Apostle! Of the thousands of beautiful, inspiring, and sometimes challenging words listened to and read during the year I spent in Italy preparing for perpetual vows, this is one of the words that struck me the most. That the word "apostle" spoke to me in so many new ways surprised me, since as Daughters of St. Paul we are familiar with and use the word “apostle” many times daily. We encounter and pray with Jesus and his apostles every day as we meditate on Scripture and celebrate the Liturgy. We are daughters of one of the greatest apostles, if not the greatest apostle of the Church, and we ask our father St. Paul to intercede for us at the beginning and at end of almost every prayer. We call upon Mary and ask for her intercession as Queen of the Apostles. Our spiritual, creative, physical, and material efforts to communicate the Gospel of Christ are referred to as “apostolate.” Whether we are talking about ourselves, our mission, our life and prayer as Daughters of St. Paul, the word “apostle” is unavoidable. Our founder, Blessed James Alberione prayed that we may understand and live this important dimension of our life. This is clear in his writings, the talks he gave to the first priests and sisters of the Pauline Family, and in the prayers he prayed and those he composed for us.
“Jesus Christ is the apostle of the Father and we are apostles of Jesus Christ.” I had heard these words so many times before, but that morning it was as if I was hearing them for the first time. I am not sure why. Maybe because we were having a class on St. Paul on the feast of his conversion and the class was delivered passionately by a Daughter of St. Paul who is an expert on St. Paul. It could also be that I was moved because I was hearing it in Italian. Maybe it was because it was the centenary of the foundation of our congregation, and I was in the land of our beginnings and so close to our roots. I am not sure why, but I know that the prayers of our sisters around the world accompanied us every day as we prepared ourselves to be consecrated to God forever in the Congregation. I am sure that prayer and grace predisposed us to tune in to the Holy Spirit during that special time of Pauline formation. We were 20 of us, young Sisters from 15 different countries who had come to Italy for a year of study, reflection and deepening our understanding and integration of the history, spirituality and charism of our order. During the break I asked the Sister presenting if she could say more about the beautiful sentence we had just heard. “Jesus is the apostle of the Father and we are apostles of Jesus,” that she kept repeating in her explanation. True. The words are clear and sound so simple yet one needs to listen to them over and over for them to really sink in.
Being apostles is fundamental to our Christian identity and vocation. For us religious and Paulines, it is part of our nature. On June 18th, some weeks ago, I professed perpetual vows as a Daughter of St. Paul. What a gift and grace from the Lord! The very first words of our vow formula, “In response to the love of God…” immediately indicate that the initiative is not mine. I was called by God and I am being sent by him. We are sent to go out to the world with a message that is not ours. We do not need to think up words to announce. Saint John Paul II reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization and the Church’s mission. The Holy Spirit inspires us to speak and act in the name of Jesus Christ. We just have to stay very close to God, listen to him, and allow him to tell us what to proclaim, how to proclaim, to whom and when to proclaim his Good News. We do not rely on our strength, skill or intelligence. We allow the Lord to work through us using the gifts he has given us. A president does not entrust an important mission to an ambassador he thinks incompetent. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” The One who sends us forth knows us. He also knows perfectly well the people and places we are being sent to. It is his mandate. This means it is never about us. This is the peace, the joy and the freedom of an apostle. Nothing is ours—not the message, or the grace, or even ourselves.
Christians are given the privilege of announcing the greatest news —God’s love and mercy toward us. Jesus through his words and actions showed us that he came not to do his own will but the will of his Father. He showed us the way of apostleship. This is what I found so refreshing about that one sentence. We did not choose Christ but he chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit that will remain. We are apostles of Christ.