Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The chapter you MUST read from "The Soul of the Apostolate"

 Importance of the Formation of “Shock Troops” and of Spiritual Direction

Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O
"Returning once more to that striking conversation with Father Timon-David,68 surely, the reader must have been struck by one of the words that fell from the lips of that experienced founder of good works. I refer to the vivid metaphor of “crutches,” with which the Canon summed up his opinion on the use of various modern amusements (like plays, bands, movies, complicated and expensive games, and so on) to attract youths to their clubs and keep them there. These attractions more often than not serve only to wear everybody out, and leave all listless and depressed, instead of resting and expanding the soul. Or else they merely cater to physical health, or flatter vanity, or overstimulate the imagination and the emotions. For the rest, the term “crutches” in no way supplies to those refreshing though extremely simple games which relax the soul and strengthen the body, and which have been found sufficient by so many generations of Christians.89 If one were to make a comparison between the advice of this extremely prudent

Canon with that of other able leaders of Catholic Action, without quite seeing his correct meaning, one might well wonder if he was not too sweeping in his enumeration of the cases when “crutches” can be discarded.

Leaving to one side works that are founded chiefly for the relief of bodily ills, we may divide the others into two classes: those which take only carefully selected members, and those which exclude none but the scabby sheep.

But we also assume that even in the latter case, a nucleus of “shock troops” will be formed, youths who will be able, by their fervor, to bring home to the others what the principal aim of the movement is, and to bring all the other members to lead a life that is Christian not merely on the surface, but deep down in the soul. Otherwise, what have we got? “An ordinary social club, run by a priest,” according to the ironical expression of a state-school teacher of great ability who was able to detect, behind the clerical front, just about as many weaknesses as he deplored in those establishments that were beyond the reach of the Church’s influence.

Directors who do not hesitate to reject from their movements members that are clearly incapable of being incorporated into the shock troops, will find the term “crutches” exactly expresses to what an extent they consider as secondary those means that they can well do without, or which they only tolerate with unfeigned repugnance. And as a matter of fact, they do not easily run short of arguments in favor of their viewpoint.

As far as they are concerned, the regeneration of society, and especially of France, can come only as a result of a more intense radiation of the holiness of the Church. It is by this means, they say, rather than by lectures and apologetics that Christianity developed so rapidly in the first centuries of its history, in spite of the power of its enemies, of prejudices of all sorts, and of the general corruption.

They put an end to all argument by an answer like this: Can you quote any fact, just one fact, to show that during that time the Church needed to think up amusements to turn aside the souls she was going to conquer from the filth of pagan shows?

One of these directors of Catholic Action remarked, in allusion to the thirst for money and the infatuation for the films which keep the bulk of the population in our days in a fever of excited craving for enjoyment: “The Panem et Circenses (Bread and Circuses) of the decadent Romans might be translated into modern terms as ‘Relief and Movies.’” Now look at St. Augustine, or St. Ambrose, for example: what a prodigious attraction they exercised over souls! And yet do we ever see them, at any time in their lives, organizing some movement to provide amusements that would make their flock forget the pleasures held out by paganism?

And when St. Philip Neri set out to convert Rome, lukewarm with the spirit of the Renaissance, do we read that he needed any of those “crutches” that so aroused the scorn of Canon Timon-David?

It is very certain that the primitive Church, as we have already hinted, knew how to organize magnificent and numerous shock troops, in the midst of the faithful, and their virtues both struck the pagans with astonishment and excited the admiration of honest souls, even those most prejudiced against Christianity by their principles, their traditions, and their social background. Conversions were the result, even in circles to which no priest had access...."


You can find the text to the whole book HERE, as well as find where I left off by searching therein for it. It is absolutely of great importance you read at least the whole of the chapter.

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful book. I've slowly been reading it over the last... year (oops!), and it's been changing a lot of the ways I approach the Catholic organizations I'm involved with and help run.

    Dom Chautard was wise.