Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/444

This page needs to be proofread.


MISSIONS


392


MISSIONS


organ izod missionary movement for the conversion of non-Catholics has l)ecn carried on throughout that country. (See Mission.uiy Socikty of St. P.wl thk Apostle.) But thoconvcrtswhomapastormostofall seeks during a regtilar [larish mission arc among liis own people. -Vnd it cannot \x' denied that the clear, forcible, and consecutive exposition of the mo.st im- portant truths of salvation, togetlior with a course of instructions to prepare the people for the worthy re- ception of the sacraments and enlighten them on the duties of their daily lives, affords a powerful means to renovate a parish spiritually. Everyone finds in these sermons and instructions something that ajipeals pe- culiarly to him, and is likely to bear fruit in the future. These missions are for the laity what retreats are for the clergy and religious communities. In fact they are an adaptation to the needs and capacities of the faithful of the spiritual exercises long traditional in the Church, and maile use of especially during the .\ges of Faith when people were in the habit of retiring to monaster- ies to devote themselves for a certain period of time to that renewal in the spirit of their mind, which the Apostle recommends: " .\nd te renewed in the spirit of your mini! : and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth " (Eph., iv, 23, 24). In view, then, of the many benefits that accrue from a retreat, it is no exaggeration to say that, in the ordinarj' course of Divine Providence, a mis- sion is the greatest grace that God can confer upon any parish. " There is nothing ", says St. ."Vlphonsus, "that is better adapted than missions or retreats to enlighten the minds of men, to purify corrupt hearts and to lead all to the exercise of a truly Christian life". The usefulness of missions, moreover, for the sanc- tification and salvation of souls has received not a lit- tle recognition from various popes during the last two centuries. Paul III recommended the Spiritual Ex- ercises of St. Ignatius as "full of piety and sanctity and very useful and salutary for the edification and spiritual advancement of the faithful". Benedict XIV, after comparing mLssionaries to those whom the Apostles Peter and .\ndrew called to assist them in landing their nets, says that for "purifying corrupt morals . . . nothing is more effective than to solicit the aid of others, namely to establish everywhere (that is in every diocese) sacred missions. Nor can this be called a new and micertain remedy which is proposed for purifying the morals of the people. It is an old one and indeed the only one suitalily adapted to cure existing evils, one which many bishops have employed in their dioceses with extraordinary results " ("Gravissimum", 8 Sept., 1745). Pius VI con- demned the proposition of those who called missions an empty noise with at most a transient effect (Auct. Fid., prop. 65). Leo XII granted a plenary indul- gence to the missions given by the Fathers of the Soci- ety of Jesus. Gregory XVI extended this indulgence to the sick who could not attend the missions, but complied with the required conditions at their homes; and in 1834 the same pontiff extended it to all mis- sions, irrespective of the orders to which the mission- aries belonged. In 18411 Pius IX wrote to the bishops of Italy urging the work of spiritual exercises and mis- sions, declaring them very useful for fostering piety and exciting confirmed sinners to repentance ("Nos- tris", S Dec, 1849); and he made this appeal again to the bishops of Austria in the " Singulari quidem ",17 March, 1856.

The mission is an appeal to the intellect and the will. The general end to be obtained is the enlighten- ment of the former and the movement and elevation of the latter. The necessity of these are apparent. It is the experience of missionaries that, owing to the press- ing material necessities of moflem life, much ignorance prevails among the Catholic laity iis a class in matters pertaining to their religion. It is true, there is no dearth of good reading matter whereby the deficien-


cies of religious education might to some extent be supplied, but it is equally true that such reading is sadly neglected. To supply this defect is one of the aims of the mission. The missionary' comes to in- struct, to present the truths of salvation clearly, forci- bly, consecutively, and in such language as shall reach the entire audience. The end of man, the need of grace, the Divine .Attributes, the essential parts of the Sacraments of Penance and the Euchari.st, and the conditions required for their worthy reception; matri- mony, the laws of the Church governing it, and the right way of preparing for it and entering it — such are some familiar themes of the mission. In times like the present, and in the social conditions of modem life, the ordinary " cure of souls " hanlly suffices to protect souls against the ileadly influences of constant friction with a materialistic world, and against the all-pervad- ing atmosphere of sensuality anil worklliness. Pass- ing their lives face to face with extraordinary spiritual perils. Catholics in the twentieth century need the ex- traordinary succour and protection which are fur- nished only by the mission. Thus the instructions given to the intelligences of the faithful at a mission are of no less importance than the sermons which are addressed to their wills. The duties and responsibili- ties of parents towards their children, and of children towards their parents, the mutual obligations of em- ployers and employed, a-s the Church views them, are by no means to be taken for granted as fully grasped even by the more intelligent among average well- meaning Catholics.

Here, lastly, it is important to note one vital pur- pose which the parochial, or popular, mission serves in many dioceses of the United States. With a rapidly increasing Catholic population, the organization of new parishes is a frequent necessity. It is not as- sumed by any means that the majority of the faithful are grievous sinners, nor do the diocesan clergy lose sight of the truth that the popvilar mission is no less efficacious for making the good better, and stimulat- ing further effort on the part of those who are already willing, than for reclaiming those who have taken the broad path of evil. In this view, it is the common practice to commence the life of a new parish with a mission conducted by priests of some specially chosen missionary institute. In such a mission the fer\-our of the new parishioners is not only increased, but effectively applied to the purpose of solidifying and organizing their corporate religious life. One chief means to this end is the erection of pious confraterni- ties for which the mission afforfls opportunity. Thus the League of the Sacretl Heart, the Holy Name Soci- ety, the .Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, or the Rosary Confraternity becomes at the verj- outset the instru- ment of incalculable spiritual benefit, and a fulcrum by means of which the efforts of the new pastor attain more than double the results which might otherwise have been expected of them,

II. Origin .\nd History. — In substance, missions are coeval with Christianity. The Founder of the Church was also its first missionary. His life was a missionary life, "teaching daily in the temple", "preaching to the multitude from the ship", and, at the close of His life's work, entrusting its continuation to His .\postles — " Going therefore, teach ye all na^ tions ; . . . Teaching them to observe all things what- soever I have commanded you" (Matt., xxviii, 19, 20). Obedient to this injunction, the history of the Church has become a history of missionary activity, whether by it be understood the prolonged missionary labour among heathen tribes, or the exercise of regu- lar mission work among the faithful.

It is true that until the beginning of the .seventeenth century there existe<l no organized form of popular missionary work exactly as it is now understood. But even in the early ages of the Church we find such emi- nent saints and doctors as the two Gregories (of Nazi-