The editorial of the month

Father Sebastian White, o.p.

by Father Sebastian White, o.p.

The missionary aim of the Church undoubtedly calls to mind the heroic men and women who traveled to distant lands, braving the elements and courting martyrdom, to proclaim Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23). Indeed, we will read about many of them this month, and how could we fail to be inspired by those intrepid figures who left everything to spread the Good News of salvation?

What she does is who she is

And yet, this Extraordinary Missionary Month means more than admiring what others have done. For the mission of the Church is not just one task among many; it is her very reason for being: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Mt 28:19-20a). Thus, “this mandate of the Lord,” Pope Francis said, “is not an option for the Church. It is her ‘essential task,’ for the Church is ‘missionary by nature.’” “Evangelizing,” Saint Paul VI wrote, “is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity; she exists in order to evangelize.”

Consider how well this is conveyed by that wonderful appellation “holy Mother Church.” As Christ’s spotless Bride, the Church mothers us by giving us new life, his life, in baptism: we are reborn as sons and daughters of God. And, like a good mother, the Church teaches us and maintains her tender care throughout our life so that we mature…to the extent of the full stature of Christ (Eph 4:13). In the Church we become by grace what Jesus is by nature—the Child of God.

An extraordinary task for ordinary people

Pope Francis once defined the Church’s mission as, quite simply, “a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people.” This is well put. It explains why Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a cloistered nun who died at the age of twenty-four, stands alongside Saint Francis Xavier—who baptized 30,000 people—as co-patron of the missions. Thérèse knew she could fly to the furthest corners of the world with her prayers and sacrifices. She had a “thirst for souls” that rivaled the most daring and zealous of missionaries.

Our Faith assures us, dear reader, that whatever our state of life and even in the most ordinary duties, if we unite ­ourselves with Christ and all the saints who loved and served him before us, we are truly advancing the Church’s saving mission. In fact, the simple act of offering ourselves in union with the sacrifice of the Mass for the salvation of souls, including those nearest and dearest to us, plunges us into the heart of the Church’s mission. “From the ­perpetuation of the sacrifice of the cross,” Saint John Paul II said, “and her communion with the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission…since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ.”

Let us pray, then, that through the ministry of the Church Jesus will be known and loved by more and more souls. “There is only one thing to do here below: to love Jesus, to win souls for him so that he may be loved. Let us seize with jealous care every least opportunity of self-sacrifice. Let us refuse him nothing—he does so want our love!” (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux).