Fishers of Men
We could see, while we talked, the lands of that continent. A light was enkindled in your eyes, your soul was filled with impatience, and, thinking about those peoples, you said: Could it be possible that on the other side of those seas, the grace of God is rendered ineffective?
You then answered your own question: In his infinite goodness, He wishes to use docile instruments.
What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you — a miserable creature — have seen? Why don’t they go for the best?
—Pray and mortify yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them — also one by one — that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society.
You began in good heart. But little by little your spirit has shrunk… And you are going to end up in your own poor shell, if you continue to let your horizons become smaller and smaller.
—You have to allow your heart to expand more and more, with real hunger for the apostolate! Out of a hundred souls we are interested in a hundred.
Thank the Lord for the paternal and maternal tenderness he continues to show for you.
You always had those dreams of great adventures, and you have committed yourself to a wonderful enterprise…which leads you to holiness.
I repeat: thank God for this by leading an apostolic life.
When you launch out into the apostolate, be convinced that it is always a question of making people happy, very happy: Truth is inseparable from true joy.
People from different countries, different races, and very different backgrounds and professions… When you speak to them about God, you become aware of the human and supernatural value of your vocation as an apostle. It is as if you are re-living, in its total reality, the miracle of the first preaching of Our Lord’s disciples. Phrases spoken in a strange tongue, which open up new ways, have been heard by each one, in the depth of his heart in his own language. And in your mind you can see that scene taking on a new life, in which “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” have come joyfully to God.
Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others — the apostolate — is not an extra luxury, the task of a few.
—Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.
Naturalness, sincerity and cheerfulness are indispensable conditions for the apostle to attract people.
The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.”
Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them!
—Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.
Vocations to the apostolate are sent by God. But you must not cease to make use of the means: prayer, mortification, study or work, friendship, supernatural outlook… interior life!
When I speak to you about “apostolate of friendship”, I mean a personal friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart.
In the apostolate of friendship and trust, the first step has to be understanding, service — and holy intransigence in doctrine.
Those who have met Christ cannot shut themselves in their own little world: how sad such a limitation would be! They must open out like a fan in order to reach all souls. Each one has to create — and widen — a circle of friends, whom he can influence with his professional prestige, with his behaviour, with his friendship, so that Christ may exercise his influence by means of that professional prestige, that behaviour, that friendship.
You have to be a live ember that sets fire to whatever it touches. And, when your surroundings are incapable of catching fire, you have to raise their spiritual temperature.
—If not, you are wasting time miserably, and wasting the time of those around you.
When there is zeal for souls, good people can always be found, fertile soil can always be discovered. There is no excuse!
Rest assured, there are many people there who can understand your way. There are also souls who, whether they know it or not, are looking for Christ and have not found Him. But “How can they hear about Him, if nobody tells them?”
Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord — whom you assure me you are close to — wishes all men to be saved.
That way is very hard, he told you. And, on hearing it, you heartily agreed, remembering that bit about the Cross being a sure sign of the true way… But your friend noticed only the rough part of the road, without bringing to mind Jesus’ promise: “My yoke is sweet.”
Remind him about it, because — perhaps when he realises it — he will give himself.
He hasn’t got the time? — So much the better. Christ is interested precisely in those who do not have the time.
When you consider how many people do not take advantage of a wonderful opportunity, but allow Jesus to pass by, think: where does this clear calling which was so providential, and showed me my way, come from?
—Meditate on this every day: an apostle has always to be another Christ, Christ himself.
Don’t be surprised and don’t be cowed because he has reproached you with having placed him face to face with Christ, nor because he may have added, indignantly: “Now I can’t live in peace unless I make up my mind…”
Pray for him… It would be useless to try to calm him down. What may have happened is that some previous worry, the voice of his own conscience, has now come to the fore.
Are they scandalized because you have talked about their giving themselves to God to people who had never thought about that problem?
—Well, what does it matter, if you have the vocation of being an apostle of apostles?
You don’t get through to people because you speak a different “language”. I advise you to be natural.
It’s all due to that artificial formation of yours!
Do you hesitate to launch yourself into speaking about God, about a Christian life, about vocation… because you do not want to cause suffering? You forget that it is not you who are doing the calling, it is He: Ego scio quos elegerim — I know well those I have chosen.
Moreover, I should not like to think that behind this false respect lurked a spirit of comfort or lukewarmness. At this stage, do you still prefer poor human friendship to the friendship of God?
You have spoken to one person and another, and yet another, because you are consumed by zeal for souls.
One took fright; another consulted a “prudent” man, who guided him badly… —Persevere: and no one afterwards will be able to excuse himself by saying Quia nemo nos conduxit — nobody has called us.
I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous.
Think how God is waiting for them!
An indispensable requirement in the apostolate is faith, which is often shown by constancy in speaking about God, even though the fruits are slow to appear.
If we persevere and carry on in the firm conviction that the Lord wills it, signs of a Christian revolution will appear around you, everywhere. Some will follow the call, others will take their interior life seriously, and others — the weakest — will at least be forewarned.
Days of real excitement: three more people!
The words of Jesus are being fulfilled: “My Father’s name has been glorified if you yield abundant fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.”
You made me smile, because I know what you meant when you said: I am enthusiastic about the possibility of going to new lands and opening a breach there, perhaps very far away… I would like to find out if there are men on the moon…
—Ask the Lord to increase that apostolic zeal of yours.
At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way!
—I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.
Dig further every day into the apostolic depths of your Christian vocation. He unfurled a banner to be followed twenty centuries ago, for you and me to proclaim aloud to men. It is indeed meant for all those who have a sincere heart and are capable of loving… What clearer invitations do you need than these: Ignem veni mittere in terram — I have come to bring fire to the earth, and the thought of those two thousand five hundred million souls who still do not know Christ!
Hominem non habeo — I have no one to help me. This —unfortunately! — could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful — and should be useful.
Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.
Ask with me for a new Pentecost, which will once again set the world alight.
“If any man comes to me without hating his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life too, he can be no disciple of mine.”
Every day I see more clearly, Lord, that family ties, if they do not pass through your most lovable Heart, are, for some, a permanent source of the cross; for others they are a cause of more or less direct temptation against perseverance; for others again, the reason why they are totally ineffective; and, for all, a dead weight which impedes their total surrender.
The ploughshare that breaks up the earth and opens up the furrow sees neither the seed nor the harvest.
When you made up your mind, you would discover something new every day. Do you remember how it used to be when you constantly asked yourself: “How should this be done?”... But you then kept on experiencing doubts or disappointments…
Now you always find an exact answer which is clear and fully reasoned. And, when you listen to the answers you get to your often childish questions, you think: “Jesus must have looked after the first Twelve like this.”
Vocations, Lord, more vocations! It doesn’t matter whether I did the sowing or someone else: it was You, Jesus, who sowed the seed with our hands! All I know is that you have promised that the fruit will ripen; et fructus vester maneat — and your fruit will endure.
Be honest. If there are people who tell you that you have been trying “to catch them”, admit that this is what you want to do. But there is no need for them to worry! Because, if they haven’t got a vocation — if He does not call them — they won’t come; and if they have, what a shame for them to end up like the rich young man in the Gospel: alone and sad.
As an apostle you have a great and beautiful task. You find yourself at the place where grace and the freedom of each soul meet. You are also present at that most solemn occasion in the life of some men: their encounter with Christ.
It seems as if you have been individually picked, he said.
And that is right!
Be sure of this: you need to be fully formed to face the rush of people that is going to press upon us with a specific and urgent question: “Well then, what’s to be done?”
Here is a recipe to make your apostolic spirit effective: make definite plans, not for the whole week but for the day ahead, for this moment and the next.
Christ expects a lot from your work. But you will have to look for souls, as the Good Shepherd went after the hundredth sheep: without waiting to be called. Then make use of your friends to do good to others. Tell each one of them that nobody can feel at ease with a spiritual life which, after filling him, does not overflow with apostolic zeal.
It’s intolerable that you should waste your time with “your own silly little concerns” when there are so many souls awaiting you.
Doctrinal apostolate: that will always be your apostolate.
The marvel of Pentecost consecrates all the different ways: it can never be understood as monopoly or the appreciation of only one way to the detriment of the others.
Pentecost means an unlimited variety of tongues, of methods, of forms of meeting God: not violent uniformity.
You wrote: A young fellow, who was going North, joined our group. He was a miner. He sang well and joined in with us. I prayed for him until he arrived at his station. When he got off, he said: “I’d have loved to continue the journey with you!”
I was immediately reminded of that mane nobiscum — stay with us, Lord! And I asked him again with faith that others might “see Him” in each one of us, as companions along “His way”.
The masses have been going off down “the road of a justified discontentment” and continue to do so.
It hurts… but, how many we have caused to be disaffected among those who are spiritually or materially in need!
—Christ may once more be set among the poor and the humble: it is precisely with them that he is more at ease.
Teacher: may you be eager to make your pupils understand quickly what has cost you hours of study to see clearly.
The wish to teach and to teach from the heart creates in pupils a gratitude which is a suitable soil for the apostolate.
I like the motto: “Let each wayfarer follow his way”, the road God has marked out for him, to be followed faithfully, lovingly, even though it is hard.
What an extraordinary lesson is found in each one of the teachings of the New Testament! The Master, before ascending to the right hand of the Father, told the disciples: “Go and preach to all nations”, and they had remained full of peace. But they still had doubts: they did not know what to do, and they gathered around Mary, Queen of Apostles, so as to become zealous proclaimers of the Truth which will save the world.