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Rediscover the Faith by sharing it with joy, making disciples, Pope Francis encourages on World Mission Day 2013

This year, as we celebrate World Mission Day, the Year of Faith, which is an important opportunity to strengthen our friendship with the Lord and our journey as a Church that preaches the Gospel with courage, comes to an end. From this perspective, I would like to propose some reflections.

1. Faith is God’s precious gift, which opens our mind to know and love him. He wants to enter into relationship with us and allow us to participate in his own life in order to make our life more meaningful, better and more beautiful. God loves us! Faith, however, needs to be accepted, it needs our personal response, the courage to entrust ourselves to God, to live his love and be grateful for his infinite mercy. It is a gift, not reserved for a few but offered with generosity. Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile and sick Christians. The proclamation of the Gospel is part of being disciples of Christ and it is a constant commitment that animates the whole life of the Church. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community” (BENEDICT XVI, Verbum Domini, 95). Each community is “mature” when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the Word of God endlessly, leaves one’s own to take it to the “peripheries”, especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ. The strength of our faith, at a personal and community level, can be measured by the ability to communicate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it before those we meet and those who share the path of life with us.

2. The Year of Faith, fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, motivates the entire Church towards a renewed awareness of its presence in the contemporary world and its mission among peoples and nations. Missionary spirit is not only about geographical territories, but about peoples, cultures and individuals, because the “boundaries” of faith do not only cross places and human traditions, but the heart of each man and each woman. The Second Vatican Council emphasized in a special way how the missionary task, that of broadening the boundaries of faith, belongs to every baptized person and all Christian communities; since “the people of God lives in communities, especially in dioceses and parishes, and becomes somehow visible in them, it is up to these to witness Christ before the nations” (Ad gentes, 37). Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel. I invite Bishops, Priests, Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils, and each person and group responsible in the Church to give a prominent position to this missionary dimension in formation and pastoral programmes, in the understanding that their apostolic commitment is not complete unless it aims at bearing witness to Christ before the nations and before all peoples. This missionary aspect is not merely a programmatic dimension in Christian life, but it is also a paradigmatic dimension that affects all aspects of Christian life.

3. The work of evangelization often finds obstacles, not only externally, but also from within the ecclesial community. Sometimes there is lack of fervour, joy, courage and hope in proclaiming the Message of Christ to all and in helping the people of our time to an encounter with him. Sometimes, it is still thought that proclaiming the truth of the Gospel means an assault on freedom. Paul VI speaks eloquently on this: “It would be… an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free options which it presents… is a tribute to this freedom” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). We must always have the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ, and being heralds of his Gospel. Jesus came among us to show us the way of salvation and he entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all to the ends of the earth. All too often, we see that it is violence, lies and mistakes that are emphasized and proposed. It is urgent in our time to announce and witness to the goodness of the Gospel, and this from within the Church itself. It is important never to forget a fundamental principle for every evangelizer: one cannot announce Christ without the Church. Evangelization is not an isolated individual or private act; it is always ecclesial. Paul VI wrote, “When an unknown preacher, catechist or Pastor, preaches the Gospel, gathers the little community together, administers a Sacrament, even alone, he is carrying out an ecclesial act.” He acts not “in virtue of a mission which he attributes to himself or by a personal inspiration, but in union with the mission of the Church and in her name” (ibid. 60). And this gives strength to the mission and makes every missionary and evangelizer feel never alone, but part of a single Body animated by the Holy Spirit.

4. In our era, the widespread mobility and facility of communication through new media have mingled people, knowledge, experience. For work reasons, entire families move from one continent to another; professional and cultural exchanges, tourism, and other phenomena have also led to great movements of peoples. This makes it difficult, even for the parish community, to know who lives permanently or temporarily in the area. More and more, in large areas of what were traditionally Christian regions, the number of those who are unacquainted with the faith, or indifferent to the religious dimension or animated by other beliefs, is increasing. Therefore it is not infrequent that some of the baptized make lifestyle choices that lead them away from faith, thus making them need a “new evangelization“. To all this is added the fact that a large part of humanity has not yet been reached by the good news of Jesus Christ. We also live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security, or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning of life and the fundamental values that animate it. Even human coexistence is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously and in very situation, the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation, communion, a proclamation of God’s closeness, his mercy, his salvation, and a proclamation that the power of God’s love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness. The men and women of our time need the secure light that illuminates their path and that only the encounter with Christ can give. Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith! The Church’s missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love. The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.

5. I would like to encourage everyone to be a bearer of the good news of Christ and I am grateful especially to missionaries, to the Fidei Donum priests, men and women religious and lay faithful – more and more numerous – who by accepting the Lord’s call, leave their homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures. But I would also like to emphasize that these same young Churches are engaging generously in sending missionaries to the Churches that are in difficulty – not infrequently Churches of ancient Christian tradition – and thus bring the freshness and enthusiasm with which they live the faith, a faith that renews life and gives hope. To live in this universal dimension, responding to the mandate of Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28, 19) is something enriching for each particular Church, each community, because sending missionaries is never a loss, but a gain. I appeal to all those who feel this calling to respond generously to the Holy Spirit, according to your state in life, and not to be afraid to be generous with the Lord. I also invite Bishops, religious families, communities and all Christian groups to support, with foresight and careful discernment, the missionary call ad gentes and to assist Churches that need priests, religious and laity, thus strengthening the Christian community. And this concern should also be present among Churches that are part of the same Episcopal Conference or Region, because it is important that Churches rich in vocations help more generously those that lack them.

At the same time I urge missionaries, especially the Fidei Donum priests and laity, to live with joy their precious service in the Churches to which they are sent and to bring their joy and experience to the Churches from which they come, remembering how Paul and Barnabas at the end of their first missionary journey “reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). They can become a path to a kind of “return” of faith, bringing the freshness of the young Churches to Churches of ancient Christian tradition, and thus helping them to rediscover the enthusiasm and the joy of sharing the faith in an exchange that is mutual enrichment in the journey of following the path of the Lord.

The concern for all the Churches that the Bishop of Rome shares with his brother Bishops finds an important expression in the activity of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are meant to animate and deepen the missionary conscience of every baptized Christian, and of every community, by reminding them of the need for a more profound missionary formation of the whole People of God and by encouraging the Christian community to contribute to the spread of the Gospel in the world.
Finally I wish to say a word about those Christians who, in various parts of the world, experience difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practice it in a worthy manner. They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses – even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries – who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. I wish to reaffirm my closeness in prayer to individuals, families and communities who suffer violence and intolerance, and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: “Take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn16:33).

Benedict XVI expressed the hope that: “The word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere” (2 Thes 3:1): May this Year of Faith increasingly strengthen our relationship with Christ the Lord, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love” (Porta fidei, 15). This is my wish for World Mission Day this year. I cordially bless missionaries and all those who accompany and support this fundamental commitment of the Church to proclaim the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. Thus will we, as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel, experience “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80).

From the Vatican, 19 May 2013, Solemnity of Pentecost


Jesus is not an isolated missionary, nor are we

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“Go and make Christ known to all nations.” The missionary spirit is once again coming to the table. As Christians, we are baptized to come into communion with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to live as adopted children of God faithful to the life of the Church. The sacrament of Baptism makes us disciples of the Lord. We can’t forget, nor can we neglect, to make the Lord known to all people by the witness of our lives. Our call is the same as the Prophet Isaiah’s, “Here am I; send me” (Is 6:8). The preaching of the Lord’s Kingdom is not reserved to few; no, the mission to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom is given to all the baptized in all places. Hence, we work doing the new evangelization. Catholics as missionaries in this country needs renewal. We Catholics can’t leave the missionary work to the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Evangelicals or the Muslims. If we truly believe that the Lord has given us Himself as the way, the truth and the life, then we ought to share this experience. Moreover, in living the Gospel, following the teaching of the Church, the reception of the sacraments, we care for those live on the margins (think of the corporal works of mercy).

I see in Pope Francis calling us to be attentive to the missionary impulse again as fundamental to our faith and life in the Church. The Pope comes as this missionary notion from his own spiritual formation received as a member of the Society of Jesus. No doubt he thinks of the early founders of the Jesuits, and he likely recalls the Jesuit saint Francis Borgia, the third Jesuit Superior General who spent much energy on missionary vocation of the Jesuits, of translating the faith and the Exercises of Loyola into a more concrete expression. We can say that Pope, like Borgia, knows that the missionary work we are called to perform is a ministry that takes on a variety of aspects: preaching, teaching, sanctifying, interceding, healing, guiding others in the spiritual life, administering and governance.

Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus address needs to be studied and prayed about. Think about the points highlighted.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 10:1-12.17-20) speaks to us precisely of this: of the fact that Jesus is not an isolated missionary, does not want to fulfill his mission alone, but involves his disciples. Today we see that, in addition to the Twelve Apostles, He calls seventy-two others, and sends them into the villages, two by two, to announce that the Kingdom of God is near. This is very beautiful! Jesus does not want to act alone, He has come to bring to the world the love of God and wants to spread that love with a style of communion and fraternity. For this reason, he forms immediately a community of disciples, which is a missionary community. Iright from the start, He trains them for the mission, to go [on the mission].

Beware, however: the purpose is not to socialize, to spend time together – no, the purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! There is no time to waste in small talk, no need to wait for the consent of all – there is need only of going out and proclaiming. The peace of Christ is to be brought to everyone, and if some do not receive it, then you go on. To the sick is to be brought healing, because God wants to heal man from all evil. How many missionaries do this! They sow life, health, comfort to the peripheries of the world.

These seventy-two disciples, whom Jesus sent ahead of him, who are they? Whom do they represent? If the Twelve are the Apostles, and therefore also represent the Bishops, their successors, these may represent seventy-two other ordained ministers – priests and deacons – but in a wider sense we can think of other ministries in the Church, catechists and lay faithful who engage in parish missions, those who work with the sick, with the various forms of discomfort and alienation, but always as missionaries of the Gospel, with the urgency of the Kingdom that is at hand.

The Gospel says that those seventy-two returned from their mission full of joy, because they had experienced the power of the Name of Christ against evil. Jesus confirms this: to these disciples He gives the strength to defeat the evil one. He adds, though: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)” We should not boast as if we were the protagonists: the protagonist is the Lord [and] His grace. Our joy is only this: [in] being His disciples, His friends. 

May Our Lady help us to be good servants of the Gospel.

Pope Francis

Sunday Angelus Address

8 July 20013

Being a missionary as a Benedictine Sister

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Most people conceive of living the Benedictine charism –the Benedictine way of life given to us first by Saint Benedict in his Rule, and many centuries of living that Rule– as only being suited for life in monasteries.  In history Benedictine monks and nuns have indeed been missionaries. Think of Augustine of Canterbury, Anselm, Boniface, Frowin, Conrad, Martin Marty and many more. Men and women following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the needs of the Church have been called from the monastery to make new foundations, often they have moved from one culture to another sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. You might say that they raised the bar in the way the Christian life is lived.

In the USA Benedictine life has great diversity: monks, nuns, sisters, and lay oblates; Benedictines with schools, retreat houses and farms; others with focussed contemplatives and others ready to do what is asked. We also have Cistercians of two observances, the Camaldolese and a growing population of laity who live the Rule in secularity. What is true, Benedictines evangelize culture and build society by their presence. Some monasteries having the members doing everything imaginable for one reason: that in all things God would be gloried. How else would you live your life if you truly believed in the Incarnation?

There is a group of Benedictine sisters whose vocation is to be missionary. Either they are sent as apostles to another place, or they are missionary in the place where they are. Since July 31, 1923, The Norfolk Priory of Missionary Benedictine Sisters have ministered here in the USA. The sisters bring the gift of St Benedict’s wisdom to the health care and education ministries, but there are engaged in Hispanic ministry, domestic service, ecumenism, environmental concerns, justice and peace issues, parish ministry, and religious education. Share the idea of following to women who want to serve the Lord in community, as a missionary, and in prayer and service of the neighbor.

Here is a video on the Norfolk Benedictine Sisters.

The Missionary Benedictine Sisters belong to  serving Christ and the Church in various parts of the world.

“A bishop of the people,” Bishop Anthony Wieslaw Krótki ordained

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Here are some pictures of Bishop Anthony Wieslaw Krótki, OMI’s episcopal ordination in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut this past May. He is the 6th bishop of the diocese.

The Bishop’s biography is here.

Bishop Krótki, 49, a Polish born missionary of Mary Immaculate, is the new Bishop of Churchill-Baie d’Hudson, Manitoba, Canada. The Churchill Diocese is Canada’s largest diocese land-wise. The snowfall is quite significant up there in this Canadian province.

He’s fluent in Polish, English and can communicate in Inukitut.

According to recent statistics there are 6,100 Catholics in this diocese in 17 parishes with 7 religious order priests; no secular priests.

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God bless Bishop Anthony Wieslaw Krótki, and the diocese of Churchill-Baie d’Hudson!

Pictures are courtesy of Archbishop Terry Prendergast, SJ.

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The Benedictine Mission House: generous missionaries


There are missionary Benedictines who take the gospel on the road as it were. When you think of Benedictines you think of the monks and nuns praying the Divine Office, living a hidden life, even running schools, parishes, printing houses and making beer. But what we see is that most often Benedictines evangelize through their enduring presence in a given area and therefore don’t move around the world as Dominicans, Franciscans or Jesuits do.

However, the Benedictine monks of the St Ottilien Congregation, based in Germany, have lived a missionary vocation since the founding in 1886 by Father Andreas Amrhein. Today this congregation of monks are on 5 continents in 20 countries.

The monks of Christ the King Priory lead a life of prayer and work. They have 9 monks who run the Saint Benedict Retreat Center, make an effort for fundraising for missionaries in the third world, and to help undocumented people integrate into the USA. The Priory’s own video presentation is located here.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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