Last weekend I was at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra, California to give a retreat to about 75 women, mostly from the Las Vegas area. A third of them enrolled in the Apostleship of Prayer at the end of the retreat. The talks were based on a word from the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus of Los Angeles, Mother Luisita: "For greater things you were born." On Sunday night I was able to dine with members of the Korean Apostleship of Prayer groups from Orange County and from a parish in Los Angeles where members gather on Saturday morning at 8:00 to pray together for the Holy Father's monthly intentions.
One of the things I enjoy about making long trips like this is having time on the plane and in the airport to read.
On the way to Los Angeles I read a 1951 book written by the U.S. Apostleship of Prayer director at the time, Fr. Arthur McGratty, S.J. The Sacred Heart Yesterday and Today is a survey of the devotion written in an engaging style. I found out a few things that I didn't know and ran across the following papal quotes about the Apostleship:
Pope St. Pius X in a letter to Fr. Joseph Boubee, S.J.: "No more effective remedy can be devised for the great and varied ills afflicting human kind than the Apostleship of Prayer."
Pope Benedict XV on October 17, 1920: "The Apostleship of Prayer is the most outstanding form of devotion to the Sacred Heart."
Pope Pius XI on March 13, 1926: "The Apostleship has continuously, even unto our own times, proposed to itself as an end peculiar to itself the advancement of the social reign of Jesus Christ amongst the peoples and the nations."
Pope Pius XII in September, 1948: "We, even as Our predecessors, have made it known and once more most willingly declare that it will make Us very happy if all the faithful without exception enlist in this sacred militia to swell the army of Associates."
Reading these, I was confirmed in the work I am doing. True devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an individualistic piety. The closer we grow in a personal relationship with Jesus, the more we take on his thoughts, attitudes, and values. And the more we take on the mind and heart of Christ, the more our hearts go out to our suffering world. We are filled with the compassion Jesus has for the poor and suffering of the world, victims of both material and spiritual poverty and violence. We are also filled with Christ's desire for the conversion of sinners, those responsible for the sad state of our world. As Christ offered himself on the cross for the salvation of the world, so we join ourselves to his perfect offering when we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and renew the offering we make there with our Daily Offering. This is why the popes of the first half of the Twentieth Century spoke so highly of the Apostleship of Prayer.