BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
The essential office of the Association of Prayer of which we are speaking is to pray, to labour, to suffer in union with the Heart of Jesus for the Church militant, for the con version of unbelievers, heretics, and sinners, for the sanctification and final perseverance of the just. Its members ought to unite their petitions to the supplications of the Heart of Jesus, to enter into His desires and intentions, to make them their own; in union with Him to intercede for others, to offer their works and sufferings for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, for whatever, in short, may be suitable to extend and perfect the kingdom of God upon earth.
The essential exercise of the association, therefore, is intercessory prayer, to promote whatever may advance the interests of the divine Heart of Jesus. Thus it realizes one of Our Lord's chief intentions and fulfils one of the most ardent desires of His Heart. As it is by an inscrutable decree of the divine counsels that almighty God permits the evil enemy to interfere by his temptations with the work of redemption and the sanctification of the souls of men, so it is by an inscrutable decree of the divine counsels that He vouchsafes to allow us to take part—a part, too, so great and so momentous—in the accomplishment of the work of redemption and sanctification of the souls of men by intercessory prayer. It is His will that all Christians should in a certain sense be His apostles. As He as a rule makes the gift of faith to come by hearing the Gospel preached, so it is His will that the salvation of souls in many instances may depend upon the prayers of the faithful. The Apostle's exhortation refers to this truth when he says: ''First of all that supplications, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all men; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." * Also St. James's admonition: '' Pray for one another that you may be saved; for the continual prayer of a just man availeth much."
Practice of the Apostleship. In the Apostle-ship of Prayer there are three distinct degrees, each of which has its own particular indulgences and spiritual advantages. In order to obtain the indulgences and spiritual advantages of one degree it is not necessary to perform the exercises of the other degrees.
The practice of the first degree consists in this, that the associates should, in a certain definite form of oblation, daily offer up at their morning prayers all the prayers, works, and sufferings of the day in union with the intentions of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The following is the morning offering and intention which the members recite: "O adorable Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary, I offer Thee all the prayers, works, and sufferings of this day in union with the intentions of Thy divine Heart in the holy Mass, and the prayers of my fellow associates." Beyond the daily renewal of this intention and offering at one's morning prayers no other duty or good work is required of the associates.
The practice of the second degree consists in the offering to Our Lady one Our Father and one decade of the rosary for the intention of the Supreme Pontiff, approved by him and notified monthly by the director-general to the members of the apostleship.
The practice of the third degree consists in receiving the communion of reparation, of which more particulars will presently be given. The members of the Apostleship of Prayer form groups either of seven, who undertake to receive communion in turn on successive days of the week, or of thirty, who are to communicate in turn on successive days of each month with the intention of making atonement to God for the many and grievous offences of mankind, and to avert His just wrath, as well as for the conversion of sinners and the propagation of our holy faith.
Advantages of the Apostleship. The Apostleship of Prayer is one of the most excellent means of practising the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and as such is attended with the rich blessings with which Our Lord is pleased to favor that devotion. It tends especially to inspire the members with the spirit of Our Lord. It enables heart and mind to rise superior to the things of this world, and teaches us how to penetrate to the inmost depths of Our Lord's Heart, and to make that the object of our thoughts, our aspirations, our prayers, which is the object of His thoughts and prayers: the glory of God and the continual extension of His kingdom upon earth. This exercise is the noblest, most perfect practical exercise of charity towards God, whose greater glory it promotes, and towards our neighbor, whose salvation it aims at effecting; and for this reason it is the source of abundant merit. For if an act is meritorious in proportion as its supernatural motive is higher and more perfect, it follows that this practice must impart to all our works, even the most unimportant and insignificant, the highest value, since by means of it they are all performed out of pure love to God, the loftiest of all motives. Inasmuch as the aim of the apostleship is to make all Christians Christ's apostles, it ennobles and sanctifies all the works of the Christian, and imparts to them the greatest supernatural merit.
It is also productive of vast, immeasurable advantages for others through the graces elicited by its impetration. Its potency consists in union, in the association of so many Christians in one common prayer, and the union of each and all to the divine Heart of Jesus. For if Our Lord ascribes so great power to united prayer, we know that there is no more wide spread association for prayer than this apostle-ship; and if He has promised that prayer offered in His name shall not fail of its effect, certainly the petitions offered up in union with His petitions are made in His name. By this practice all orthodox Christians can in a certain sense become apostles, and all they do and suffer can acquire the nature of apostolic work. Through their prayers and good works, which they unite to the Heart of Jesus, they may help preachers, confessors, missioners in their labors; by their supplications they may give force and efficacy to their words and obtain a blessing on their work. This apostleship is indeed unapparent and hidden, yet none the less powerful on that account and fruitful in results. It is the apostolate exercised by the Blessed Virgin, by St. Aloysius, and many interior souls whose life was hidden in God, and whereby they have a larger share than we perhaps imagine in the conversion of the world, the extirpation of heresy, and the spread of the kingdom of God. When the secrets of grace are revealed in the Day of Judgment, it will be seen that many conversions, many blessed events in the order of grace are not due so much to the words of the priest, the preaching of the missioner, as to the prayers of pious, earnest souls who in their lifetime were unknown and unregarded. The prayers of a young slave-girl, St. Christina, were the means of effecting the conversion of the Iberian nation and obtaining for them the light of faith; and the splendid results of the labors of St. Peter Claver, the apostle of the negroes, were to a great extent to be ascribed to the devout prayers of the Jesuit lay-brother, St. Alphonsus; so in like manner many miracles of grace, many victories won by the Church, will be found to be owing to the prayers of the mem bers of this association. And all these inestimable benefits for one's self and for others may be gained without trouble, nay, with the utmost facility, and without taking time from any other occupation. If is not within our power to go as missionaries to distant lands; we cannot write books in defence of the faith and of holy Church, nor extend the kingdom of God by preaching the Gospel. What we can actually do for the Lord our God is trifling and insignificant; yet here a means is afforded us to effect great things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
After all that has been said nothing further is necessary to prove that the Apostleship of Prayer is an association which must commend itself very strongly to priests and candidates for the priesthood. The priest is, the Fathers of the Church tell us, another Christ. If so, then when he enters upon his sphere of active work it behooves him to exercise, in accordance with Our Lord's example, the twofold apostolate of preaching and of prayer. And during the period of preparation for his future calling he must also imitate the example Our Lord gave in His hidden life in the holy house at Nazareth, and in the quiet seclusion of the seminary exercise the Apostleship of Prayer. "Nowhere," writes Fr. Ramiere, "are the benefits derived from the apostleship more perceptible than in the institutions in which the servants of Jesus Christ, our spiritual Fathers, the chosen champions of holy Church, are trained for the work of the ministry. The secret of the priest's interior strength, the pledge of the permanence and efficacy of his sacred ministry, consists in union with the Heart of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the true High Priest and Father of souls; He alone converts, strengthens, sustains, sanctifies the hearts of men. The end and aim of all training for the priesthood will only be attained if the future priest learns to identify all his thoughts, sentiments, desires, interests, with those of Jesus Christ and of the Church, His bride."