Oh Lord Jesus Christ, in the spirit of St. Augustine who is a father in my Third Order Norbertine spirituality, I confess to you by reflecting on the Vatican II Decree on the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatum (AA). I will assess my life as it stands today against my duties and responsibilities as a lay Catholic. AA states that “as sharers in the role of Christ as priest, prophet, and king, the laity have their work cut out for them in the life and activity of the Church” and that “as far as possible the laity ought to provide helpful collaboration for every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by their local parish (AA no. 10).” Every undertaking?
First Lord, “the things I have failed to do” as I pray at Mass in the Confiteor come to mind. In my previous reflection paper on Christus Dominus (CD) I suggested that “all bishops should take CD to heart, even to the point of making it their bedside reading each night, in order to always reflect on how they are doing.” After prayerful study and reflection upon AA, I should surely take my own advice and make this document an ongoing part of my examination of conscience in order to ensure that I do what you expect of me Lord. This document is much more demanding than the average Catholic, who has not read it, would imagine. I think Lord, that one of Satan’s triumphs these last fifty years is the lack of attention paid to the documents of Vatican II, as given us by the Holy Spirit.
As you know Lord, some years back I took upon myself several “pillars” of my faith: First, Marian devotion as taught by St Louis de Montfort, to which in Redemptoris Mater (no. 48) John Paul II recalls positively in the context of Vatican II and Marian devotion. I am active in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Militia of the Immaculata (MI). Second, Eucharist devotion both at Mass and in Adoration. Third, devotion to your Passion. Forth, to study Sacred Scriptures. Fifth, to be skilled in apologetics and finally Lord, to become an expert in Vatican II. Working through these pillars brought me into the Third Order Norbertines, whose focus is Marian devotion, Eucharistic devotion, liturgical prayer, penance, a zeal for souls, and study of Vatican II. It also prompted me to start a local chapter of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) and to earn this Master of Theology degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS).
I agree with AA that “many areas of human life . . . sometimes involve a degree of danger to Christian life.” Let me be docile to the “work being done by the Holy Spirit in making the laity more conscious of their own responsibility.” I am more conscious now of my own duties and while I have considered myself a defender of bishops, will be more humble in any criticism to our current Church leaders (AA no. 1). Indeed, Oh Lord, I must always be conscious of “the apostolate”. This “spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption” must, as AA directs me, be the focus of all my activities from this day forward. My Norbertine zeal for souls must be more than a passive platitude, it must be an obsession. I do not want to be “useless” Lord. Let me assess my life at this time to see if I am making a “proper contribution to the development of the Church.” Keep ever in my mind Lord Jesus, my share in your priestly, prophetic, and royal office (no. 2).
Regarding the evangelization and sanctification of men, my efforts in Eucharistic Adoration and “Catholic Inquiry” are an attempt to fulfill this duty. I developed and support, free of charge, the Eucharistic Adoration websites for the dioceses of Chicago, San Antonio, and New Orleans, and my www.adorationservants.org site provides free tools for Perpetual Adoration chapels around the country to help them in their apostolate of managing local Eucharistic Adoration. I purchased a copy of the Vatican Exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles at my own expense and coordinate its display in the Weston United States. My “Catholic Inquiry (pre-RCIA)” activities at my local parish help me brings souls into your Church. With the Knights of Columbus I have learned how much help can be done in the “temporal order” as well but I cannot help feeling, based on AA, that these activities are not enough. (no. 2)
Through my almost daily Mass attendance, a number of hours per week in Eucharistic Adoration, my practice of praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary, the study my faith, and in offering all my work and daily tasks to you, I am trying to live up to my consecration for the royal priesthood and make all I do a witness to you, the Christ. What gifts have you given me Lord and how have I used them? My computer skills and business, and my ability to study and learn are being put to use in Adoration activities and Catholic Inquiry. You gave me great gifts of love of your Church from childhood albeit with radical traditionalist, anti-Vatican II tendencies, and while I ignored you and your Church for decades by living a worldly life in sin, it seems all my experiences are useful now. Let me put these skills to use Lord, as you direct me (no. 3).
I realize the success of the lay apostolate depends upon unity with you and that without you we, and I, can do nothing. The Catholic organizations I belong to all stress dependence on you and the importance of growing closer to you spiritually. I do “try faithfully to adopt the special characteristics of the spiritual life which are proper to” these organizations. I try to “make progress in holiness . . . in a happy and ready spirit” taking difficulties as they come and offering them to you. AA makes special mention of devotion to your Mother Lord. She is my master and my model. I wish to do her will because it is always your will (no. 4).
Written on my bible cover is 1 Cor 10:31, which is very much like AA’s Col 3:17 quote to do all for you my Jesus. In many ways I have put my spiritual efforts above my business trying to serve God and not mammon. I try to “make correct judgments about the true meaning and value of temporal things.” I have laughed at those who told me to spend more time growing my business. I feel I am doing all for you and using my business to advance the apostolate. I admit Lord, I feel aggravation at spending time helping plastic manufacturers, automotive distributors, and the like to make profit and that I wish my business and life could be more directly dedicated to you. This is one of the reasons I am getting this Master of Theology degree but I will trust in you and try to discern where the Spirit leads me. AA reminds me I must be ready to take up my cross and follow you. I believe I am ready and while I have crosses they seem light by comparison to those of others. When my time comes I know you will give me strength (no. 4).
Promotion and support of Eucharistic Adoration will “do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith” and will “advance the Kingdom of God” and will also work towards “the reform and improvement of the temporal order in a Christian spirit” because you will inspire those who visit you in the Blessed Sacrament to do the works you want them to do, be they spiritual and/or temporal (no. 4). Eucharistic devotion is mentioned in AA (no. 17).
I have issues with the Objective of the Laity in AA Chapter Two which are surely due to my own sinfulness and I pray that as I grow in holiness I will do better. AA is depressing because I feel I am supposed to do, be involved in, and support everything. If I try to do everything I could do nothing effectively. Surely discernment is necessary. Do I neglect my citizenship by not signing every email political petition, by not forwarding them on to all on my email list? When the Restore Marriage (Prop 8) was on the ballot in California in 2008 was I wrong to tell people I felt prayer before the Blessed Sacrament was more important than making phone calls or putting flyers on doorknobs? As a Knight of Columbus I was hugged by strangers demonstrating for Prop 8 as I walked past them with my Knights shirt on. The Knights gave millions of dollars to Prop 8 but would not millions of hours before You in the Blessed Sacrament have been more effective? I am a torn on how to best help the temporal order (no. 5).
I must let my light shine before men and public temporal works of charity do this. In this area Lord, the Knights of Columbus shine but to what good if you are forgotten? I once worked a charitable summer event within a block from the California beach with a brother Knight who is also married. He told me that “it cannot hurt to look” as he made lustful glances at the many young women dressed for California’s beach culture. Would it not be better Lord, for this Knight to have spent that time in your physical presence instead of doing the work we were doing?
I know that I too have my sinful flaws and these can keep people from you Lord, including my family (no. 6). “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” AA reminds me of this too. Do I preach it enough? I invite Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses into my home when they knock. I conduct Catholic Inquiry at my parish each week for non-Catholics and many of them enter the Church. I have bumper stickers on my car and religious screensavers on my computers. But I do not do enough here Lord. I miss family opportunities. I miss opportunities with strangers. It seems that there is so much more I can do and this can be frustrating. But maybe this is the answer when in AA “this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen—each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning—to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.” It seems this is where reasonable discernment comes in. I cannot do everything so I must use my gifts to do what I can as opportunities present themselves. I must grow to do more but not fret over not doing enough because I am doing something (no. 6). AA states that groups must “carefully and assiduously promote formation for the apostolate in keeping with their purpose and condition” and I think this is important to remember (no. 30).
I am using the temporal gifts given me for the apostolate such as my business assets and my time. AA says “the whole Church must work vigorously in order that men may become capable of rectifying the distortion of the temporal order and directing it to God through Christ.” Some who work politically and monetarily toward this goal scoff at promoting Eucharistic Adoration. Adoration of you in the Blessed Sacrament is invaluable and promoting it is valid. But AA says I “must act directly and in a definitive way in the temporal sphere.” I believe adoration is direct and definitive (no. 7). Is this direct Oh Lord? According to Dr Mark Miravalle, Blessed Mother Teresa’s solution to abortion was prayer before you in the Blessed Sacrament. But James warns us that non-material charity without tangible material charity is wrong (James 2:16). We need both Lord. I think the spiritual is neglected and my work promoting the spiritual aids the physical. Mother Teresa was surely dedicated to “reliev[ing] human needs of every kind” which AA says “are held in highest honor by the Church.” I give alms Lord, but is it out of my excess as you warn us of in Mark 12:41-44? Certainly I could give more but I feel this is an area where timing of life comes into play as well. I give time and money now, while supporting my wife and kids as well. What will happen as life moves on? If I persevere in love of you Lord, I will grow in this area. And again Lord, those who—partly from my efforts promoting Eucharistic Adoration—come to you and are inspired by you to directly work on the temporal, are they not fruits of Adoration? Am I not then maybe a little responsible for their temporal fruits (no. 8)?
As regards “charity” my Lord, I do not understand this virtue enough (no. 3) and there is another charity weakness I must confess. I do not see you in everyone (no. 4). Nos. 7 and 8 of AA mention “charity” about a dozen times and “charity” is all over the rest of AA. The FUS class on “The Nature of Love” is one I must take. I admit my first impression was to skip this class. [I did skip it actually] In AA “charity” and “love” seem to be used in different ways. I have to strengthen this weakness Lord and learn what “love” and “charity” truly mean. Help me Lord to “consider in one’s neighbor the image of God in which he has been created, and also Christ the Lord to Whom is really offered whatever is given to a needy person.” Oh Lord, if I truly love you I will love my neighbor for you! Let me grow in this love of you through my neighbor!
As to the apostolate of married persons I am struggling Lord. My wife is lukewarm. My kids are lukewarm. I want to push you down my family’s throat but I know that is wrong. I wait for a conversion. I show my faith. We pray but not enough and as a family we certainly do not do any of the AA suggested temporal activities. We discuss issues of faith and morals but so much of my own spiritual joys are hidden and private (no. 11). AA also states children have their own apostolic work to do (no. 13). I need to let my children know this. I need to guide my children that they may be “initiated into the apostolate and imbued with its spirit” and be “perfected throughout their whole life.” Help me to train my children to recognize God’s love for all men. Do not let me forsake this critical duty of my life (no. 30).
Do I evangelize my peers (no. 13)? I try Lord as the occasions arise but I also allow my formal Catholic activates to fill this roll. Some peers have commented on the Christian principles they see in me but I cannot help but feel I fall short as an example of Christianity. I have to get more holy! I try by prayer and study and the joys received are many, and I am grateful to you my Lord. I will take comfort in the AA statement that my manner of acting should only “gradually penetrate the whole world” and be based on my “ability to confer.” Again, I cannot do everything and must realize and be resolved of this fact. I think Lord this goes with my obligation “to promote the true common good” by my civil activities. While at this point in my life I may not be doing everything in this area let me remember AA’s admonition that I am an iterant herald of Christ wherever I go and should act accordingly (no. 14).
I have to save souls (no. 13)! In my various forms of the apostolate (AA Ch. 4) I am working towards this goal. I am doing Catholic Inquiry, involved with Catholic groups, earning this Masters degree, and promoting Adoration around the country to save souls! By promoting your adoration in the Blessed Sacrament I am helping to “build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in” you my Lord. I must “seek in the light of faith loftier motives of action in [my] family, professional, cultural, and social life and make them known to others where the occasion arises.” I have to do this more and more! My example needs to improve. I must “vivify [my] life with charity and express it as best [I] can in [my] works” and AA gives me, I think, the best way to do this if I “remember that [I] can reach all men and contribute to the salvation of the whole world by public worship and prayer as well as by penance and voluntary acceptance of the labors and hardships of life whereby [I] become like the suffering Christ.” This is the “be holy” side of the matter Lord. Help me be holy that I may save souls!
There are many social activities in the Church O Lord (no. 18). Must I really be involved in them all? Does the social side of the apostolate mean pot-lucks, parish picnics, karaoke nights and such? I think the realization that we are all one with you in the Eucharist and working with people in areas such as Adoration and the Knights of Columbus fulfills this duty. But part of me thinks this may be an area I can improve on to be all things to all people. But no! This can take away from family fellowship and duties of life as well. If I am active in the Church I need not be a parish social butterfly. The sarcasm of this reflection Lord, I leave in to remind me I have a weakness here. The “group apostolate” is what is important. Perpetual Adoration is surely a group apostolate that will bring “better results than if each member were to act on his own.”
You know O Lord that in Eucharistic Adoration, many “chapel leaders” burn out. My work helps them and I think in this area I participate in both “the broad apostolic purpose of the Church” and in the “aim to evangelize and sanctify in a special way.” Organized Adoration requires teamwork between often hundreds of people. It establishes “closer unity between the concrete life of the members” and helps “their faith be given primary consideration.” Support of Adoration and participation in it as well as in the other associations I am involved in help me “serve the mission of the Church to the world.” I thank you for this Lord. Help me do better.
Adoration, the Norbertine Third Order, the Militia of the Immaculata, Catholics United for the Faith, and to a less obvious degree the Knights of Columbus all aim at “the evangelization and sanctification of men and the formation of a Christian conscience among them so they can infuse the spirit of the Gospel into various communities and departments of life (no.20).” I think that to get others to you my Lord, we must first work on our own sanctification and these groups do that. AA singles out as “deserving of special honor” those who devote themselves with professional experience to the service of associations and their activities (no. 22). You have blessed me Lord with a business that is supports my family and apostolic efforts. I neglect my business at times leveraging it for the Church, especially Adoration and I will continue to do so, and it has hurt recently. Am I “deserving of special honor” for this? I think that if the answer is “yes” my sins have more than offset this “honor.”
AA speaks of “destructive rivalries” (no. 23) and in Adoration I have experienced this. Organizations have tension with others. I myself have been called a “profiteer” regarding the Eucharistic Miracles, even though I am thousands of dollars in the hole. The Legion of Mary and the Militia of the Immaculata seem to be rivals at times. Catholics United for the Faith has been called “whacko traditionalists” by one priest I know while being called “modernist” by the extreme anti-Vatican II traditionalists I am familiar with. Help me Lord, and help the groups I am involved with, and the whole Church to rise above these difficulties.
Help form me Lord for the apostolate (AA Ch 6). Let me be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Educate me in the faith as well as in temporal matters so that I will have that “ever deeper knowledge” AA states the need for, and assist me to use my skills for “planned activity” in the apostolate. Help me in “striking up friendly conversation” with others. I miss so many opportunities to spread the Gospel Lord. Help me to “render the Church present and active in the midst of temporal affairs.”
Unlike most who are studying at FUS O Lord I can see in my life “the advance of age.” Surely this is helping me to “detect more readily the talents with which God has enriched [my] soul and to exercise those charisms which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on [me] for the good of [my] brethren.” I am working to “be specially formed to engage in conversation with others, believers, or non-believers, in order to manifest Christ’s message to all men.” I am trying “not only to learn doctrine more diligently, especially those main points which are the subjects of controversy, but should also exhibit the witness of an evangelical life in contrast to all forms of materialism.” I am trying Lord to “answer gladly, nobly, and promptly” your invitation and the impulse of the Holy Spirit. I want to do this Lord. I want to determine my specific charisms and callings and to not let them suffer by attempting to do everything. And yet I want to be all things to all people so that those areas of the apostolate I am called to will flourish. On this Feast of All Saints Day, I ask all the saints to intercede for me with you, our head my Jesus. Without you O Lord, I can do nothing, with you, more than I can fathom. Amen.