We must reach out to the pagans, for this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said: ‘I have made you a light for the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
Among the apostolic works of the Congregation, the foreign missions and missions to people in a like stage of evangelization have an honored place. In building up a new ecclesial community, missionaries should pay special attention to the seeds of the word which may be found in the cultural and religious practices of the people. (cf. EN, 53).
By virtue of their vocation, the missionaries of the Congregation commit themselves not only to the renewal of the Christian life of those who profess the faith, but also dedicate themselves to the proclamation of the Good News in those lands where the name of Jesus is still unknown. From its beginning, the Congregation has sent missionaries to all the ends of earth. Some of these dedicated missionaries have shed their blood in the proclamation of salvation.
1. Our Vocation Is Based on the Evangelization of the Poor
For the Church and for the Congregation, the task of evangelization is never completed. Evangelization is the clearest sign that we are living our vocation. It is also the greatest blessing and the well-spring for new missionary vocations. Saint Vincent confronted the objections of his missionaries and sent many of his followers to foreign lands:
I have no doubt that there will be some who will oppose these works. Others will say that it is far too much to send missionaries to distant lands, to the Indies, to Barbary. Yet was it not the Lord who sent Saint Thomas to the Indies and sent the other Apostles to different peoples and nations? Was it not the Lord who entrusted the Apostles with the care and guidance of all people? Yes, our vocation is to evangelize the poor1.
2. Happy the Missionary Who Has Given His Life in the Establishment of a New Christian Community
Our love for the foreign missions can be nothing more than an admiration for those individuals who have left everything behind—country, family, comfort—and have responded to the Lord’s call: “Go to the whole world.” This admiration is of little value unless it is also accompanied with a real commitment.
Do you know what occurs to me when I am told of the needs of the foreign missions? We hear of them; we feel some admiration for them; we think that Fr. Naquart, and Fr. Gondree and all the other missionaries who have died for the establishment of an infant Church are happy. It is true, they are happy, for they have saved their souls by giving their life for the faith and for Christian charity. We affirm their holiness; everyone praises their zeal and courage. And that is as far as it goes. But if we took on their dispositions, if we did not cling to our material goods, if we put aside our doubts, would we not offer ourselves to go to Madagascar or to Barbary or to Poland or to any other place where God would have the Little Company serve? But the reason we do not act is that we are not yet detached from the things of this world2.
3. Non-christian Religions Contain Numerous Seeds of the Word
Today, the Congregation, like the Church, maintains a lively missionary emphasis. The Company wishes to intensify this missionary activity. Taking our lead from the Church’s teaching, our Constitutions remind us of the respect and esteem we should have toward non-Christian cultures and religions:
Non-Christian religions possess an impressive patrimony of deeply religious texts. They have taught generations of people how to pray. They are all impregnated with innumerable seeds of the Word and can constitute a true preparation for the Gospel … It is important to point out, however, that neither respect nor esteem for these religions nor the complexity of the questions raised should be seen as an invitation for the Church to withhold from these non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ, riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, the human person and his/her destiny, life and death and truth. The Church feels a responsibility to all people and will not rest as long as she has not done her best to proclaim the Good News of Jesus the Savior3.
- How do I respond to the Lord’s command to go and preach the Good News to all people?
- Am I concerned about extending the Kingdom of God?
- Do I respect non-Christian religions and cultures and use their positive dimensions when announcing the Good News?
O Lord our God, in your love you invite missionaries to announce to all nations the gift of your salvation. Grant us the grace to grow in our understanding of this mystery and to live our lives according to the Gospel. May our good works bear abundant fruit. We ask this in your name Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.