Go, You Are Sent

By Chris Sparks

In my recent columns, I’ve been discussing the many panicked or hostile reactions to Pope Francis I’ve seen from far too many otherwise orthodox, faithful Catholics. I’ve discussed the historical context for the present pontificate, and indicated some paths forward for those who are truly alarmed by the present Holy Father.

I’d like to highlight one path in particular — answering the calls of the Holy Father, particularly when they are clearly in line with Scripture, Tradition, and tradition. Take the current Mission Month, for example.

This October 2019, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the promulgation of the apostolic letter Maximum illud of Pope Benedict XV (Nov. 30, 1919), we’ve all been asked by the Holy Father to live the evangelical mission of the Church in a particularly focused and dedicated way.

This ought to be completely uncontroversial to all Catholics, and easily embraced. After all, we’ve been called to evangelize and be on mission since the time of Christ, and challenged to undertake the New Evangelization since the time of St. Paul VI. We have a missionary mandate, every single baptized Christian, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. All the laity have been commissioned just as much as the clergy and religious to be missionaries in our daily lives, sharing the Good News by being salt and light in the world.

And honestly, I think that active, effective, Holy Spirit-suffused evangelization is the great answer to pretty much all the challenges facing the Church today. Declining numbers at your parish? Evangelize! Not enough volunteers for ministry? Evangelize! Problems with heterodoxy in your community? Evangelize! Liturgical abuses? Evangelize!

So what are you going to do about it?

We who seek to live the Divine Mercy message and devotion given to us through St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) have particularly powerful ways to answer this call. Saint Faustina records that Jesus said to her:

I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it. …

I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third— by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 742).

Sharing the truth in love is an act of mercy. Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ helps introduce people to the greatest good they will ever encounter, ever hope to have. So, by prayer, word, and deed, let’s seek to answer the Holy Father’s call to be missionaries this month.

Let us pray for all those who have lost their faith, who are struggling with their faith, or who need grace to remain bold witnesses for Jesus Christ. Let us pray for poor sinners like ourselves, for all who share our fallen condition, that we all may welcome the graces of the Holy Spirit into our lives, be converted, and renewed by grace. Let us pray for all the clergy and religious, especially those with a special charism and vocation to evangelize, so that by God’s grace, they may be tireless in their efforts and supernaturally fruitful.

Let us speak out, teaching where we have the opportunity to do so in our parishes and communities, helping people come closer to the Way, the Truth, and the Life (see Jn 14:6). Let us volunteer to be catechists and serve in the work of religious education wherever we are needed. 

Let us pursue truth through careful, discerning study of primary sources wherever possible; through listening to trustworthy sources; and through respectful dialogue with wise friends and intelligent adversaries. 

Spend time with the Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, so that you are always prepared to give a defense of the hope that is in you (see 1 Pet 3:15). Maybe even spend the month reading Pope Francis’ magisterial teachings, especially his apostolic exhortation Gaudium Evangelii (The Joy of the Gospel) and his encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith).

And let us act, making available to our families, parishes, and communities solid Catholic books, pamphlets, and other media. I know many Marian Helpers are already outstanding in this regard — you will be blessed for your efforts! Remember, we are promised by Jesus:

Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire lives as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold on it (Diary, 1075).

For anyone who hasn’t taken up this great work of mercy: Let us work with our neighbors and fellow Catholics to spread the Good News with spiritual and corporal works of mercy, with works of charity of all sorts.

And let us commence our works of mercy with charity toward our Holy Father, a serious commitment to steep ourselves in the truth of his words and deeds, and with trust in the promises of Jesus Christ. We are assured that Peter is the rock, on which the Church is securely built, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (see Mt 16:17-19). That promise rests, not on the strength, sinlessness, or prudence of Peter, as the rest of the Gospels and New Testament letters make clear, but on the grace of God. 

So, confident in Christ’s promises, let us peacefully pray for and love our Holy Father. Let us refuse to get worked up about news reports about him until we have sought out the transcript of what was said or read the official document in question. Let us work to preserve and strengthen the unity of the Church, particularly in the face of modern onslaughts from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let us certainly advocate for repentance and renewal where such is needed, but let us make sure to always do so in full Christian charity, with the peace of soul that trust in Jesus gives us, and having made as sure as we possibly can that we have our facts straight.

In communion with the Bishop of Rome, then, let us answer the Holy Father’s call to mission with a generous heart, for he merely reiterates the Great Commission given by Christ:

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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Mt 28:19-20).

Chris Sparks serves as book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question. Order it here:

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