I’ve been reading through some spiritual classics recently, and I have to say that Jean-Baptiste Chautard’s The Soul of the Apostolate is one of the most important books for all Christians to read, and vitally important for anyone involved in Christian ministry. (I don’t think that I am one prone to hyperbole — there’s a reason that this one is on most people’s lists of must-read spiritual classics.) While it is a heavy-hitter in terms of impact on your life and spiritual insight, it is very accessible. It’s main argument is profoundly simple — the interior life of the soul should be the priority of the Christian’s life. Though the book was written about 100 years ago, it is eerily prophetic of 21st century Christian ministry. The book will both convict you and exhort you regarding your interior life, your life of prayer. Here are some topics that Chautard addresses, as well as some quotes from the book, which I hope entice you to read it for yourself:
The “interior life” is what gives life to all our good works:
“Our interior life ought to be the stem, filled with vigorous sap, of which our works are the flowers” (p. 42).
We cannot give what we do not have:
“As a mother cannot suckle her child except in so far as she feeds herself, so confessor, spiritual directors, preachers, catechists, professors must first of all assimilate the substance with which they are later to feed the children of the church” (p.43). This reminds me of the flight attendants’ warning before all take-offs: “…attach your own oxygen mask first…”
How the priest’s (or pastor, ministry leader, etc.) spirituality impacts those being led:
“If the priest is a saint (the saying goes), the people will be fervent; if the priest is fervent, the people will be pious; if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent. But if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one degree less intense in its life than those who beget it in Christ” (p. 34).
How much God prefers our intimacy (diamonds) over our activity (sapphires):
“A jeweler will prefer the smallest fragment of diamond to several sapphires; and so, in the order established by God, our intimacy with Him gives Him more glory than all possible good, procured by us, for a great number of souls, but to the detriment of our own progress” (p. 37).
How much Satan doesn’t want us to have an intimate prayer life:
“But as for Satan, he, on the contrary, does not hesitate to encourage a purely superficial success, if he can by this success prevent the apostle from making progress in the interior life…To get rid of a diamond, he is quite willing to allow us a few sapphires” (p. 37).
Quiet is often the sign of a healthy interior life:
“You will soon find out that noise does not do much good–and that what is good doesn’t make much noise” (p. 45).
The interior life is the key to holiness:
“…holiness is nothing but the interior life carried to such a point that the will is in close union with the will of God…” (p. 63).
One really big reason the interior life is important:
“Not until we have formed Christ within ourselves will we find it easy to give Him to families and to societies” (p.79).
I encourage you to read this one for yourself. It really pulled my heart to prioritize time with God in my daily life. How is your interior life? How is God calling you to spend time with Him before any other good activity?