This is World Mission Sunday weekend. It brings back memories of this editor's first experience with the missions and the collections taken up in our Catholic grade schools for the "pagan babies." We would save our coins, forsaking a popsicle on a hot humid day or that candy bar and offer those nickels to help adopt a pagan baby from a poster that showed a forlorn child in great need of more nourishment than the popsicle or candy bar we gave up to help them. Every time we had squash or rhubarb pie - pardon us if we gag still today - we were reminded to eat it because those poor starving children in China or Africa would eat it in a second. Nothing could go to waste. To finish off the squash, or Grandma's rhubarb pie was more of a sacrifice than giving up other sweets. Despite these terrible culinary experiences we survived. To this day don't ever mention squash, rhubarb or cottage cheese to this editor or he'll be sick for days! But to this day we also were ingrained with the mission of the missions and have never forgotten those "pagan babies."
Today many of those "pagan babies" are seminarians, priests, and nuns or parents raising children with possible vocations in Africa, Bangledesh, and other third world countries who are not only ministering to their own people but reversing the trend by praying for the missions of America where greed, pride and rejection of God have made us the outcast, the prodigal son who needs to return to the fold. We can recall the Maryknoll missionaries speaking in our school and Oblate missionaries bringing back slides of the missions. In the seminary this editor's spiritual director Father Francis Zachman, OMI, whenever a fellow Oblate missionary from the Philippines would visit, would dress in his white cassock - symbolic of the missionary uniform there - and enter the class room with the announcement that he had been reassigned to the missions. Of couse he was just kidding but down deep every priest wants to be a missionary.
It goes back to Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Anthony of Padua and other great saints who wanted to be missionaries, to join the crusades, to convert the Moors, even to die for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This spirit permeated the Order of Friars Minor and the Dominicans as well as countless other religious congregations and every one of us owe our lives to their efforts because most of us would not be Catholic today without their fiat to God.
And today God is asking our fiat to help the missionaries of our time in time, talent and treasure. It is no coincidence that World Mission Sunday coincides with that period known as Stewardship Sunday for our stewardship as Catholics is to be missionaries where we are planted. God doesn't expect us to travel to Recife, Brazil, or to Cambodia or to Zimbabwe or any other remote outpost to bring the Faith to unbelievers, but He does expect us to continue praying for the Church's missionary efforts, to contribute what we can to the missions even though they no longer promote the "pagan babies" boxes. But that is not all God expects. In following the directives of the Holy Father and the Church, we are to be missionaries where we are planted; not afraid to stand up for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in the face of Catholic-bashing and prejudices that rival any time in history; not afraid to speak out on behalf of the doctrines of the Church to those who express ignorance or an interest in knowing more; not afraid to live our Faith and preach by example when all others subscribe to the "go-with-the-flow-of-the-world" path. That is what God expects of each and every one of us. Not all can be priests reaching out to others and soothing their souls with compassionate counseling in the Sacrament of Penance and bringing them Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; not all can be nuns treating the physical and psychological hurts of the shell-shocked people of East Timor or the flood victims of Mexico, not all can write theological documents that will better explain the Faith to the people in their language; not all can have publications like Maryknoll Magazine, The World Catholic Report, Our Sunday Visitor or the National Catholic Register to mention just a few; not all can have the presence on the web as the numerous excellent Catholic sites such as EWTN, CatholiCity, the DAILY CATHOLIC, Catholic Answers, the Catholic Pages, or Petersnet to mention just a few of the countless sites that have cropped up for one purpose - and one purpose only - to bring the truths of the Roman Catholic Church to others. But every single baptized Catholic can and must live their faith and in so doing, are fulfilling the mission God asks.
That is our mission as we stand on the brink of a new millennium; that is our mission His Holiness John Paul II has reminded us of in so many of his encyclicals, Apostolic Letters, Constitutions, homilies, and talks throughout his twenty-one year pontificate. We could express great despair at the shortage of priests today and the fact our seminaries are not full, many have been closed down. But rather than looking at the glass as half empty, why not look at it as half full. It is our job to fill that glass with more Catholics - more informed Catholics. But to do that we have to be more informed as well so as not to spread false teaching or fall into traps set by knowledgable Protestants and other sects who love to corner weak Catholics. We need to know our catechism, doctrines, dogmas, and Sacred Scripture so we can combat the false syllogisms thrown at us by those who are thoroughly convinced the Catholic Church is wrong. We also need to know Church history so we can refute accusations that, on the surface would look like the Church erred, but in truth, was totally in accord with Christ's charge. If we are ignorant to any of these, we are ripe not only for being pounced on by zealots eager to convert us away from our Faith, but also for entertaining doubts about our Faith because we don't fully understand the great Deposit of Faith.
Just as the missionaries over the centuries have had to withstand hardships, dangers and persecution so also today we have to put on the armor of God to fend off the barbs and attacks of those modern pagans and zealots, not to mention lukewarmness and the half-lies from the "father of lies." Because of satan's strong presence everywhere we need to be prepared. That is why we strive daily here at the DAILY CATHOLIC to bring you the tenets of the Faith in everything we present from the daily feature APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF THE FAITH to Pat Ludwa's excellent columns VIEW FROM THE PEW twice a week which refute the lies against Holy Mother Church and prove the truths of the Church through Sacred Scripture and Church documents, not to mention common sense. The same for Sister Mary Lucy Astuto's column each Friday and our eye-opening, down-to-earth editorials twice a week in addition to the words of the Pope each Monday and our two series on the Church over the centuries THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH and the abridged version titled 2000 YEAR VOYAGE ON THE BARQUE OF PETER plus our feature on the Church today in WHERE IS HOLY MOTHER CHURCH HEADING AS WE NEAR THE MILLENNIUM? We would encourage all to tell your friends about the DAILY CATHOLIC so they too can learn, but we encourage all to check out the other Catholic web sites as well for we are all working together. Just as the Franciscans encourage the work of the Dominicans, and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate pray for the work of the Maryknoll Fathers, so also we pray for the success of all sites and endeavors that promote the one true Faith. We are all in this together. There should be no competition since we're all working toward the same goal and have only souls in mind.
No matter where you are today, embrace the Faith with your whole heart and soul and seek to know more, for the more you learn, the more you will be drawn to the two pillars of the Holy Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart. There in the harbor of the Two Hearts you will find refuge and be equipped to pull up anchor and sail into the rough waters of the world to bring others safely to the harbor of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are one billion strong today because those who have gone before us have made it their mission to devote their time, talent and treasure to the missions. This weekend, let us all remember that for the Faith to further flourish we all need to bloom where we are planted!