And it may be the last thing you'd ever consider as important...
Then two things happened. A new Mother Superior was put in charge of one of the orphanages. Some years later, the other orphanage was assigned a new chaplain. From the point of these changes, the results in each house were immediate and dramatic. Not only were none of the girls, upon coming of age, “dragged down by Satan into the gutter.” But every single one remained a good Christian.
Such is the story told by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard in his spiritual classic, Soul of the Apostolate. What is the reason Dom Chautard gives for the transformations in these two orphanages? “The reason for these results is very simple. At the head of the house, or in the confessional, the spiritual direction previously given had not been really supernatural.”
Dom Chautard continues: “The former superior in the one case and the former chaplain in the other, although sincerely pious people, had had no deep interior life and, consequently, exercised no deep or lasting influence.”
We all have projects that we want to succeed in the world. You might be looking to build a business, earn a certificate or degree, or launch a career. You might be yearning to attract souls in the New Evangelization.
And you want results. But what exactly is the quality of your impact? And to what extent do you take it to depend on your own efforts, or on the grace of God that comes through prayer?
The argument of Soul of the Apostolate boils down to this: without prayer, without a deep and richly formed interior life, we cannot achieve the deep and lasting impact we desire. It may seem counter-intuitive: to succeed we have to work! But that kind of “activism” is a snare and a delusion. The most essential ingredient for a fruitful apostolate–remembering that only God knows what precisely “fruitful” will mean for our efforts–is not action but contemplation, spiritual rather than physical or emotional energy.
Maybe it’s time to take five and enfold your efforts in prayer. You cannot bring forth what you don’t hold in store.