This paper is based on the elementary remark that the extraction of gauge invariant results from a formally gauge invariant theory is ensured if one employs methods of solution that involve only gauge covariant quantities. We illustrate this statement in connection with the problem of vacuum polarization by a prescribed electromagnetic field. The vacuum current of a charged Dirac field, which can be expressed in terms of the Green's function of that field, implies an addition to the action integral of the electromagnetic field. Now these quantities can be related to the dynamical properties of a "particle" with space-time coordinates that depend upon a proper-time parameter. The proper-time equations of motion involve only electromagnetic field strengths, and provide a suitable gauge invariant basis for treating problems. Rigorous solutions of the equations of motion can be obtained for a constant field, and for a plane wave field. A renormalization of field strength and charge, applied to the modified lagrange function for constant fields, yields a finite, gauge invariant result which implies nonlinear properties for the electromagnetic field in the vacuum. The contribution of a zero spin charged field is also stated. After the same field strength renormalization, the modified physical quantities describing a plane wave in the vacuum reduce to just those of the maxwell field; there are no nonlinear phenomena for a single plane wave, of arbitrary strength and spectral composition. The results obtained for constant (that is, slowly varying fields), are then applied to treat the two-photon disintegration of a spin zero neutral meson arising from the polarization of the proton vacuum. We obtain approximate, gauge invariant expressions for the effective interaction between the meson and the electromagnetic field, in which the nuclear coupling may be scalar, pseudoscalar, or pseudovector in nature. The direct verification of equivalence between the pseudoscalar and pseudovector interactions only requires a proper statement of the limiting processes involved. For arbitrarily varying fields, perturbation methods can be applied to the equations of motion, as discussed in Appendix A, or one can employ an expansion in powers of the potential vector. The latter automatically yields gauge invariant results, provided only that the proper-time integration is reserved to the last. This indicates that the significant aspect of the proper-time method is its isolation of divergences in integrals with respect to the proper-time parameter, which is independent of the coordinate system and of the gauge. The connection between the proper-time method and the technique of "invariant regularization" is discussed. Incidentally, the probability of actual pair creation is obtained from the imaginary part of the electromagnetic field action integral. Finally, as an application of the Green's function for a constant field, we construct the mass operator of an electron in a weak, homogeneous external field, and derive the additional spin magnetic moment of α2π magnetons by means of a perturbation calculation in which proper-mass plays the customary role of energy.