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Practicalities of the apostolate | Blog of a Country Priest

Practicalities of the apostolate

Practicalities of the apostolate

Time is short. I’ve been furiously working on the St Mary’s Hamilton parish website, which is due to be launched next Friday. When I’m not doing that, I’m ironing out creases in the registration software at clergy.asn.au.

And — most importantly — the Grand Final rematch is starting soon. (Go Pies!)

So this is a cheat of a post. “Here’s something I prepare earlier.

This e-mail landed in my inbox today:

Dear John: In your travels, or in your thoughts, have you come across any practical idea/s for turning a person towards the man on the cross?

PS I don’t believe Bible-bashing, Rosary-bashing, Mass-bashing, or indeed any lay-preaching has or can work, even if they ever did.

And here is my reply:

Hmm. I suppose there are some people for whom preaching is a charism, and in that case, lay preaching might do some good. But for the most part, I think you and I would share a similar vision of the lay apostolate as something quite distinct from the priestly and religious apostolates, and preaching has little to do with it.

I must confess, I find the priestly apostolate much easier to exercise than the lay apostolate. Maybe that confirms my preistly vocation, or maybe I’ve just got better at the apostolate as time has passed and my interior life has deepened. But here are some things which as a layman I did find successful:

  • Telling a friend “I’m going to confession this Friday,” and inviting them to accompany me. Almost always, the friend in question would be embarrassed, and decline. But it very often set the scene for a serious conversation about the spiritual life at a later date.
  • Organising to catch up with someone on a Sunday for a drink or a meal, and suggesting we meet up at the cathedral (or wherever) and go to Mass first. This met with much more success! Most people agree to this.
  • Throwing a good book in someone’s direction. Usually something “entry-level” and easy to read. Anything by C.S. Lewis. The Way by St Josemaría Escrivá. Whatever I’d recently read, really, which I thought might help a particular person.
  • I avoided religious arguments. At the start because I didn’t know much, and I’d lose the argument! In the end because I knew too much, and I’d lose the friend!

That’s about it, really, in terms of “laying it on.” The rest consists in being a good friend — I’d try not to let a month pass without catching up with someone. (In this, particularly, I failed more often than not!)

The most important things occurred behind the scenes. I’d try to pray for the person by name at daily mass, and I’d offer up some sacrifices for them once or twice a week.

What have I missed? What are other “practical ideas for turning a person towards the man on the cross?”

  • Michaela

    I completely agree with religious arguments part. I find people are always trying to have them with me, I refuse to get involved because I just don’t have the knowledge or the skill.
    And at the end of the day would be doing more damage than good!

  • Samuel

    You go for the pies?! My esteem for you has dropped
    (haha kidding :p)

    Definitely being friends with people and casually/in little ways let them know your a Catholic, is the best way to convert people, by putting a human face to what they would perceive as intolerance to others etc. Gradually they may come round, or at least not hate the church so much.

    Posting things on facebook that explain or defend the faith, a thought provoking quote from a saint, things like that, so that they appear on your friends wall and so they get the other point of view, or something along those lines.

    When there is a biased report in the media, write in and tell them and get many people to help you. Or in the comments section, rebut and refute the error. This works best, if done with a number of other people.

    Know and have ready, planned, sound bite type answers, to issues like abortion, gays etc, so that in casual convo you can say a little quip or something. For instance on abortion start by talking about late term abortions, where an actual baby is killed, with a beating heart, brain matter etc…The life within is the other victim of rape…and so on.
    Or on gays you could say something along the lines, that there is no scientific consensus as to the cause of same sex attraction; how such attraction fits into an evolutionary context where the purpose of sex is to ensure the continuity of a species. Should we not therefore suspend judgement on homosexual normality, which is why gay marriage is being legalized?
    I don’t know, something not specifically religious so they don’t get all het up. Use arguments that appeal to natural law, with out actually using the phrase ‘natural law’, because when you do they switch off and won’t listen. But by all means speak of laws of nature and the like.

    Invite them to mass (that has one) to “check out the awesome choir”.

    Maybe with friends, check out the cathedral or beautiful church, which is usually open and people can walk around inside. Show them the beauty, and remark that what inspired it is that “man on the cross”

  • Anne

    Pies my foot!! WCE and nothing else. As a second thought maybe Fremantle not so bad. Pies! no wonder you keep deleting posts!! Pies (ehhh)
    As for turning someone’s face towards the Person on the cross without preaching, reading, talking, sprouting, etc. Just sit and watch the figure on the cross and wonder…..why?
    nothing else is needed. The answers slowly come just by looking at the twisted body, and finally the chin resting gently on His chest. The answer will come.

    • Anne

      Remember Jesus once said that birds have nests etc but He had no place to lay His head. In the end He did . leaning forward on His chest. there He rested.
      thats the answer of the non preacher.

  • MuMu of St Kilda

    A statuesque Pacific Islander I know would get into a long busy queue in Melbourne’s biggest Post Shop around midday and exclaim in a loud voice, “Oh dear! I’m afraid I’ll be late for Mass! At St Francis! I hope I won’t miss out on being with Jesus!”
    I am acutely conscious that the greatest tool of evangelisation is holiness. Failing that, I try to remember to pray to the Holy Spirit for opportunity and the words to bring Christ to my neighbour.

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