Fr. Isaiah Mary goes on mission to Hong Kong once a year with the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society. He is happy to offer his reflections about his and Tricia Bølle’s trip this past spring. This series will run from July through August. We hope you enjoy!
Once, Tricia Bølle and I had been asked what the hardest part of mission was. And indeed, the person who had asked expected an answer like, food poisoning or being tracked by the government. But really? The hardest part?
Despite the fact that Our Lord is the Ultimate and Supreme Missionary, leaving His Father an order to give the great gift of Himself to us sinful and stupid humanity, American Christians, and indeed, American Catholics, are quite indifferent to the missionary initiative of the Church. Overall, I think we are so overcome with certain social issues and cultural battles, that we have forgotten about the Great Commission. Yes, advocating for just and charitable immigration issues is good. Yes, building a prolife culture is important. Yet, what was Jesus’ last command to us? Go. Make Disciples. Baptize all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach what I have taught you. I will be with you.
We are so caught up with the issues of home, that we are indifferent that so many of our brothers and sisters in the human family have yet even to hear the name of Jesus. By going on mission with Tricia, I have become acutely aware that there are billions of people out there that have yet to hear the Gospel—and we as Christians are at fault because of it.
Certainly, I can say When I saw you hungry, I fed you and When I saw you naked, I clothed you. But can I say, I was ignorant, and can I say, I educated you?
We see this in every way of life within American Catholicism. Due to a variety of reasons, many missionary Orders and Congregations have lost their way. Matteo Ricci’s brothers, the Society of Jesus, still go on mission, but at a fraction of the manpower (Ricci landed in Macau in 1582). And yes, we Dominicans only have a relative sparse number of men in the mission field, and I thank God for the gift of our Fr. Timothy Conlan.
Even the very term ‘missionary’ has lost its way. A missionary, by definition, is a man or woman who goes to a second culture to share Christ. Yet there are those that would try to redefine the term, seeing a young man, fresh out of college, and go to a second college to set up a Bible Study, and call himself a missionary. This isn’t mission work—this is campus ministry. Mission work is inserting oneself into a second culture, eating their food, breathing their air, understanding their way of life, and discovering and illuminating the Divine Truth, whose Name is Jesus, to that second culture.
By virtue of our baptism, Jesus calls us to illuminate and Christianize the culture in which we are most immediately exposed. But this does not negate the mission of Jesus’s Body to go to foreign lands to bring the New and Good News of the Resurrection.
What is the hardest part about mission?
Indifference from home that the missionaries abroad are doing hard, and oftentimes thankless, work, bringing His Name to those who have still to hear the Good News.
What causes indifference in our world? Why are we indifferent? To follow St. Augustine, I think it is because we love and use the wrong things. We love what we are supposed to use and we use that which we are supposed to love. We love the wrong things, we use the wrong things.
We love money, but we use the earth. We love dining at restaurants, but we use our friends. We love that which we are supposed to use, and we use that which we are supposed to love.
We are indifferent to the things that the Church and Jesus cherish is because we are not loving Jesus nor His Bride well. We even use the Church or Jesus. We say it all of the time—“If I say this rosary every day, then Jesus will…” “If I register at St. Dominic’s, then I can have my wedding….”
To put it another way: we don’t love well. We don’t love Jesus well, we don’t love the Church well, we don’t love each other well. Because if we think about it, if we truly loved Jesus as we ought, we would care that people use the Divine Name as a cuss word. If we truly loved Jesus as we ought, we would very much care that there are billions of people who have not heard the story of the Resurrected One.
Love exponentially multiples. When a person falls in love, he or she goes out of his or her way to let people know. If we truly loved Jesus, thoughts, words, actions, financial means, and prayer ought propel ourselves to radiate the love Jesus had given to me upon others—and by extension, we support each other by our thoughts words, actions, financial means and prayer towards so that all of us can be that lightning rod of charity.
Yet, as of now…we’re too busy taking pictures of our food.
You are invited to be part of the mission! St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society is a Catholic non-profit organization dedicated to evangelize to young adults in Asia. You can give financially via Paypal at www.laymissionary.org, giving a monthly or one-time gift of $50 or more; we are an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our EIN is: 46-2993509.