WelCom July 2019:
‘Baptised and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world’ – theme for Extraordinary Mission Month, October 2019.
Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum illud (November 30, 1919) on the activities carried out by missionaries around the world.
Pope Benedict XV’s papacy, from 3 September 1914 until his death on 22 January 1922, aged 67, was during World War I and its immediate aftermath. Among his many recognitions, Benedict was known as ‘the pope of missions’.
Pope Francis has asked the world to embark on ‘An Extraordinary Missionary Month’ in the month of October this year, to commemorate the 100 years since Pope Benedict XV wrote Maximum illud.
On World Mission Sunday, October 22, 2017, Pope Francis declared, ‘I hereby call for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes (missions to the people) and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.’
Pope Francis wrote in his message, released by the Vatican on Pentecost Sunday, 9 June, for this year’s World Mission Sunday on 20 October:
‘For the month of October 2019, I have asked that the whole Church revive her missionary awareness and commitment as we commemorate the centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV (30 November 1919). Its farsighted and prophetic vision of the apostolate has made me realise once again the importance of renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.’
Reawakening an awareness of the missio ad gentes, and reinvigorating the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel with new enthusiasm, are themes that combine Pope Benedict XV’s pastoral concern in Maximum illud with the missionary vitality Pope Francis has expressed in Evangelii Gaudium (2013), his first major document.
In EG Pope Francis too highlighted that we are all called to be ‘Missionary Disciples’. The first sentence of the document says, ‘The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.’ (EG 1). He stressed that ‘missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity’ (EG 15); and he wrote in (EG 27):
‘I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the 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: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion” [Ecclesia in Oceania].’
Pope Francis has provided the following theme for the Extraordinary Missionary Month to reignite the baptismal awareness of the People of God in the mission of the Church.
‘Baptised and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world’.
The Pope has specified four dimensions to live more intensely the journey of preparation for and implementation of the Extraordinary Missionary Month in October.
- 1 A personal encounter with Jesus Christ living in his Church: in the Eucharist, in the Word of God, and in personal and communal prayer.
- 2 Testimony: missionary saints, martyrs, and confessors of the faith as an expression of the Church scattered throughout the world.
- 3 Missionary formation: biblical, catechetical, spiritual, and theological.
- 4 Missionary charity.
Pope Francis’ message in full for World Mission Day, 20 October 2019 is online at:
Visit the Extraordinary Mission Month official website at: www.october2019.va/en.html
Being Missionary Disciples and Regular Prayer
Pope Francis highlighted in his first major document Evangelii Gaudium (2013) that we are all called to be ‘Missionary Disciples’.
When Pope Benedict XV wrote Maximum illud 100 years ago he wrote of ‘the proclamation and the love of Jesus, spread by holiness of one’s life and good works.’ Our holiness of life and our good works become more effective when we pray and reflect every day about how we are living out our Baptism and Confirmation.
If we are called to be Missionary Disciples every day, and every hour of the day, and if we are to embark on a new chapter of evangelisation that is marked by joy, and if we are to help others find ever-lasting joy in Christ, then regular prayerful reflection will help us.
One of the ways to keep us joyful and to ensure our interior life does not become caught up with our own interests and concerns, and we no longer hear God’s voice, is to reflect prayerfully every day. Many people choose to use a nightly reflection known as The Daily Examen – an early Church practice that can help us see God at work in our whole experience.
The Examen is a simple, powerful and effective time of prayer and reflection.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Take note of the joys and delights of the day.
- Focus on the gifts of God’s grace.
- Also acknowledge the failures and self-disappointments.
- Look forward to tomorrow and ask for light and guidance for the day ahead.
If we are to be Missionary Disciples, we clearly need to encounter the Joy of the Gospels for ourselves before reaching out to others. This kind of prayer – The Examen – will help us to encounter Jesus, to be in relationship with him, to walk with him and talk with him.