Msgr. James McDonough
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us every year [at this time] of the love that Jesus has for all of us. We hear again the story of the blood and water poured out from the side of Christ at His crucifixion – the price of our salvation. And we ask again how we shall respond to such overwhelming love.
Some of our great missionaries give us an answer to this question. “Yes, I shall be [the image of] love in the heart of the Church,” is the way St. Therese of the Child Jesus responded. “And it is you, O My God, who has given me this place; in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love.” St. Therese never left her cloister, and because of her love and prayers to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament for the missions, she has been declared Patroness of the Missions.
St. Therese shouted these words when she discovered, at last, that “My vocation is love.” She said: “I want to love Him more than He has ever been loved before.” And with her last breath she said, “My God, how I love you.”
St. Francis Xavier, the patron of the missions, responded to Jesus’ overwhelming love by traveling to India and Japan. He wrote to St. Ignatius stories of villages of new converts where the native Christians had no priests, no one to celebrate Mass for them; no one to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the commandments of God’s law.
He spoke of his desire to visit the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and challenge the students to meditate on spiritual realities and to listen actively to what God is saying to them. He wanted the students to “cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What would you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like.”
St. Francis Xavier’s words may have inspired one seminarian, now a priest, Father John Manu. Father Manu was sent to where there is, as he described it, “strong opposition to Christianity.” After their studies were finished at the seminary in Sehore in the north of India, he and his 27 brother seminarians “were prepared to be courageous witnesses for Jesus Christ.”
As priests, in their celebrations of the Eucharist, they know they make Christ present in His Body and Blood for the suffering, the persecuted and the poor. These dedicated priests bring Jesus Christ, present in the Blessed Sacrament and His overwhelming love, to the people of their village – willing, if necessary, to be martyrs for the faith.
This spirit and willingness to be persecuted for his faith is reflected in the life of St. John de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary priest and martyr, who preached the Gospel message to the Huron and Iroquois Native American tribes in Canada. In his biography we read, “I vow to you, Jesus my Saviour, that as far as I have the strength I will never fail to accept the grace of martyrdom, if someday You in Your infinite Mercy should offer it to me, you’re most unworthy servant.” St. John de Brébeuf grieved “that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to God,” and he was willing to, “take from His hand the cup of sufferings and call on your name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”
Help for priests, sisters, brothers and lay persons serving in the missions, like some of the great saints, comes from the Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith – indeed it comes from you. Through prayer, the greatest gift to the missions, and by personal sacrifice – responding to the Lord’s overwhelming love pouring from His Sacred Heart – helps the missions.
Through your support today, some 10,000 women and men in 120 countries receive financial assistance offered through the Pontifical Mission Society for Propagation of the Faith as they prepare to serve the poor.
To help, go to www.phillymissions.org or call 215-587-3944 to request further information.
Remember, through prayer and acts of sacrifice, by your words and actions, you become a missionary for the Lord.
Msgr. James McDonough is the director of the archdiocesan Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.