Dear Fellow Knights,
In 2014, when I was in residence at St. Patrick’s parish in Lincoln we had a missionary priest, Fr. Emanuel, preach our missionary co-op program. The missionary co-op program in the Diocese of Lincoln is where priests from all over the world speak about the Church’s missionary activity throughout the world in order to gain material support. The money collected is then dispersed to the various missions of the priests who give their appeal.
Fr. Emanuel was from Pope Francis’s home country of Argentina, no longer a missionary land, but Fr. Emanuel himself was a missionary—and a unique one. He is a part of a religious order that serves Christians in the most troubled parts of the world. We had some long chats about the struggles that they go through daily—struggles really of survival.
For instance, he told me of the several priests that they have in Iraq (which interestingly enough has a rich and ancient history of Catholicism), who is in constant fear of Islamic extremists.
He told me at that time that they had one priest serving essentially all of Syria.
He himself was stationed in Egypt. Fr. Emanuel was there when there was a great backlash against Christians in the 2010s. Militants, he told me, equate the Church with the west, and riots were raging against what was viewed as western oppression.
He knew of a Christian who was spotted as having a cross in her car. A mob gathered around her and killed her. He said that there were parts of town that you had to avoid. One story was particularly memorable. One evening he had to be out for some kind of pastoral duty. It was a particularly raucous evening. He said he was lost and if he didn’t have his GPS on his phone, he would have probably drifted into one of these riot, and likely would have been killed.
Fr. Emanuel was heading back to Egypt, and as he was leaving I was wondering if I had just met a man who would someday be martyred. What makes someone do this? He easily could have given up. He could have gone back to Argentina and been a good and holy priest there.
Why would a priest like Fr. Emanuel go back? It could be said that the Church doesn’t have a mission the Church is mission. And this was so at from the very beginning. Because at Pentecost, which is really the birthday of the Church, the once cowardly apostles received the Holy Spirit. And after receiving the Spirit, they don’t just hang out with each other, but they instantly are thrust into mission. They go out. In fact, these 12 Apostles go all over the world: St. James went as far as Spain; St. Thomas preached the Gospel all the way to India; the rest were almost everywhere in between.
St. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical The Redeemer of Man said, “the Church’s fundamental function in every age…is to direct man’s gaze…toward the mystery of Christ.” If we really believe that this mystery of Christ has changed the world, then we should do all that we can to bring Christ to the whole world.
Principally, we are to live out the mission of the church in Nebraska. For most this means handing on the faith to those in our family. This is enough of a challenge for us. But we are part of the Catholic Church. There should be something of the heart of Fr. Emanuel in all of us.
Looking at the Church at large, we recognize that there are many who do not have the material blessings that we have here in the United States. In a few weeks we celebrate World Mission Sunday. It’s a good time for us to remember there are Christians in war-torn parts of the world, in impoverished nations, and those facing adversity that can use our help in carrying out the mission of the Church. All of are to have a missionary heart in assisting through prayers and other means our brothers and sisters in Christ both at home and abroad.
Sincerely in Christ,