For the last couple of weeks, the meditations have been on "the apostolate." We each have an apostolate. The apostolate of the parish priest is different from that of the mother or the father or the worker or the nun, but we each have an apostolate.
An excerpt from today's meditation spoke to me as a homeschooling mother (and I know this passage can be read through the lens of any apostle). I have included my thoughts in italics below.
331. Sanctification in the Apostolate
"It is the saints who are the most efficient apostles. Must we then be saints before devoting ourselves to the apostolate? Theoretically, this is the ideal, but in practice, it is impossible. To think that the formative years--those spent in the seminary or notiviate, for example--suffice to make us saints is a misconception."Theoretically, the formation of childhood within a holy family will make us saints and the child will grow into a young man or woman entering marriage already a saint. But, in practice, this rarely occurs, I'd say especially so in the modern era of shattered families and worldly attachments.
"It is equally wrong to exempt ourselves from apostolic work, when charity or our duty imposes it on us, under the pretext that we have not yet arrived at sanctity. We must therefore conclude that when the period allotted exclusively to preparation is over, we must combine our own personal efforts toward sanctity with the exercise of the active apostolate."How many times has a mother commented to me that she could not possibly homeschool her children--even though she says she wants to, even though she sees that the local school options are damaging to her children--because she "isn't patient,"--"they'd drive me crazy!" But any homeschooling mother will reply that she didn't start out patient either and is only somewhere on the road to saintly patience. Becoming patient takes day by day--often moment by moment--effort, much prayer, frequent Confession, and falling to one's knees before God. Habit begets virtue--or vice, depending on your habit! (May I also recommend "Humility of Heart" by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo and "Patience and Humility" by Archbishop William Ullathorne [also available online].)
"In other worse, apostles must sanctify themselves in the apostolate and by means of it. "To sanctify yourself in view of and by means of the apostolate: these should be the marching orders of a diocesan priest . . . . We would be giving the lie to the Church, to the life of Jesus, and the lives of all the saints, if we said that the exterior apostolate is incompatible with personal sanctity." These words, spoken by the servant of God, Don Poppe, to priests, are equally true for all apostles, cleric or lay, religious or secular. Every apostle should be convinced that precisely in his own field of labor--and nowhere else--will he find all the graces necessary to sanctify himself, to attain intimate union with God." [bold mine]It is precisely the homeschooling mother's field of labor in her own home with her own children--and nowhere else--that she will find all the graces necessary to become a saint. She need not go to work outside the home, or feed meals to the homeless, or write a book, or convert thousands, even though all are worthy pursuits.
"When a person gives himself to the apostolate, not by his own choice, nor because of a natural attraction for activity, but solely in answer to a call from God, he can be certain that, since God has willed him to engage in the apostolate, and He also wills him to be a saint, that the apostolate will provide him with the means to become one. God cannot condemn to mediocrity one who, in order to do His will, and out of love for Him, is burdened with apostolic labors and responsibilities. "No, breathren," Don Poppe continues, "the active life is not a night in which the light of the ideal is extinguished. If so many apostoles have lost their light, you should not lose confidence, but humble yourslves profoundly ecause of your weakness, and then more abundant grace will surely bring you success. Do you know that difficulties and obstacles are sometimes transformed into helps under the wonderful action of grace, and may contribute greatly to good? 'Certus sum,' you can say with St. Paul: I am certain that no creature in the world has the power to draw me away from the road to sanctity." In the measure that an apostole is docile and faithful to grace, God will purify him, refine him, and sanctify him, precisely by means of his apostolic labors."If we are called by God to homeschool our children (and most of us who live this life believe we are called to it), then we can be certain that God is providing us with the means to become a saint right here, right now, with all our limitations. Even if the babies keep coming, even if we haven't properly sat through a Mass in ten or fifteen years because we are walking with a loud baby, even if we can't go to silent Eucharistic adoration or week-long Ignatian retreats, even if we can't find hours to pray in a recollected way each day. Even if!
St. Frances of Rome wisely admonished, “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”
All those beatitudes? Practice them in the company of and in reaction to our husband and children. All those corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Do those toward our husband and children. This is how we will become saints!