"What about you? What are you going to do?"
These are the words of Pope Leo XIII to St. Katharine Drexel, whose feast day we celebrate today, when she spoke to him of the needs of the missions in Wyoming. The Holy Father’s response stopped Sister Katharine in her tracks, but it also made her reconsider how she approached her life of faith. Sister Katharine returned to the United States and went on to found over fifty missions for Native Americans, a system of schools for Black Catholics, and various other mission centers and schools.
Every day, Christ poses to us a question similar to the one Pope Leo XIII posed to St. Katharine Drexel: “What about you? What are you going to do?” Pope Francis spoke of this encounter when he visited Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in 2015. He commented on the fact that St. Katharine was herself young and full of fervor for the Lord and wondered rhetorically how many young people around us have a similar energy and fervor. He asked in his homily at Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral in Philadelphia “Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?” The Holy Father touched on the call of all of the baptized to be missionary disciples. This call requires us to be open to all that the Holy Spirit may be guiding us to while still carrying forth the legacy of the past.
The third major point that the Holy Father addressed was the role of the laity. He said, “We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity.” The Holy Father’s point is that to properly answer the question, “What are you going to do?,” there must be collaboration by and co-responsibility of the lay faithful who work together with the ordained to make manifest the redemptive and salvific nature of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Father then reminds us that this collaboration and co-responsibility is not a game of power and position. He says, “This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church.” Each of us have been given different gifts and charisms that build up the Kingdom of God; the Holy Father challenges us to use them.
The questions that Pope Leo XIII asked St. Katharine Drexel are the questions of vocation. In both our universal call to holiness that we receive from our baptism and in our particular vocation, we are faced with these questions: “What about you? What are you going to do?” We are not necessarily called to build up schools and mission centers as did St. Katharine, but to answer these questions we must be willing to be open to where the Spirit is guiding us, to see how our gifts and talents can be best utilized for the Kingdom and to answer our call to be “leaven of the Gospel in our world.”
For more resources on missionary discipleship, please click here.
For more resources on collaboration and co-responsibility, please click here.
After the Holy Father’s first visit to the United States, the Catholic Apostolate Center would like to share some of our favorite quotes from his time here. This is a two-week series where we will share 10 quotes each week. We invite you to use these quotes and images as you “Move forward! Siempre adelante!” in your journey of faith.
1. "Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love." (Homily, Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway)
St. Therese of Lisieux championed the “little way” of attaining holiness by doing small things with great love. Today, Pope Francis reminds us that it is in doing little things with great love that we can achieve sanctity. Try this week to incorporate the “little way” mentality into your work, your home, your parish or your school.
2. "I encourage you to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength." (Homily, Mass with Bishops, Clergy and Religious, Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul)
It is the personal encounter with Jesus Christ that is at the heart of our journey to holiness. All of us are invited to have the “for me” moment of Mary after the Annunciation, who proclaimed to her cousin Elizabeth, the “Almighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). This “for me” statement is the result of God’s work in our personal lives—it is the distinct relationship that each person has with God himself. Spend some time reflecting upon your personal encounter with Christ. When did it happen in your life? What great things has the Lord done for you? If you feel like you haven’t yet encountered Christ personally, ask him to open the eyes of your heart so that you may know how much you are loved.
3. “What about you? What are you going to do?” (Homily, Mass with Bishops, Clergy and Religious, Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul)
In his homily during Mass at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis talked about the story of St. Katharine Drexel when she spoke to Pope Leo XIII about the needs of the missions.
After listening to her, Leo XIII wisely asked her, “what about you? what are you going to do?” Rather than pointing out the needs of your community, parish or school to others, why not try to fill the void or start a positive change yourself? What if we contributed constructive ideas and did some of the hard work instead of pointing out weaknesses or problems in our institutions? Many in our world today misunderstand Catholicism and the Church. Pope Francis asks us the same question today, “what about you? What are you going to do?”
4. "We are sought by God; he waits for us." (Homily, Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway)
Sometimes, we may feel lost or abandoned. Friends, family members or co-workers may let us down. Our lives may seem plagued by suffering, loss or confusion. In whatever situation you may find yourself in today, you are sought by God. You are loved. You are pursued. You are waited for. God, who is greater than time, is completely present to you and your life. He awaits only for your invitation. You are sought by God. Today, we invite you to seek him in return.
5. "Jesus seeks us out." (Visit to detainees at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility)
Jesus seeks us out personally. We see this in a very real way in the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus goes to the well and waits for the woman there. She goes in the middle of the day, the hottest time, in order to avoid other people in her community because she is living a life of sin. At first, the woman is defensive and even rude to Christ, but by the end of their dialogue, she proclaims that he is the Messiah and goes off to tell the whole town. Jesus is not scandalized by our sin in the sense that he will never abandon us to it or fail to seek us out in the midst of it. Christ seeks you out today at whatever well you find yourself standing by.
6. "May you make possible new opportunities; may you blaze new trails, new paths." (Visit to detainees at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility)
We are given our mission at Baptism. This mission leads us down news trails and new paths that are meant to bring us back to God and bring others along with us towards him. All of our lives have a divine purpose. We can change and sanctify the world from wherever we find ourselves. These words from Pope Francis are made more powerful given their context: he is speaking to detainees in prison. What Pope Francis is reminding them of is the importance and dignity of their lives. Regardless of the fact that they are behind bars, they can still blaze new trails and new paths. They can still pursue holiness and make new opportunities. They can still sanctify the world by their actions. Pope Francis says these words also to me and you.
7. "Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face." (Address for the Meeting for Religious Liberty at Independence Hall)
We are a people of Resurrection, a people called to join in the victory of Christ. If you’re going through hardship, you’re not alone. Everyone is impacted by sin, suffering and death—but Christ has given us the hope of eternal life and joy. After his Passion, when the Resurrected Christ appeared to his disciples, he told them, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you” (Jn 14:27). He promises peace that the world itself cannot give. If you’re feeling discouraged, ask Christ today for his peace. It is the peace that surpasses all understanding, but it is peace that remains despite sin, suffering and death.
8. "Let us preserve freedom. Let us cherish freedom." (Address for the Meeting for Religious Liberty at Independence Hall)
Freedom entails serving the common good. What frees us completely is self-sacrificial love. For this reason, Jesus was completely free, as was his mother Mary. They were unencumbered by selfishness, living instead for others. Our nation was built on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Pope Francis reminded the United States of this foundation in his address at Independence Hall, calling us to preserve and cherish freedom. We do this day by day when we imitate Jesus and Mary by living for others.
9. "Go out, again and again, go out without fear, go out without hesitation. Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people." (Mass at Madison Square Garden)
We are called to be witnesses of the joy of the Gospel daily. One act of love or service is not enough. We can often get complacent with our good deeds and actions—a temptation the Pharisees fell into. Instead, we are called each day to ask, “what more can I do for Christ? How can I continue to grow? Are there people that need my love, respect or attention?” Pope Francis’ words revitalize us. Go out again and again in hope, with joy and with courage to proclaim the of Christ.
10. "Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side." (Mass at Madison Square Garden )
Part of the good news is that God walks at our side. We are never alone in proclaiming the Gospel or in pursuing holiness. God is with us—giving us everything we need through other people, prayer, his grace, the sacraments. When we fall, he picks us back up. When we are weak, he carries us. We live in the joy of knowing we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (cf Philippians 4:13). This joy impels us to proclaim this good new to others.
For more resources from Pope Francis' Papal Visit to the United States, please visit http://www.papalvisit2015.us.