Workers called to be apostles
In a Christian context, an apostle is someone who is sent to deliver God’s good news to people so that they can find in God the source of light and life they need. I spent more than twenty years being educated in a school named after St Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) who was referred to as the “Apostle of Our Difficult Age” by one of his biographers. He dedicated his life to providing spiritual sustenance to people in Poland and Japan. Well, the difficult age is still with us and so are the apostles.
Fr Joseph Cardijn (1882-1967), a contemporary of Fr Maximilian Kolbe, referred to young workers, whom he formed in faith, as apostles. They spread the good news by word and example and he considered them to be indispensable in the Church’s mission to evangelise the world. Cardijn gave a series of lectures in 1948, which he titled The Young Worker Faces Life. In the first lecture, he established the place of apostles in the life of the young worker and in the Church:
“In everyday life and its environment, the Church and Our Lord need what the Pope calls the principal and immediate apostles of the workers. There is a chain of apostles: the immediate neighbour, close at hand; the foreman and adult workers; then parents, priests, bishops, and the Pope. The chain is the means by which the divine influence is exercised on each young worker. Break the chain, and almighty God becomes, as it were, powerless.”
Regrettably, the chain has been broken. Was it ever unbroken? Clearly, for Cardijn, there were experiences of the apostolic action of the young workers he formed in faith. The coming of the Holy Spirit empowers people to embrace an apostolic life. Witness the chain in its Gospel incarnation, celebrated in the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Luke 2:22-40). The prophet Simeon gives the response of one who has been visited by the apostles we know as Mary and Joseph. In their presence, he acknowledges gratefully the generosity of God made visible in the infant Jesus. “My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see.” They had come to the Temple to offer their son Jesus to God. Luke’s summary of the life of Jesus in Nazareth is the fruit of all apostolic activity: “… the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was with him”.
We are called to be apostles of our age, in quiet ways, giving silent witness to the presence of God in our world and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And like the saints I have tried to honour here, our first and constant action that God encourages in us is prayer: God invites us into a prayerful relationship with the Holy Trinity, the model family. How, then, do we include others in actions flowing from prayer? And what actions can we undertake to draw people into considering a relationship with God?
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The Young Worker Faces Life – the Godinne 1948 series of lectures by Fr Joseph Cardijn