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Missionary month

The final goal of Mission Sunday is to remind Christians that the Church has been mandated by God “to proclaim mercy in every corner of the world, reaching every person, young and old.”

October is traditionally observed as missionary month. Two meaningful dates highlight this Christian characteristic of universality and reaching out beyond territorial borders: the feast of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus on the 1st and World Mission Sunday on the 23rd.

The young saint, who died at the age of 24, never got out of the convent and yet was declared patron saint of the missions. Why so? This is because she lived her Carmelite vocation with an intense apostolic fervor that wanted to reach every person in the planet. She discovered her ultimate vocation: “In the heart of the Church, I will be Love,” as she put it in her autobiography.

Meanwhile, this year, World Mission Sunday is celebrated within the context of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In his message to mark this significant date, Pope Francis calls all “to go out as missionary disciples, each generously offering his/her talents, creativity, wisdom and experience in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family.” The final goal of Mission Sunday is to remind Christians that the Church has been mandated by God “to proclaim mercy in every corner of the world, reaching every person, young and old.”

This task is carried out by men and women who answer the call of Jesus Christ to follow Him and witness His merciful love to every nation, every race. This year’s message for World Mission Sunday entitled “Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy,” emphasizes the role of women in missionary work. They are an indispensable presence in the universal mission: “…women and families often, more adequately, understand people’s problems and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way: in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures, and by allocating human and spiritual resources towards the building of good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and fraternity.”

The newly-proclaimed saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, embodies these characteristics by the way she committed her entire life to the care of the poorest. Collecting the dying from the gutters of Kolkata, defending staunchly the unborn, restoring dignity to the despised, made her a saint of mercy. Her own spiritual journey of ‘darkness,’ as documented in her recently discovered letters, put her in touch with the pain and suffering of the marginalized and unwanted. For Saint Teresa, one of the worst forms of deprivation is being unloved. The secret to overcome this was in her deep communion with the Crucified Jesus. In the daily Eucharist at the beginning of the day and in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of day, Mother Teresa drew energy for her demanding commitment. In his homily during her canonization last September, Pope Francis proposed that we follow her example: “Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness of God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor.”

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