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Chapter 31: Confirmation, the Apostolate, and Personal Vocation

Question F: What sorts of prayer are appropriate to Christian life as apostolate?

1. All sound forms of prayer are obviously appropriate in some way to every confirmed person. However, this question must be addressed with reference to confirmation’s specific relevance to the fulfillment of one’s personal vocation as one’s own share in the apostolate. Considered from this special point of view, what forms of prayer are especially appropriate in Christian life?

We learn in the New Testament how necessary prayer is to the Christian life of witness (see Acts 1.14, 4.31; Rom 1.9; 12.12; and so on). Vatican II teaches that meditative prayer is essential for our participation in the apostolate: “Only by the light of faith and by meditation on the word of God can one always and everywhere recognize God in whom ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17.28), seek his will in every event, see Christ in all men whether they be close to us or strangers, and make correct judgments about the true meaning and value of temporal things, both in themselves and in their relation to man’s final goal” (AA 4). This brief statement outlines an appropriate program of prayer directed toward the fulfillment of the responsibilities of the confirmed Christian.

2. First, one must recognize God’s presence. Although he is always present, we tend to forget this, and we must not do so. It is necessary always to recall the source of all our responsibilities, powers, acts, and merits. It is always necessary, too, to remember that the value of our lives, especially insofar as they are apostolic, lies in their contribution to the fulfillment of everything in our Lord Jesus, not in their visible, this-worldly results, even when these results seem to have supernatural significance. Only by keeping one’s heart set on heaven can one carry on important apostolic work with faithfulness in hardship, patience in frustration, and resignation to God’s will in failure.

3. Second, one must seek God’s will in every event. Nothing can happen without God’s permission. If it happens to us, God wishes us to understand in faith the meaning which he wants us to attach to it. In thus reflecting on the given facts, one finds one’s personal vocation and its daily requirements. The signs of the times, studied in faith, tell us of both the misery of sin and the possibility of redemptive work—work given us today as our task.

4. Third, one must see Jesus in everyone. He is present in some as at work, in others as in need, and in many, perhaps most, in both of these ways. The apostolic life is a life of service and cooperation. It is an important form of prayer to consider others with faith. Only by doing so does one see the full demands and opportunities of one’s apostolate.

5. Fourth, it is necessary to judge rightly about the meaning and value of temporal things. To do this, one must develop a conscience fully formed at the level of moral truth, not determined by childish compulsions and inhibitions or restrained by social conventions which fall short of Christian truth. Without the light of the Spirit, one cannot solve one’s problems and reach sound judgments. In many cases, of course, reflection reveals something needed for one’s work. In prayer one confidently asks for everything necessary.

6. Finally, one must make a continuing, conscious, and prayerful effort to distinguish one’s own apostolic objectives from God’s will. Uprightly seeking to do God’s work by pursuing certain specific goals in this life, we can easily forget that failure and frustrations as well as success and satisfactions are included in God’s wise and loving plan. Forgetting this, we will be tempted to violate the Christian modes of response precisely in our apostolic efforts—for example, by discouragement and even infidelity when dedicated effort seems fruitless, by mercilessness toward those who seem to us to block God’s will, and by compromising the gospel to make it more acceptable to those to whom we are seeking to proclaim it.