June 26, 2022

By Jon Konz

in·cu·ba·tor

/ˈiNGkyəˌbādər/
noun

1. an enclosed apparatus providing a controlled environment for the care and protection of premature or unusually small babies.

Jon Konz, director of Faith Formation at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Sioux Falls.

Growing up as a farm kid on the fertile soils of southwestern Minnesota, we were never short of random pets. One day, Dad brought home some duck eggs he found while working in the pasture. We were all excited to see the ducks hatch. When they did hatch, we sat in awe of the life unfolding before us—a silent, sacred moment.

The pure excellence of this experience was enough to help us forget about how boring everything was leading up to the ducks hatching. Days full of nothing. Well, not nothing exactly, just nothing entertaining. We waited for what seemed like forever while the eggs just sat in an old, dusty incubator. The incubator kept the eggs warm and slowly rotated them—a process that is necessary for a duck to have life, even if it isn’t at all fun to watch.

By now, many of us have heard Bishop DeGrood’s vision for the Diocese of Sioux Falls: Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love. Diocesan staff have done a great job of communicating what this means, and it has inspired a lot of invigorating conversation. It is a call to mission. It is a call for each of us to step into the apostolic age of the Church.

“Apostle” is the English version of the Greek word “apostolos,” meaning “messenger” or “sent forth.” With this vision, Bishop is inviting us to discern how we are each called to build the kingdom here on earth, to discover our lay apostolates. When I reflect on this, I get quickly energized, and my prayer begins to sound like this: “Awesome! Just give me the plans, Jesus, and I’ll get to work!”

It is easy for me to get busy with zeal for the call. I dream up the big plans that God must have in store for my life. I want to be filled with a great thirst for souls like St. Maria Faustina or become a cigar-smoking, mountain-climbing force of nature like St. Pier Giorgio Frassati.

I get so riled up by the idea of being used by God in a powerful way that I lose sight of the fact that the saints’ lives were so potent because of what happened while their apostolate was incubating. Hours spent before the Blessed Sacrament. Money quietly given away. Internal battles against the powers of hell that no one would ever see. At these times, they were like little eggs staying warm, doing nothing. On the inside life was being formed in the fullest sense.

What environment do we need to become the saints the world needs today? The following are three pillars the saints seem to hold in common. They are necessary to incubate a lay apostolate, even if they’re not all that fun to watch.

Pray

We may all want a vacation, but we need a retreat. Be like Jesus. Go away by yourself and pray. This is the single most important daily activity of any person’s life. Not eating food may lead to physical death, but not praying leads to spiritual death. Tap into the source of living water and quench your soul’s thirst.

Serve

Praying prepares us to serve our spouses, children, neighbors and employers. When we have been filled with heavenly things, we become good trees. Good trees bear good fruit. Good fruit is delicious and easy to hand out.

Engage

Serving helps us to engage our lives in the here and now. We need to become keenly aware of the present moment. The present moment is where the Lover and the Beloved meet. You can perceive God’s work in the past, and you can count on his presence in the future, but now is where you encounter him.

Responding to God right now is the call of the saint, it is how holiness is inculcated, and it is a surefire way to incubate your apostolate. As you do so, you may even find that life is already flourishing.