When they found Jesus they said: ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighboring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ Mark 1:37-38
With this purpose in view, the Congregation of the Mission, faithful to the Gospel, and always attentive to the signs of the times and the more urgent calls of the Church, should take care to open up new ways and use new means adapted to the circumstances of time and place. Moreover, it should strive to plan and evaluate its works and ministries, and in this way remain in a continual state of renewal. Constitutions, 2
Missions to the poor began with the foundation of the Congregation of the Mission. The Little Company best reveals its distinguishing characteristic in the Church when it preaches the mission. Our name “of the Mission”, and “houses of the Mission”, as well as the missionary endeavors of the first confreres, reveal the nature of the Congregation: to proclaim the mission wherever needed.
1. Our Vocation Is to Work for the Poor Country People
Let us listen to Saint Vincent as he explains to us the primary work of the Congregation, that work which is the well-spring of the development of ministry in the Congregation:
Our vocation is in harmony with the eternal designs of God for us. To labor for the salvation of the poor country people is the essential point of our vocation; everything else is non-essential. We would never have undertaken retreats for ordinands or ecclesiastical seminaries if we had not seen that good ecclesiastics are necessary to maintain the people in virtue and to preserve the fruits gathered by the Mission. So we imitate the great conquerors, who establish garrisons in the places they have captured, fearing they will lose what they have won with effort … Are we not happy to manifest so clearly the vocation of Jesus Christ?1
2. They Are Waiting for You to Go
Jesus, an untiring evangelizer of towns and villages, provided a model for Vincent and, in the same way, Vincent sends forth the missionaries to bring Good News to the poor. Near his death, he said:
I remember that in the past, when I returned from a mission, it seemed to me that when I got back to Paris, the gates of the city were going to fall upon me and crush me. Seldom did I return from a mission without that idea coming into my mind. The reason for this was that I used to make this reflection: ‘You are entering Paris and behold, other villages are waiting to receive from you what you have just given to this village or that! If you had not been there, it is probable that such and such persons, dying in the state in which you found them, might have been lost and condemned. They are waiting for you to go and do the same thing for them as you have just done for their neighbors2.
3. Attentive to the Actual Necessities of Humanity and the Church
Reflecting on our origins can inspire and animate missionaries involved in this work of preaching the mission. Paul VI counseled us with these words:
A glance at the origins of the Church is very illuminating, and gives us a share in the early experiences in ministry. It was an experience which was all the more valuable in that it enabled the Church to consolidate, to grow and to spread. Attention to the sources, however, has to be complemented by attention to the present needs of humanity and the Church. To drink at these ever-inspiring sources without giving up anything of value, and at the same time to know how to adapt to the demands and needs of today—these are the criteria which will make it possible to seek out carefully and to discover the ministries which the Church needs and which many of her members will gladly embrace for the sake of ensuring greater vitality in the ecclesial community3.
- Am I actually willing to preach a mission?
- Am I concerned with knowing and understanding the socio-religious reality of the people whom I evangelize? Do I use this reality to make my preaching effective?
- Do I promote the missions?
Father, you want your Church to be the sacrament of salvation for all peoples. Make us feel more urgently the call to work for the salvation of all, until you have made us one people. Inspire the hearts of all your people to continue the saving work of Jesus everywhere until the end of the world. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.