EXTRAORDINARY MISSIONARY MONTH


During the Angelus prayer on World Mission Sunday, 22 October 2017, Pope Francis announced that he desired that the whole Church celebrate the Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Maximum Illud, an apostolic letter given by Pope Benedict XV on 30 November 1919. Pope Francis asked Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of the Supreme Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies to take care of the preparation for the event. The theme of the event is spelt out in these words: “Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on Mission in the World”. The theme “emphasizes that the call to mission is a call rooted in Baptism and addressed to all the baptized. Mission is a ‘being sent forth’ that brings about conversion both in those who are sent and in those who receive their message: in Christ, our life is a mission! We are mission, because we are God’s love poured out, God’s holiness created in his own image. Mission, then, is our own growth in holiness and that of the whole world, beginning with creation (cf. Eph 1: 3-6)” (Francis, Address to the National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, 1 June 2018). The Pope insisted that the Directors of PMS should take Acts of the Apostles as the book for prayer and meditation, to find inspiration of the Holy Spirit and thus they in turn inspire others too.

The Pope by calling us to celebrate the centenary of Maximum Illud, connects it to his own Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, to promote “missionary outreach” throughout the whole Church as the paradigm for her total activity. Maximum Illud is a very important document on the mission, in which Pope Benedict XV recalls how necessary the holiness of life is to the efficacy of the apostolate. The latter exhorted: “May he who preaches God be a man of God” (Maximum Illud, 30). After the World War I, he asked the European missionaries to have a new approach to mission, not one based on nationalism upheld thus far, which nurtured the idea of European superiority over the peoples then seen as subordinate; instead they should promote local languages rather than the language of the conquerors, and to train and to value indigenous clergy so that ‘one day they will be able to take up the spiritual leadership of their people.’” The missio ad gentes found the true scope of forming the locals to be the missionaries to announce the Good News to their own people.

On 7 September 2017, in his address to the members of executive committee of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America, Pope Francis clarified the purpose of the extraordinary missionary month, that is, to place “the mission of Jesus at the heart of the Church, making it the criterion for measuring the effectiveness of her structures, the results of her labours, the fruitfulness of her ministers, and the joy they awaken. For without joy, we attract no one”. According to the Pope, this month “be a favourable time for prayer, the witness of many saints and martyrs, biblical and theological reflection, catechesis and missionary charity to contribute to evangelizing, first and foremost, the Church, so that having rediscovered the freshness and zeal of the first love for the crucified and risen Lord, she may evangelize the world with credibility and evangelical efficacy” (Francis, Audience with the Participants in the Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies, 3 June 2017).

For a real missionary conversion, the Pope insists that “our primary concern is the lived holiness of the missionary disciples. Indeed, to cooperate in the salvation of the world, we need to love the world (cf. Jn 3: 16) and to be ready to give up our lives to serve Christ, the one Saviour of the world. We do not have a product to sell. It has nothing to do with proselytizing; we are not selling a product. We have a life to communicate: God, his divine life, his merciful love, his holiness!” (ibid.).

During this special month, the whole Church celebrates the synod for the Amazon. During this synod, the bishops will pray and reflect on the challenges faced in the evangelization of these South American lands. Amazon is an area which is troubled by unjust exploitation, and while reflecting on the missionary approach to these lands, it will help us to renew our commitment of service to the Gospel of salvation of the men and women living in those lands. It will help the whole Church to have evangelical approach to missionary work.

DBCLC will provide material for our reflection and prayer, taken from the daily reflections given for this month and propose the lives of saints to inspire us. We need to organize concrete activities and prayer for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should inspire children to join the missionary childhood and promote missionary zeal among them. Little children should become the missionaries among their peers by living out the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our activities should touch upon the four dimensions as indicated by Cardinal Filoni:

1. A personal encounter with Jesus Christ alive in His Church: Eucharist, Word of God, personal and community prayer,
2. The witness of the Saints, the Missionary Martyrs, and the Confessors of the Faith, who are unique expressions of the Churches throughout the world,
3. Biblical, catechetical, spiritual and theological formation regarding the missio ad gentes,
4. Missionary charity as a material support for the immense work of evangelization, especially the missio ad gentes and Christian formation in Churches that are most in need.

Based on these dimensions, each parish could organize programmes to awaken in all a strong missionary zeal. The services of the men and women of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life as well as those of the associations and ecclesial movements present in the diocese should be used to inspire our people towards the mission of Christ. Let us join the Universal Church in joyfully celebrating the Extraordinary Missionary Month, October 2019.

 

+ Peter Paul Saldanha
Bishop of Mangalore

 

 

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