Knocking on Closed Doors - Why Having an Apostolate is Not Just "A Nice Thing To Do"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A friend linked to a recent blog post The Lie of the Apostolate. The post really bugged me. The main call of the post is good - that we should make sure our families are loved and cared for - but it went about it in a way that did not sit well with me.

I think what bothered me is that the post gave the impression that serving beyond your family is optional. That it is something that's great if you get around to it, but no biggie if you don't.

That is selfish naval gazing masquerading as holiness, my friends.

You know what happens when people feel that serving in their parishes, neighborhoods, schools is optional? The work does not go away, it shifts onto someone trying to fill in the gaps - or worse, that support network disappears for good.

Lately, that's been me for my parish. I've been attempting to carry the weight of five people. I'm only one person, and it shows.
You know the saying "Many hands make light work"? I think one cannot appreciate how much the many hands are needed until one tries to do the work of the many. It's not pretty.

I cannot express how much even a little assistance would help. It may not feel like much, but someone volunteering to set up drinks before a parish event, print out fliers, or be a greeter at the door takes loads of burden off of those people who are trying everything they can to keep this ship afloat.

When I look around trying desperately to communicate how much those willing hands are needed, all I've been seeing are closed arms.

There are typically reasons, many of them are good, to have the decision to volunteer be "not right now", but there will ALWAYS be a reason not to step up.

It may feel to you like you're just saying "not right right now", but to the people who are left to try and keep things afloat it feels more like you're saying "not my problem". When not one helper can be found, those volunteers that are left are being disrespected and taken advantage of by the very people they are trying to serve.

If you want to have a healthy neighborhood, parish, or school, you have to show up. It is not someone else's problem, it is your problem. My problem. Our collective problem. 

You CAN find some way to contribute! I really truly believe every person is valuable and needed, and that every person can give back to those communities they so freely utilize.

Tap the old lady on the shoulder who you see always doing something for the parish, tell her how much you appreciate it, and ask how you can help. (Seriously, I cannot recommend this highly enough. You have no idea how long it has probably been since anyone told her "good job".)

Fill a need that you see in your neighborhood.

Ask your kid's teacher if there is something they wish they had available for their classroom.

What if you have babies and this is all scary and overwhelming? I have a whole post about that!

The idea that your family is your apostolate is all well and good, but it is not ok to use that as a reason to ignore your larger family. Don't forget about us! We haven't forgotten about you.


  1. Yes yes yes! I saw the "Lie of the Apostolate" article but didn't read it, yet it sounds like those sentiments are some that I have heard quite frequently and, quite frankly, drive me up a wall. I think going along with your post and encouraging people to participate in apostolates is the importance of letting others participate. It is so frustrating when I want to help out in the wider apostolate and other people try to make excuses for why I don't need to worry about it. It's all done with kindness and the best of intentions, but before I gave birth, I was told "I didn't call you to come and help out because I wanted you to really enjoy your pregnancy at home" and "Well, you're pregnant so I figured you wouldn't be able to stand and help with _____." And I wouldn't be surprised if I am still told those types of things now that I have a small baby. Regardless, I'll keep trying :) (I do think one of the hard parts is that, at my parish, many of the more "leadership" things are headed up by old ladies who have been parishioners for at least 40 years, and it's hard for them to figure out how to integrate new people into the system)

    1. It is a two prong problem, isn't it? We need both the people to answer the call to serve in any way they can, but it's also a call for leadership to make better use of their people.
      I fear too many leaders hear the offers of help as, "you're not doing a good enough job" and proceed to dig in a bit. I try my best in those positions to hear what people are saying and give them the chance to say yes. People have all kinds of hidden skills and gifts that will benefit all of us if given the chance to be put to use!

  2. I would love to attend a "Called and Gifted" retreat. It sounds amazing-- this idea of serving where your gifts are. If we serve based on our strengths it takes a lot less effort. If we *all* serve, then this could be a reality.

    On the other hand, I have been guilty of taking on too many church responsibilities just because no one else stepped up. It's taken a toll on my family, so I've decided to scale back this year. My domestic church *does* have to be my first priority, but that doesn't mean it's the only thing.

    I remember reading about a homebound woman who read the obituaries in the newspaper every day and prayed for the souls of the deceased. What a necessary, overlooked, ministry. Could we all find an opportunity to build the kingdom like this, regardless of our place in life? Sure!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

    1. Battling burnout overtaxing the few volunteers that are around is a very real concern. I agree that our families are our first priorities and that they cannot be the only priority.
      I love the story about the homebound woman! I make a point in the post about having an apostolate with babies that your apostolate can be homebound and not exclusive to your family. I've known elderly women who make rosaries for prisons, blankets for foster kids, and other prayer ministries from home. I love that! I want everyone to embrace where they are in life, and find a way to use that for someone else.
      That's my goal here. :)

  3. Mannnn - so, I may have been asking God for a sign of where He wants me next year (school year, not calendar year). It's been about a two month discernment process, with very little feedback from Him. Until tonight. Reading this article. I yearn to try something new, but I guess His will be done, and I should probably consider staying the course... thanks for this timely (for me) re-post!


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