Monday, November 3, 2014

How the Apostolate Began, Part III

I still wasn't wholly convinced that Blessed Charles de Foucauld was the right patron for the ministry until I understood that there was an analogy between the modern cities of the West and the Muslim tribes of Blessed Charles' beloved desert.   Just as the tribes practiced a crude form of syncretist Islam that was adapted to their tribal society, so do many Christians in the West adapt the faith to the contemporary impulses of materialism, new age, and false notions of autonomy and sexual liberation. Both peoples move amidst the comforting signs and symbols of religion or spiritual yearnings but without the transforming power of an encounter with the living God.  And so both peoples travel through a spiritual desert with an apparent disinterest in the leaven of Christ's love--a leaven that can permeate a society and raise our hearts up the kingdom of God.

Then I remembered the three groups of people that God had shown me outside the gallery, and reflected on how Blessed Charles might minister to them.  It was clear that the three groups of people represented three different states of soul, or three fundamental dispositions we may have toward God.   We can live in the friendship of Christ, we can be driven on by a zest for sin and live squarely against Christ, or we can live apart from Christ amidst sorrow and dis-illusion over our fallen idols.  The last state is really just the state of the prodigal son, and is a fertile ground for a deep, lasting conversion.

I thought that if Blessed Charles met the family who lived in the friendship of Christ, that he would offer Christian hospitality and fellowship--recognizing the divine life of Christ that is in all Christ's friends.  Blessed Charles's life of radical Christian discipleship would also provide a salutary example, just as street ministry suggests a more radical expression of the Christian life.  The apostolate could offer a gentle impetus for Christians to go deeper in the faith, and it would also reassure those evangelicals and pentecostals who equate Catholicism with a luke-warm faith.

If Blessed Charles met the poor man who had turned his back on Christ, Blessed Charles would show him the love of Christ and the "peace that surpasseth all understanding".  He would offer prayer and sacrifice for the poor man, and humbly bear his scorn.  He would only show him love, and if that love were humble and true, then the man may recognize it and a slow movement may begin in his soul.

If Blessed Charles met the woman who was ripe for conversion he would set aside everything else, and begin the walk of faith with her.  He would offer prayer, catechesis, books and a ready ear for questions and concerns.  He would patiently remain with her through the ups and downs as conversion can be a rocky process since that person's soul becomes the center of a great spiritual tug o' war.  He would be mindful that the woman may have rejected the faith in the past because she had never met a person transformed by Christ.  The goal of the apostolate must be to become a "little Christ" so that others may see Christ in us.  In witnessing our humility, patience and supernatural charity they will begin to believe that there really is something to the ancient faith, and that it's a bracing alternative to the little dry gods of modern culture.

After reflecting on these things it became clear that Blessed Charles was certainly the right patron for the ministry.  As I considered his life and example, the heart and mind of the apostolate gently unfolded before me.

To be continued...

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