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22.06.2018 17:00:32 686x read.
Imbued with an Apostolic Spirit.

Imbued with an Apostolic Spirit

In the image of Jesus Christ,  "whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world" (Jn 10:36), we religious, are also consecrated and sent into the world to imitate Jesus' example and to continue his mission. We are therefore apostles of Christ. An apostle is a sent one, an ambassador, a delegate, one who is sent forth or commissioned and authorized by God to carry out His will and purposes. The dignity of humans requires that they have food, drink, clothing, shelter, medicine, access to work, education, and freedom. The Church has a duty to provide these needs, especially for those who cannot provide for themselves. The apostolate of religious congregations is tied to the provision of this need. This is the contribution of religious in bringing the world to its created purpose.

The Christian vocation by its very nature includes a call to engage in apostolate. In the Church there is a diversity of ministry. For us lay religious, our  share in the ministry of Christ  is found in carrying out the mission of the Church in the world, and that is to answer the needs of the world. Most congregations have their origin in a need that cried out and their founders heard. Inspired by the Holy Spirit the congregations were founded to meet those needs. For FIC the need was Catholic education and formation of poor children. As time went on the needs extended to character building and skills training, and this is to ensure that the child develops his/her potentials and becomes useful in society. We are to share Christ’s love with those who experience little love.

The nature of our apostolate

The Nature of our apostolate turns its attention towards those who are in situations of greater weakness, and therefore in greater need. These are the target of Jesus' mission and therefore our mission as well. The content of our mission as FIC is spelt out  in articles 15 to 18 of our constitutions: First, to continue the work of Jesus, that is to do good, witness to the truth, to serve, to redeem, to bring the liberating message (message of love) of the kingdom of God to people, to place ourselves at the service of His kingdom (#15). Secondly, the content of our mission also spring from the spirit of our founders, with a focus on our charism. We are to keep the charism of our Congregation alive by paying respectful attention to our tradition of education, formation and teaching, while keeping an open eye on the sign of the times (#16)

Our mission also entails transfer of faith and we do this through our institutions: schools, centres of learning and formation. Just as our founders did, FIC Brothers everywhere in various ways, transmit the values of Jesus and the spirit of our founders to the young people we get in contact with. Wherever we are present, we are expected to transmit Jesus' Good News of God's kingdom to the people. Our apostolate also entails instructing others in the faith, passing on skills, nurturing souls, and sharing our material things. Why do we do all this? We know that the summit of the Christian message is love. Everything we do as Christians should be motivated by love.

We engage in apostolate with the awareness that it is an assignment given by God and we are

not so much concerned about rewards as with the growth of people in the knowledge of God. It is enough to feel satisfied when the dignity of the underprivileged is raised, and their life and hopes restored. It is through the apostolate, defined by our constitutions and through our contact with people that we seek to love and serve the Lord. The 25th chapter of Matthew's Gospel is a keystone in our spirituality: "When I was hungry you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me to drink. "FIC wants to hear the statement: "when I was ignorant, you educated me."  

 In what spirit do we do our apostolate?

In other words, how can we be imbued with an apostolic spirit?  Article 20 of our constitutions gives us an important injunction on how to do apostolate. It starts by saying "Apostolate is more than mere working". The apostolate we do is a practical way of loving people; It is meant to raise people's dignity; and it is aimed at the betterment of the life of the recipients. Far from glorifying  ourselves or expecting external rewards, apostolate is meant rather to build the kingdom of love. Apostolate asks for our deep devotion and love with which it is done.  The greatest commandment in the law is to love God with one's whole heart and one's neighbour as oneself (cf. Matt. 22:37-40). Christ made this commandment of love of neighbour His own when he equated himself with us by living among humans as the object of this love.

There is also a certain attitude by which we can turn work into apostolate: by working with a fundamentally religious attitude.  Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of our apostolate depends on our living in union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord's words, "He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). A religious approach to issues also includes our availability, self-denial, unselfishness, humility, moderation, detachment,  self-control, service, and so on.

To be imbued with an apostolic spirit is to have the experience of being sent forth by God to act and, at times, to suffer on behalf of others in witness to the Gospel and in imitation of Jesus’ ministerial life. No one has experienced this being sent by the Father like Jesus. For Jesus, what truly grounds his life is his awareness of the Father, of being from the Father, being sent by Him. In a volunteer work each person chooses his or her own area and as such it is easily revocable. However, taking on an apostolic life requires not belonging to oneself anymore. (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9) Apostolic life entails the idea of a call by God, which as such grasps the totality of the person in an irreversible way. The personality of a religious in apostolic life can be developed and deepened to the degree to which it arrives at an essentially positive perception of his/her being sent.

A person imbued with an apostolic spirit views prayer (all types of prayer) as a means, an instrument to enable the individual to more discerningly and fully serve the neighbour. As indicated in Apostolicam Actuositatem, "The great temptation for brothers  is that we become so caught up in our works that we lose contact with the energizing vision, the driving force that animates those works. Of course our works are extremely important. We must love God 'with the sweat of our brows and the strength of our arms.' But our works must flow from our experience of God, of his Spirit, of his freedom, bursting out of the very heart of human existence ....". In other words, our spirituality must be fully alive through works of mercy.

To ensure that we are imbued with an apostolic spirit, all those whom we serve should see that God has entered their lives through our ministry. Do we FIC ensure  the presence God in the work we do? In our ministry with pupils, do we sense that God is touching them? Do the children recognize FIC Brothers as God-people? If the life of the Spirit is fully alive in us, the apostolic activities will surely be a striking sign in the world that the Kingdom of God is at hand. As Chittister says, "The religious who does not attend to the spiritual life does not have one. The religious whose life is bound up in the spiritual quest, never knows failure and never gives in to failure. It is finding God in what we do that is the measure of success. It is walking with God that makes failure impossible".

Growing as an apostolically oriented spiritual person means growing as a contemplative in action, growing as a person who more and more joins with God (in contemplation) and also  loves the neighbour (in action). A closer look at the life of Christ, the apostles, and the saints of active apos­tolic life, suggests that there is an inseparable bond between the spiritual and the apostolic dimensions of Christian living. (Vincent Anthony, SDB). Vincent de Paul also told the sisters of Charity to "leave God for God. If the poor arrive even during prayer, the Daughter of Charity should feel free to leave the conversation that she is having with the Lord in prayer in order to converse with the Lord in the person of the poor". Our founder himself - Louis Rutten, was an incredibly active man, but he was a man of deep prayer.

As an apostolic congregation, common life is not only an essential element in our identity but  an integral part of it. Our basic spirituality is the commitment to build a community of faith and love with those who have pledged to pursue the same apostolic purpose. Community life aims at forming deep bonds of charity among religious. A genuine spirituality for our apostolic life involves taking concrete steps toward building a supportive community that seeks to draw all toward the holiness of charity.  Our community life acts as a formative setting  for our apostolate.

In conclusion, our apostolic life has a number of supporting systems which are closely connected. Apart from it being spiritually rooted, apostolate should be done in the spirit of Jesus who is the source of it and entrenched in the spirit of our founders. For brothers to be deeply infused with an apostolic spirit, they first of all need to have the personal experience of being sent to be a witness of God's love among God's people. Prayer, in whatever form is “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” It renews the strength of the apostle on his missionary journey of apostolate. The active worker who has no interior life does not do apostolate.  Prayer and action should go hand and hand. Divorced from action, prayer tends to be an escape route. An apostolically oriented spiritual person also needs, as an essential element of religious identity, a community that is supportive enough to form us for the mission of apostolate.


Raphael B

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