“Today we ask the Lord to become missionaries in the Church, apostles in the Church but in this spirit: a great magnanimity and also a great humility.” – Pope Francis
Many people throughout the world whether Catholic or not have been affected by the humility of Pope Francis. His witness calls us to more, a more generous spirit that is not tied to things or honors or what we desire, but is instead showing love of God and love of neighbor in what we do and in what we say. This witness is not meant to be held within our families, among our friends, or in our churches. We are sent as apostles, as witnesses of faith and charity to a world that is in need of hope. Faith grounds us in the One who is beyond us all but is also the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, God, who is Infinite Love. We are called to share this love in our acts of charity, justice, and service – building up a broken world not for ourselves or our own benefit, but as co-workers in the mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
The type of kingdom is the one brought forth in our world by Jesus Christ. The preface for Mass today offers us some insight. Christ’s kingdom is:
an eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
As number 31 of Lumen Gentium teaches, all of the baptized are “sharers” in this kingly mission of Christ. How? By growing in holiness and working toward a more just and virtuous society (CCC, 908-909). This work is not simply in word, but most especially in deed.
Apostles, or missionary disciples, are sent then to not only preach, but to heal (Luke 9:2;10:9). Our world is in need of so much healing. Look anywhere in the world and it seems that destruction and hate are much more present than life-giving love. We can and must be bearers of love! If we, as people of faith, as Catholics, are not apostles of faith and charity, then who do we expect to do it? What are we waiting for, an invitation? Look again at the quote above – it is not only a prayer, it is an invitation by Pope Francis to generously and humbly give of ourselves to Christ and to others. It is part of our sharing in the kingly mission of Jesus Christ.
Faith is not meant to be kept to ourselves or locked in our churches, it is meant to be shared in word and deed. We are challenged then to deepen continuously our formation so that we may more fully embrace our being sent as apostles of faith and charity, doing what is said at the end of Mass – “Go, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C., is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center and teaches for Saint Joseph’s College Online.
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This blog post was first published on November 23 on the St. Joseph’s College of Maine Theology Faculty Blog. Click here to learn more about our cooperative alliance with St. Joseph’s College Online
Mary has appeared throughout the last two thousand years to different peoples all around the world. Tomorrow is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on which we celebrate the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac outside of Mexico City. We have all heard the story of how Mary appeared to Juan Diego and told him to build a church on the hill in her honor. Upon returning to his town and informing the Archbishop of what he had seen, the Archbishop instructed him to return to Tepeyac and ask for a sign that this was indeed the Virgin Mary. Mary instructed Juan Diego to fill his tilma with roses and carry them back to the Archbishop. When Juan Diego laid the roses before the Archbishop there on his tilma was an image of the Virgin Mary, the image that we know today as Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Basilica built on the very spot of her appearance is the most visited Catholic site in the world. This alone speaks to the widespread devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe throughout the world. Today’s feast day provides us with a wonderful opportunity to remember the universality of Mary. She has appeared to many different cultures at many different times throughout history and with each depiction she reminds us that she stands beside each and every one of us as a mother for all people.
Pope Francis, in an audience shortly before the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe in 2013, spoke of one of the most important aspects of Mary: “When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego, it was the prophecy of an embrace: Mary’s embrace of all the peoples of the vast expanses of America – the peoples who already lived there, and those who were yet to come. Mary’s embrace showed what America – North and South – is called to be: a land where different peoples come together; a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age. A land of generosity.” This points right to the heart of Mary as our Mother, a Mother for all peoples, for all cultures.
The Virgin Mary is an important aspect of my own faith, but for one reason or another, her depiction as Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in my heart. It might be because her feast day is also my birthday, or because my Dad often jokes that he wanted to name me Guadalupe, or that I grew up in Texas where this depiction is very prominent. I do not know why her image speaks to me so deeply, but I do know that in my devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe I feel a Mother’s embrace. I know that she welcomes me in and I feel at home.
But we are not meant to just live for that embrace of Mary, our Mother, but rather we are called to embrace all peoples and all cultures. And Mary teaches us how! She is the perfect example of how to live out that embrace. She unites us in our humanity and she strengthens our faith in Jesus. She knelt before the cross watching her own son die, and yet when Christ entrusted all of humanity to her, she said yes. She opened her arms and welcomed us in. On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us be like her, let us open ourselves to the whole Church, not just in our local communities but throughout the world.
Nicholas Shields is a young professional in Washington, D.C.
This past Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, my home parish of St. Francis Xavier marked a big milestone in its history – we have just concluded much needed renovations to the church building. The event was commemorated with a special Mass celebrated by our archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, along with many concelebrating priests and assisting deacons who have been assigned to the parish over the years. It was also my first “official” trip home to the parish since entering seminary this past summer. This was a happy and exciting day for the entire parish and was a great way to usher in this season of Advent, this season of hopeful anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ.
These renovations to the parish have been in progress for many years, ever since I was a little kid serving Mass. One might say that the community has endured a long season of Advent – a long time of patiently awaiting this rejuvenation of our sacred space, our spiritual home. And the patience definitely paid off! We now have a more beautiful place to pray, to celebrate the sacraments, and to gather as a parish community to worship God.
This visit home moved me to consider how St. Francis Xavier, the namesake and patron of the parish, would have approached such an extended season of Advent. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit saint, brought the message of Christ to the people of Asia through his devoted missionary endeavors. Being sent on mission was not the way Francis had envisioned his priesthood, for he was preparing to dedicate his life to the intellectual pursuits of the faith and the fostering of the newly formed Society of Jesus. But, Francis Xavier was called to become a missionary priest and, obediently, he went.
Francis most certainly had many gifts and received many graces in order to accomplish his evangelizing activity in a far corner of the world with few companions. Of course, he had great faith in God and in the Church. Francis Xavier would have been a man with patience, endurance, and courage, for these are necessary to persevere through the difficult trials that come with priesthood and religious life, evangelization, and mission in foreign countries. He must have had great trust in the Lord and trust that his efforts to bring Christ to the people of Asia would indeed bear much fruit. Francis Xavier must have been a joyful man, one who attracted others to become followers of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, Francis Xavier must have been a filled with hope – hope for all of those people he evangelized, hope in the Society of Jesus, and hope in the Christian message of salvation. This, it seems, is the greatest virtue that we can learn from Francis Xavier as we enter into this Advent season – hope.
The sense of hope that undoubtedly carried Francis Xavier through his missions is similar to what helped the parishioners at St. Francis Xavier Church endure the long journey toward a renovation of their sacred space – the hope that our efforts and sacrifices may lead others to find Christ, and that one day we might all be united with him in Heaven. Though we are not necessarily called to be great missionary saints, we can certainly evangelize within our families and communities as we gather to celebrate the birth of the Lord. May St. Francis Xavier be a guide for us this Advent, as we try to “renovate” our lives to become more joyful, courageous, and hopeful witnesses to the wonderful Gospel message with the hope of bringing others to Christ.
Joe Hubbard is a Collaborator with the Catholic Apostolate Center and a Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston.