October 2019 has been declared by Pope Francis to be Extraordinary Missionary Month. The Holy Father emphasizes Jesus’ Great Commission to the disciples found in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church. It is her ‘essential task,’ for the Church is ‘missionary by nature.'”
I was reflecting yesterday, at the start of this Extraordinary Missionary Month, on what this means for me personally, my community and for the Church. In particular, I was praying with my Confirmation saint, as well as one of Women Youth Apostles’ patrons, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Therese is famous for her ‘Little Way’ of childlike trust. She is also named principle patroness, alongside St. Francis Xavier, of all missions and missionaries- despite being a cloistered nun in a Carmelite monastery until her death at the age of 24!
What can we learn from this little saint about being a missionary? For we are all called to be missionaries- for if this is the Church’s ‘essential task’ and she is ‘missionary by nature’, and if the Church is a people, you and me included, then this is our shared essential task! I think what we learn from Therese is to be a childlike missionary disciple, characterized by our humility, trust, surrender and zeal.
Humility, to know that we are always a work in progress, capable of and willing to be taught, to be formed. Humility helps us to know and accept where we have been, where we have faltered and where we have soared. St. Therese once said, “We must not be discouraged by our faults, for children fall frequently.” Humility helps us look at where we are now and where we need to go, with Heaven in mind.
Trust, in the Father’s love and mercy, recalling the ways He has led us to this moment, with confidence that He has good plans in store and will not abandon His children. Trust that wherever we are led and whatever we are given, it is for our good and our salvation, and likely for the good and salvation of others. This trust leads us to surrender.
Surrender, of our need for control, of our need for validation, of our need for attention. Surrender of those things- both bad and good- which are obstacles to our relationship with Jesus. Surrender of our plans, our designs.
And finally, zeal, which is the hunger of the missionary disciple. Zeal moves us to do God’s will for the sake of souls- ours and those to whom we are sent. Zeal is missionary energy fueled by gratitude, Christian joy and love born of conversion; Zeal is a fire ignited by the light of the Resurrection. Missionary zeal is not satisfied with anything less than Heaven. “I don’t want to be a saint by halves; I choose all that you will!” Zeal is love in action! Zeal would set the world on fire with love for the Gospel.
I pray that each of us would, in this Extraordinary Missionary Month, rediscover our missionary identity as disciples of Jesus Christ. I pray that, if you do not know the Father’s mission for you right now, that He would reveal it to you in prayer. I pray that each of us would adopt a childlike disposition with the Holy Spirit, allowing ourselves to be called and to be led in mission. Finally, I pray that each of us would seek to cultivate at least one of these virtues- humility, trust, surrender and zeal- this month, that we might grow ever closer to Jesus and help those to whom we are sent know, love and serve Him. Our young people, our families, our Church and our world benefits from our lived and shared relationship with Jesus!
Sincerely in Christ,
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles