to be Missionaries
Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.
If you are a Catholic, you are a missionary. All of us Catholics
are called to be missionaries. That doesn't mean we have to leave home and go
to some distant land to preach the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus,
although this way of being a missionary is the vocation of some. Every Catholic
is a missionary because we all participate in the mission of Jesus Christ.
What it means to be Catholic can be described in various ways, but following
Jesus is at the heart of it. We are Catholics because God has called us to follow
Jesus. We follow Jesus out of love, and love is generative. That's the very
nature of love.
For example, as a husband and wife grow in their love for one
another they will seek ways in which their love can grow and find expression
beyond themselves. They may decide to have children and start a family. They
may decide to express their love in a ministry of service. Love always seeks
some outward, generative expression.
This generative love is at the heart of our understanding of God
as Trinity: the love of the Father generates the only begotten Son and the Holy
Spirit proceeds from their love. This generative love is the reason for creation;
it is the reason for the Incarnation. "God so loved the world...." It was Jesus'
mission to proclaim this love or, in the language of the Bible, to announce
the Kingdom of God.
It was love that moved Jesus to open his arms on the cross and
to breathe the Holy Spirit into the Church. "As the Father has sent me, so I
send you" (John 20:21). Jesus has commissioned us to continue his mission of
announcing the Kingdom. At the Eucharist we as Church gather to give our "yes,"
our "I do," to God's offer of love.
To the Ends
of the Earth
Through the Eucharist we are continually being transformed into
Christ's Body and empowered by his Spirit. As Catholics we are to be the sacrament—the
outward sign—of the "I love you" that God spoke in Jesus Christ. God doesn't
want this great love to be kept a secret. God wants this "I love you" to embrace
every man and woman and to reach the ends of the earth. In order for that to
happen, the Catholic Church must be a missionary Church.
Being a missionary is what makes being Catholic so exciting! Being
Catholic is not just being the member of a club. It is not something we do from
time to time at our local parish. Being Catholic means that we are missionaries
of the Good News, that we are living signs of God's generative love.
We announce by our words, but especially by our deeds, that the
way things are is not the way things have to be. We do not have to live in fear.
God's love is more powerful than evil. Peace is possible. Even the "little ones"
are important. God is a God of abundant life. Sins are forgiven. Justice will
triumph. Death is not the end. Easter holds the final word! To carry this message—to
participate in the mission of Jesus—is the joy of being Catholic.
Truthfully, not everyone finds "being Catholic" a joy. I think
of the man who, when asked why he no longer went to Mass, replied: "Because
I see all those Catholics in Church looking so holy that they could be Jesus
Christ himself. But when they walk out those doors, you can't tell them from
That's where being a missionary kicks in. When we walk out those
doors, can people see that we are different? I don't mean "different" in some
superficial way. Are we more generous, more tolerant, more open, more truthful,
more just, more concerned about the poor, more generous with our wealth, more
focused on growth, more inclusive? In short, are we more Catholic?
If our mission is to announce the Kingdom of God, we ourselves must
be living signs of that Kingdom.
Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., has a doctorate
in liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institut Catholique
of Paris. A popular writer and lecturer, Father Richstatter
teaches courses on the sacraments at Saint Meinrad (Indiana)
School of Theology. His latest book is The
Sacraments: How Catholics Pray (St. Anthony Messenger
Next: Our Missionary Church
Maintenance and Mission
By Judith Dunlap
parish and family are about maintenance and mission. Both worry about finances
and upkeep as well as the daily jobs/ministries that maintain their existence.
But their primary objective is mission: making sure their members go into the
world empowered to be all they are called to be.
When I was young, being a Catholic meant going to Mass, doing
what we were told and supporting the Church financially. Priests and nuns did
everything. They were responsible for maintaining the parish and they were the
missionaries. Vatican II reminded us that the people are Church and we each
have our own unique mission in the world.
When I talk about the Church today I sometimes compare it to my
own family. All of my children are adults now. They are busy with their own
lives. We support each other, sharing our basic values. We enjoy family rituals
and traditions, and we work together so that our children/grandchildren can
appreciate the same. We are there to nurture, encourage and challenge each other.
When we get together we often share a meal. We take turns cooking, serving and
cleaning up. I know my children appreciate the mutual effort that goes into
maintaining their relationship with family, but as adults they realize that
their main responsibilities are outside the family of their childhood.
It is similar in parishes. Adults share the responsibilities.
We spend time working, sharing, praying and celebrating together. This builds
up the parish and strengthens our bonds of fellowship and love. But that fellowship
should empower us to share that love beyond our parish. Otherwise maintenance
has become our mission, and we have forgotten that the main purpose of parish
is to send each of us into the world as missionaries of the Good News.
Talk about what family members see as their individual
mission. Decide together what the mission of your family
who is drawn to cute animals will love Two Brothers. But this tale of
two tiger cubs is more than just a warm, fuzzy movie. It's a dramatic live-action
story that, while suitable for children, also holds the attention of adults.
Kumal and Sangha are adorable newborn twin cubs when we first
meet them under the watchful eye of their mother, who has established her lair
in an overgrown ancient temple deep in the jungle.
The cubs' father keeps watch over the family in their idyllic
Indochinese habitat set in the 1920s. From the beginning the two brothers have
distinctly different personalities. Kumal is a hapless "fraidy-cat" while Sangha
is bold and fearless. The expressions of the brothers at play and the parents
caring for them create an irresistible family and characters we care about.
Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), a British big-game hunter and callous
antiquities poacher, discovers the family when he raids the temple treasures.
He shoots the cubs' father. Meanwhile, mother escapes with Sangha, but Kumal
gets left behind.
Sangha's mother is soon killed and Sangha is coaxed out of his
hiding place by the young son of the territory administrator, Raoul (Freddie
The movie follows the lives of the two brothers until they intersect
again as adults. Kumal, initially nursed by Aidan, is sold to a circus where
he is "adopted" by a performing tiger that Kumal eventually replaces. Sangha
becomes Raoul's pet until he turns on the aggressive family dog and is banished.
Sangha becomes the property of a weak and insecure local prince who uses him
as a killer fighter and as a surrogate for his own machismo.
The story of Kumal and Sangha is intertwined with and structured
by the lives of humans: Aidan, who through a mild love interest with a local
woman turns away from his destructive career; a British territorial administrator
who is attempting to save the ancient treasures of the jungle by creating a
tourist park; and the prince who cannot live up to the memory of his father.
The lives of Kumal and Sangha cross when the prince pits the two
huge and ferocious tigers against one another in a fight to the death. (Youngsters
needn't avert their eyes, but you'll want to see how it ends.)
Kumal and Sangha are definitely the stars, and their compellingly
told story renders the hokey human story forgivable. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud
has perfected his ability to anthropomorphize the animals with close-ups and
behavior that tell a surprisingly complex story. Using new hgh-definition camera
and computer technology, he was able to safely film the tigers in their natural
environment for much of the film.
Two Brothers strongly romanticizes the "law of the jungle"
but also says important things about respect, compassion and environmental responsibility.
What values do you find in this film?
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
St. Gregory the Great (540?-604)
word "great" is easily overused. But not in the case of St. Gregory—one of only
two Western popes in history (the other being Leo) so designated.
Born into a wealthy Roman family, Gregory was a standout. By age
30 he was serving as the equivalent of mayor of Rome. He held the post for five
years, demonstrating remarkable administrative skills. The times called for
greatness: Rome was under siege by powerful Germanic invaders, the Lombards,
and Gregory organized for the city's defense, distributed food and handled policing
and judicial matters.
All the while he was delaying a call—one he answered only after
the death of his father. Gregory turned the family home into a monastery. His
new life as a contemplative monk, later abbot, was a perfect fit. But that life
was interrupted by yet another call when, at 50, he became the first monk ever
elected pope. It was an inspired choice for the Church but a difficult one for
him to accept.
Still, Gregory plunged into his new responsibilities, drawing
on his proven administrative talents and revealing outstanding pastoral gifts.
Italy, including Rome, was in chaos from the invasions; lawlessness and civil
disorder were rampant; famine and plague had left the people frightened and
vulnerable. Gregory's wise head and strong hand were a gift to Church and state.
While responding to the immediate crises all around him, he kept
his vision clear. He sent the Roman monk Augustine (now St. Augustine of Canterbury)
west to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons, initiated liturgical reform, became a model
shepherd and influential writer, promoted choral liturgical music, advanced
His feast day is September 3.
Dr. Francine Cardman
its history, the Church has been led by popes of every stripe: some outstanding
men of vision; some ordinary; some forgettable, even corrupt. "Yet somehow the
Church endures—sometimes because of them, sometimes in spite of them," says
Dr. Francine Cardman.
"The papacy is a human office occupied by people who can be just
as flawed as the rest of us," notes the professor of Church history at Weston
Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But there are times when
an amazing pope comes along—a man such as Gregory the Great, whom she admires
for his accomplishments.
Pope Gregory, Dr. Cardman told Every Day Catholic, was
a man of great learning known for his holiness and for his skills as a pastor
as well as administrator. He believed in serving rather than seeking personal
power. He had the foresight to send Augustine to Canterbury to re-establish
the Church in England, and to offer the insecure missionary gentle, measured
advice through handwritten letters. As the Western Roman Empire teetered on
the brink of collapse from barbarian invasions, Gregory saw to it that breadlines
were established and the people's basic social needs were met.
Just as it had with the Church's other "great" pope (Leo I, 440-461),
the office of bishop of Rome "took on a new stature" during Gregory's papacy.
And Gregory himself became an important bridge between "the old and the new—the
early Church and the Middle Ages."
Dr. Cardman has many other heroes from Church history. "Reading
and studying history on its own terms, in its own historical and cultural setting
can be liberating. History can empower us."