Our praesidium is based on campus and our most obvious field of labour is the campus. Some days ago , I was thinking about what we’ve been able to do for and with CSS over the last two year I was president and the last three years I’ve been in Legion. Not much I realise. Not because we haven’t tried. We have – but it’s like one rebuff after another. It was a rather disheartening trip down memory lane.
The other day, however I was reading a chapter from Fr Georges Chevrot’s Simon Peter which meditates on the events of Luke, Chapter 5.
The disciples are on the shores of Lake Genasareth, washing their nets, probably in a bad mood because they have had no luck – they’ve spent all night fishing but have caught nothing. It was useless lowering and casting their nets; every time they brought them up again it was to bring up weed, mud, insignificant small fry, otherwise nothing to speak of.
This however was the moment that Jesus chose to attach them definitively to His ministry and His person. ("from henceforth thou shalt catch men" Luke 5:10)
He went on board Simon’s boat and asked him to row a few strokes off so that He could be heard better by the people gathered to hear him speak. When the Master’s discussion was ended, Peter wanted to take Him back to the shore, but Jesus stopped him. “Launch out into the deep water,” He said, “and let down your nets for a catch.”
Peter, as any master craftsman, doesn’t like laymen telling him what to do. But this was Jesus. Jesus was different. Yet he still spoke his mind: “Master, we have toiled all the night and caught nothing…” but then no one can resist Christ’s word so “…but at Thy word I will let down the net”
He makes a sign to his companions and they pull away from the shore.
Fr Chevrot imagines what might be going through the Master's mind as they row out. Jesus is thinking that soon he will have to lay the foundations of His Church and here are the men who must preach the Kingdom of God to a world given over to materialism, a world that only believes in money and strength. These are the poor fellows who will have to hold their own against the Synagogue and Imperial Rome. These are the men whom He will send to rescue humanity with the sole weapons of love and sacrifice! It is mad what He is going to ask them! He is going to impose a superhuman task on them, He is thrusting them into an impossible adventure.
This is indeed why the Master has to convince them that with Him they can even undertake the impossible. Simon already understood it: “At Thy word”. The moment that Jesus orders, he sets out. He will have to set out also, with the same confidence in the Divine word, when he hears the final command: “Go, make all nations my disciples…I am with you until the end of the world”
We all know what happened when the nets were cast down.
Fr Chevrot teaches us a lesson from this:
We are called. But we are not merely called once for everything; all the time Jesus is recalling us to the duty that He expects of us.
Canon Ripley in an allocutio describes the situation we often find ourselves in quite well:
“We set our hearts on visible results but they never come. Those who promise to come with us to Mass let us down. All our efforts seem in vain. So a sense of frustration sets in. Everything seems to thwart us, to run counter to our idealism to prevent our making headway. All we try to do for our heavenly Queen seem foiled by things beyond our control. Our affection for those whom we visit is hindered in its path so that we feel it being gradually repressed within us. We wonder if we are being circumvented, outwitted by the powers of darkness.” (p139 Talks to Legionaries)
But remember, our apostolate just like our spiritual life demands perpetual fresh starts. The secret of our progress is to know how to begin again.
Paul, Therese, Nana, Krizia and the other scientists among us can attest to the fact that a scientist goes back over his results and calculations several times until he sees a connection. A writer shapes and reshapes his sentences over and over again. A musician becomes master of her instrument only after years of patience. Our apostolic works require the same patience. Finally we achieve mastery over ourselves only after repetition of virtuous efforts,
The Imitation of Christ points out that the true cause of moral mediocrity is the dread of difficulty or the hardships of struggle.
Canon Ripley encourages us “When we are tempted to feel like this we must out away the though [of our failures] as being entirely evil. We have in our work, made a notable contribution to the treasury of the Church. It will be distributed by our Queen for the good of souls just as She pleases….If we do some good work or try to do some good work, which seems to have no visible result, it might have repercussions stretching into eternity” (p140 Talks)
Courage, Fr Chevrot says, consists of beginning again with a new effort, beginning again even after retreating. During World War I, Allied leaders asked a little respite for their worn-our troops but the supreme commander of the Allied forces, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch ,replied that “Victories have always been carried off by tired soldiers.”
Heed that when we feel discouraged about our own battles – whether Legionary or personal.
We might, like Peter, have to cast the net in a slightly different place. (John 21:6) But maybe not – maybe we just need to work harder, make a few changes, try again.What we shouldn’t do is to stop just because we see no results and move on to something else.
Fr Chevrot tells us to take the Church as our model. She is always in the process of beginning again. Her goods are confiscated, Her buildings are closed, She rebuilds others. She is always busy building temples, schools, chartable homes (often, I might add, for an ungrateful world who rebuffs Her) If Her institutions, Her works, which share in the evolution of societies have become obsolete, unworkable, She does not stick there; She creates new ones, better adapted to the difficulties of the day. The Church, which is promised eternity ad whose dogma never varies, never believes, in the work of Her apostolate, that She has created an absolutely binding precedent. She is always perfecting Her means of conquest with her own art of blending, in their exact proportions, the traditions to be maintains and the progress which will improve those traditions. Like Her first Head, She is always starting again to throw out the news, because like Him, She believes in the word of Jesus.
This does involve hard work – the disciples had to row out at the Master’s word. But do it none the less.
Our nets too must be cleaned and ready for the catch. Our praesidium must always be strictly loyal to the Legion system; otherwise our catch will be defective. Work as a praesidium, pulling on the oars of the same boat. Don’t get tempted to just rely on our individual contact work as sufficient to fulfil our Legionary duty. Watch out for each other, call each other to help us in our work, just as the disciples did when their catch was too big to handle. Look after our auxiliary members and follow up on our contacts. Be loyal to each other, to the Praesidium and to Curia. It is through these that we show our loyalty to our Queen and to our God. Take care of the little things too – the altar, the timing, our notebooks – for "he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater" (Luke 16:10)
Make sure our work is heroic: heroic in the little things and heroic in the big. Draw others by your example. That’s what the senior Legionaries taught me in my first year. They were a really heroic bunch. Let’s make sure we do not relax in our efforts.
Canon Ripley also tells us that
“Difficulties and monotony give scope for the faith and effort of an enduring siege. [The Handbook] speaks of inexhaustible patience, golden tenacity and the unremitting search for those that have strayed. It is in the ordinary humdrum, unspectacular, wearisome, monotonous work that the essential qualities of the good Legionaries are best displayed. The Handbook says what those are: First unwavering faith; second, unrelaxed effort; third, unquenchable love; fourth, steady discipline; fifth, absolute and obstinate refusal to lose heart; sixth, constancy at all times; seventh, humility in success”
Finally, thank you for letting me serve you and for making my job so much easier than is should have been. I’ve received more than I could give back.
Let’s obey our new officers pray for them that the Holy Spirit will be their wisdom and their strength and that they too will grow and gain immensely from their office.
And may our courageous and heroic Queen guide and inspire us and all those who will join us in our battle to serve her faithfully and with ever greater devotion.
The Doré Bible Illustrations