Questions that Need Answering: Apostolate

This is the sixth and final postulant installment before I am received as a Novice Lay Dominican. I should be received in August at our annual retreat. Over the course of 6 months (give or take the last two), I have studied and presented my responses to the postulancy modules, each building on the other. Today we are discussing apostolates. Don’t know what that means? Too late, you’re reading one.

This…every word… you…read…here, is my apostolate.

There’s more – there are chapter apostolates, which I also touch on. So get your apostolate on and let me know what your thoughts are. You know, because I love that stuff. Let’s go through the Holy Doors of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and get to the truth shall we?

Porta Santa at Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore #catholic
Porta Santa (Holy Door) Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

How do you view your role as a lay person in the continuing mission of the Church to evangelize the world?

I feel that I’ve always been Catholic, but was just the last to know. I can remember as a little girl, trying to get neighborhood kids on my block to help keep our streets clean. I called it the “Team up to Clean up” campaign. Trash bag and gloves in tow, I began to pick up litter, only doing as much as I expected others to do. I shared my excitement in every conversation, every passed note in class and crayon covered flyer. It was a miserable failure. No one wanted to get their hands dirty. Granted, picking up an empty bottle has nothing to do with Catholicism or Lay Dominican spirituality, right? I think it does.

In gathering information to respond to this module, I came across an article in from The Dominican Torch about apostolates in the Fall 2005 edition. Dorothy Murphy, Provincial Council President of the Bishop Fenwick Chapter in Silver Spring, Maryland discusses how apostolates, as part of the Lay Dominican life, seems to be an afterthought. Murphy writes “Why do I read so many chapter and council minutes that seem to dedicate little or, even more discouraging, no time to the apostolate? No discussion of chapter plans, successes, failures, and ideas — nothing?” She then turns a theory on its head and expands on a utopia where everything is perfect and there is no struggle, strife and “no one needs spiritual nourishment or spiritual consolation.” (p.5) Her sarcasm is rich here, but touches on all of the wrong in the world. Coming full circle she exclaims that God sent us as Lay Dominicans to be the balm for the wound (so to speak) via apostolates. Knowing that our works beyond the call within the walls of our respective churches is not a “zero-sum economics, where one must lose or another to gain” (Module 6, p. 4). It is our task to reach souls and meet them where they are at; to be the light they may never get to see anywhere else.

According to the Apostolicam Actuositatem,

This apostolate should reach out to all wherever they may be encountered; it should not exclude any spiritual or temporal benefit which they have the ability to confer. True apostles however, are not content with this activity alone but endeavor to announce Christ to their neighbors by means of the spoken word as well. For there are many persons who can hear the Gospel and recognize Christ only through the laity who live near them. (Chapter III, 13 para 3)

We as Lay Dominicans (Catholics, Christians, people the world over) are charged with a responsibility that extends beyond the bare minimum, even if it means going out and *gasp* talking about our faith. I, for one, dive in head first where evangelization is concerned, from being on the RCIA team and catechizing beyond the two hours required (per week) to sponsoring two people into the faith, I feel it is my personal vocation and mission to pick up empty or even scratched up looking bottles and send them in for recycling. In this case, I don’t just plow through evangelization. In other words, I don’t share the Gospel and walk away because I’ve ticked a box, I continue to “dig deep” in my relationships with others.

My “Team up to Clean up” campaign was my first lesson, looking back now retrospectively, on how I’ve always been about evangelization. I don’t cringe at proclaiming the gospel and I am always looking for an opportunity to be a light to others. (Matthew 5:16)

What is your understanding of the terms mission, ministry and apostolate? Has it changed in view or scope by this module?

I know that the differences are subtle. For example, cantoring at mass is a ministry and not an apostolate just as being a lector is a ministry as well. An apostolate “goes out beyond the borders of official church service” (Module 6, p. 2) My blog is a perfect example of how I execute my God-given talent of writing, teaching and preaching beyond the borders of official church service. I blog about my conversion as it relates to my marriage, work, children and life. I make every effort to bring different Church Doctors and Papal documents to support my personal opinions and findings. I’ve created a place where atheists, agnostics, Christians, Catholics, Hindu, Muslim (and others) feel as if they are not being judged, their opinions are valued, but they receive true to the Magisterium Catholic teaching. This module hasn’t changed my view of the differences, but has underlined the importance of my apostolate.

For me, giving others the smallest seed of our faith is a huge step in my apostolate and the New Evangelization. This module, along with my recent pilgrimage to Italy has brought me to seriously consider becoming an Extraordinary minister so that I can go to local nursing homes and visit those that may be lonely to offer my time and give communion. “True apostolates are marked both by their origins in Christ and by their scope of activity, which extends beyond the normal duties required by every Catholic.” (Module 6, p. 2)

The Madonna and Child in Majesty with Saints in a fresco at San Marco, Florence. Two of the saints are Dominican friars like Fra Angelico. From Wikipedia

Did you know of the required commitments to the apostolate before beginning your formation? Does the required commitment to the apostolate have an effect on your desire to become a professed member of the Fraternities of St. Dominic? If so, in what way?

I was made aware of the required commitments in the very first phone call to the president of my Chapter. Having a charge from a group of other people who are sincerely and personally committed to the wellbeing of others was something that I needed to make my formation work. Anyone can join a bible study and provide information for others to consider. Actually going out and making a difference in the lives of others while simultaneously feeding my soul and the Church? Well that’s just a win-win.

Can you think of some fitting apostolates for you or your chapter?

I have already suggested making rosaries as a group apostolate. Adding to that, I think we could bring them personally to those that we visit in nursing homes and perhaps expand it to local hospitals, specifically the NICU, Hospice care for children and adults. After my pilgrimage to Italy, I know that I have a special calling to those people whose dignity is demeaned. I’ve written about how I feel about the grandparents of our society and how they are a treasure we should recognize and share with our children. I know that this is something near to the hearts of my chapter as well considering the work they already do in nursing homes locally.

*     *     *

In closing, I would like to add how my chapter was present with me on my pilgrimage to Italy. At each church or basilica we visited, we were given free time to take pictures or visit the gift shops within the walls. I always chose to pray (and then shop!). If we were given 20 minutes, I prayed for 15 and shopped for 5. I prayed for each member of my chapter, their families, our deceased members, friars, priests (you get it) and for anyone that reached out to me on social media or my blog and asked for prayers. I know my chapter has expressed that they would like to see me pause and reflect more, or maybe as much as I work. In any case, I have listened and put into practice the advice of my Lay Dominican brothers and sisters only I just realized it when reading this module “A member’s prayer life must increase in both quality and quantity. By building a tabernacle within the soul, he or she learns how to pray always and never lose heart.” (Module 6, p.2)

Thanks guys.

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8 thoughts on “Questions that Need Answering: Apostolate

  1. Impressive Cristina! You never cease to amaze me. And it is no shock that you started that Team Clean Up when you were only 11! So proud you my friend!

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  2. You are such a blessing to both the Catholic church and to the world. Your dear-ness just oozes from your words onto the page. I am sure your presence is felt by many you don’t even know. Brava for sharing your wisdom with us and always stretching my mind. I love the “I was the last to know” part about being Catholic. I loved my conversation with God on the steps of a Catholic church blocks from my house. It was a weekday morning and I felt compelled to go there and chat with God about whether or not I might actually be Catholic. I got a resounding no, not you – Julie, your work is elsewhere… so I love knowing you are doing the heart-work you are doing.

    Ahhh, love!

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