of the Catholic Apostolate Center, the Infinity Cross, is a meditation on the communication to us of the Infinite Love of the Trinity through the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ, and his great unmerited sacrificially loving gift for us on the cross, a cross that in the logo is opened ended, open to Infinite Love being spread to all points of the world through us.
Since God is working in and through us we are challenged to do all that we do not for our glory, but For the Infinite Glory of God! Of course, that is easier said than done. We like being recognized, appreciated, honored, and maybe even, sometimes, glorified, if we can get it. And yet, does it bring us true joy or just a fleeting sense of happiness? As we begin another year, it is worth our reflecting on who brings us true joy, peace, and love and how we respond in faith and charity as apostles of Christ not for ourselves but Ad Infinitum
. Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D. Min is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center
For a free book of daily meditations for each day of the year based on the writings of St. Vincent Pallotti, click here. When used in the phrase“Ad Infinitam Dei Gloriam,” an “a” is used instead of a “u” in “Infinitum” in order to correspond with “gloriam” which it modifies.
The call to holiness and the mission presented to the Church from Jesus Christ is certainly a challenging one. The fact that God created us with the ability to freely choose not only between right and wrong but between varied truths allows the members of Christ’s body, the Church, to live out the freedom given by God by our birth and baptism. The Catechism
defines freedom as “the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility ... Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (1731). The ‘mission,’ so to speak, of Catholics in this day and age is to live the Gospel message and to promote a New Evangelization.
This does not mean that everyone is called to any particular vocation. However, everyone is called to a
vocation. It is up to the individual, because of their freedom, to choose and discern where they are being called by God and for what purpose. Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation
, eloquently puts it:Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and sons of God. This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity.
Concrete personal reflection has never come easy for me, and there is a reason that people tend to hide their emotions. Reflecting on the meaning of vocation and what God is calling me to do conjures up memories of high school retreats of discovering where God is found in daily life. While structured experiences of faith exploration and formation are important in shaping the broad spectrum of faith, I have learned that is not all of what my faith encompasses.
At the very first meeting with my spiritual director, he asked, “Who is Alex?” I began to spew answers such as student, friend, brother, and the like. What I wanted to avoid was the internal reflection on the self because I didn’t want to have to address the underlying feelings regarding vocation and personal identity. If we are indeed called to shape our own identity, then we very often have a choice. This could be a choice between choosing the truth over a falsehood or even between particular vocations. In discernment, it is my task to look forward, to look to the future. If I dwell on the things of the past, I will never adequately be able to say that I have done what God is calling me to do, whatever it may be. It is the Christian’s responsibility, my responsibility, to discern this vocation, whatever it may be, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If we must seek the Creator “spontaneously,” as the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes
puts it, on their own accord and out of impulse, then it becomes clear that the mission of the baptized Christian is to seek God always and in all things. The Italian priest Saint Vincent Pallotti, patron of the Catholic Apostolate Center, wrote, “Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things, and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will always find God.” I have often found consolation in this prayer of Saint Vincent. It serves as a reminder to attune my heart and mind to God, in all things and at all times. Out of this freedom of choice and seeking comes a responsibility to act out of instinct and to lead others closer to Jesus Christ by first seeking the very God who created us.Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.