Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Soul of the Apostolate

We've been blessed with an unusually dry late Fall and early Winter, and so I've been able to walk the streets three times each week. Sometimes there are six of us with rolling coolers, praying along SE 82nd, or four of us fighting the wind up Division Street, or sometimes just Meagan and I along NE Broadway. A few things have suffered as a result.  My wallet has suffered as we seek to do our small part in alleviating the physical sufferings of those living on the streets in Winter. My prayer life has suffered as I succumb to a spirit of busyness as well as a genuinely full schedule.  And lastly, the blog has suffered as spiritual dryness and time constraints have taken their toll.  I miss writing, but writing takes leisure and that has been in short supply as the apostolate has begun to take on the features of a small organization.
Justin & Jonathan discuss homeless services
with a man along SE 82nd

Speaking of leisure, I have repeatedly offered to God my leisure time as a sacrifice if only He would do something to shake Portland out of her faithlessness.  I have often said, "Lord, I will give up every moment of time to myself for the rest of my life if only you will wake this city."  That may seem like a strange sacrifice, but leisure is the very life-blood of the life of the mind, and the arts.  Good books and beautiful art feed the soul, though not so well as prayer does.  Prayer also takes leisure time, and I am willing to sacrifice some of my closeness with God.  Blessed Titus Brandsma lived in a whirlwind of practical activity and writing, even though he was a Carmelite.  It seemed that God required him to sacrifice a deeper life of prayer for the sake of his other callings.  Finally, after the Nazis imprisoned him in Dachau, he was at last able to pray in the way he had always desired.  His soul drank in the sweetness of communion with God even in that cesspool of malice and violence.

Sometimes our apostolate begins to resemble only an outreach on the streets, complete wth the corporal works of mercy.  That sounds like a fine thing, but it isn't enough.  At those times the Holy Spirit intervenes, and I am reminded once again that prayer is the soul of the apostolate.  I may not have much time for deep prayer at home, but we must pray as we walk together.  Prayer elicits grace as we share in the life of God.  Without prayer, my supernatural hope and charity will shrivel like a prune.  Without prayer, fewer graces will flow to all of those who've chosen to live far from God (even though He remains so close!).  With prayer, we walk in grace with Christ who alone can do all things.  Without prayer, we have only ourselves and our weakness, our merely "natural" hope and love.  Those won't do much good for what we've been called to.  One of our guys, Nick, put together a little prayer and chant booklet for us on our walks.  We will use it religiously.

A final thought.  Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has a must-read article on these issues, provocatively titled, "Confronting the Heresy of Activism with the Primacy of Prayer".

Behind a 7/11 frequented by prostitutes and "Johns", Justin taught Michael the rosary.
Shawn and Chris join in for a final prayer.  Michael is a humble man who struggles with
schizophrenia.  A woman once told him he is a protector just like the holy angel Michael.