Once during my seminary studies one of my priest teachers gave me a copy of what a consulting firm might have said about the original 12 apostles.
It is our opinion that the 12 men you have picked to manage your new organization lack the background, educational and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would lend itself to undermining morale. We feel it is our duty to tell you that the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau has censured Matthew for unfair business practices. James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot both have radical leanings and both registered high on the manic-depressive scale. One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, has a keen business mind and possesses contacts in high places. He is highly motivated and ambitious. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your vice president and right hand man. We wish you every success in your new venture.
And it is to this unimpressive group with so many failings that our Lord says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” This last line makes all the difference; I am with you always, until the end of the age. “I am with you always until the end of the age.” The apostles didn’t have to do it on their own; they couldn’t do it on their own. Without our Lord they couldn’t have done anything on their own.
Now this is something that Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity understood very well, although it took her a while. She grew up in France in the late eighteen hundreds; she was the daughter of a successful military officer who died of a heart attack while she was still only a girl. Elizabeth was an extremely strong-willed and temperamental child. Her frequent fits of rage were almost uncontrollable; it was so bad that her mom often called her the “little devil.” This began to change, however, after her first Communion, when she was eleven. That afternoon she met for the first time the prioress of the nearby Carmelite convent. The nun explained that the girl’s name, Elizabeth, meant “house of God,” and wrote her a note that said: “Your blessed name hides a mystery, accomplished on this great day. Child, your heart is the House of God on earth, of the God of love.”
From then on, recognizing that God had taken up residence in her soul, she waged a holy war against her violent temper. She didn’t win overnight, but she did win, eventually, and she also discovered her vocation to become a Carmelite sister.
Her mother didn’t like the idea, however, and made her wait until she was twenty-one. She won friends of all ages during these years of waiting, singing in the parish choirs, arranging parish day-care service for families that worked in the local tobacco factory, and also winning several prizes for her skill at the piano. She died only five years after entering the convent, at the age of 26, after having suffered horribly for months from an extremely painful disease of the kidneys. But her realization that the Blessed Trinity dwelt within her enabled her to suffer with patience and even with joy. As she wrote to her mother: “The bride belongs to the bridegroom, and mine has taken me. Jesus wants me to be another humanity for him, to be another Jesus, in which he can still suffer for the glory of his Father, to help the needs of his Church: this thought has done me so much good.” Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity had discovered the intimate, loving presence of God that He so eagerly wants to reveal to all of us.
The reason God has revealed himself to us so thoroughly is because he yearns for our friendship. That’s what he created us for! But friendship is always a two-way street.
God has done His part by opening himself up to us. That was what the Incarnation was all about. That is what the ongoing life of the Church is all about: the sacraments, Church teaching the sacred Scriptures, and even the beauties of nature, God’s first book of revelation. They are all ways God has invented to speak to us, to invite us into an ever deeper personal relationship with him. But that relationship doesn’t happen automatically – friendship never does.
Cardinal Mercier of Belgium (d1920) once made the bold claim, that he knew the secret of holiness, happiness, and friendship with our Lord. He said, “I’m going to reveal to you the secret, every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sight, and close your ears to all the noises of the world. Do this in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your Baptized soul, which is the temple of the Blessed Trinity, speak to our Lord, saying to Him, ‘O Blessed Trinity, Soul of my soul, I adore You! Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, and console me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me, and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Just make me know your will.” Cardinal Mercier goes on to say, “if you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trial, the grace you need will be given to you to keep you strong.”
Our Lord says, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” The apostles, unlikely leaders as they were, Blessed Elizabeth, once described as a devil child, all came to realize they held a priceless gift within. They were houses of God. The Apostles, Blessed Elizabeth and you are Houses of God, baptism makes it so. Your house is part of an awesome and great community. Let us find that time every day to listen, and to obey the soul of our soul the Blessed Trinity. And we will be sanctified.
Pax et Bonum,
Christopher J. Ankley