Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019
Pope Francis has declared this month of October as an Extraordinary Missionary Month.
It aims to foster an increased awareness amongst us all of the missio ad gentes (mission not just for us but for the entire world. See Mark 16/15). The Pope’s desire is that we will “take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help … communities grow in missionary and evangelising zeal”.
This happens on the centenary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter of Benedict XV Maximum Illud, which “sought to give new impetus to the missionary task of the proclaiming the Gospel”.
Evangelising expresses the deepest identity of the Church and her essential task. The Church is “missionary by nature” (Ad Gentes 2). Upon enquiry, you may be surprised to realise just how much recent Popes have stressed the Church’s constant missionary desire “to go forth”.
This October’s stress on evangelisation is totally in harmony with the Australian Plenary Council that we have embarked upon. Listen to what Pope Francis says about this month of October. It is almost as if he is speaking to us in our Australian Plenary Council.
We are to undertake “a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light…”
To launch this month, I will be celebrating the Mass on 1st October with our Carmelite Sisters on the Memorial of St Therese of the Child Jesus (1873-1897), the Little Flower. Incredibly, although never leaving her convent and dying at an early age, she is one of the Church’s greatest missionary saints. She gives us all a wonderful example of the profound link between the holiness of life and the desire for the salvation of all people, especially the poorest.
She wrote that placed in her cloistered monastery she would “want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not only for a few years only but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.” Powerful missionary words from the young person in the French convent!
Providentially, her relics will travel around our Australian dioceses early next year. Her missionary and healing ministry continues. I predict thousands will flock to our churches when she makes her missionary pilgrimage amongst us during our Plenary Council.
I encourage all our parishes and communities to make a special effort to highlight our missionary dimension as Catholic Christians during this October month. It is not so much a matter of “adding more pastoral activities” to an already full timetable. More so, it is about becoming more reflective in our homilies, liturgies, gatherings, devotions and outreaches upon:
• Our personal encounter with Jesus
• The witness of the saints
• Our biblical and theological Tradition regarding missionary outreach
• The practical support we offer to the work of evangelisation in countries that are in most need.
In all of this, we recall deeply the Lord Jesus’ own command deep within us to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations … and look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”(Matt.28/19, 20)