To All FMC Missionaries in Mexico

We have been swimming in an ocean of blessing and joy here at your Big Woods mission base — in the month of April, three of our missionary couples have been/will be married. Their families and friends have come to share in the celebrations of these weddings. Matt and Kylie, and Thomas and Genevieve held their wedding receptions at Our Lady of the Bayous, and the Dold family did work to renovate the OLOB porch to accommodate the gatherings. The weather was inclimate but spirits were high, the food was great, the Masses were anointed, the brides were crazy happy and gorgeous, the grooms were handsome, strong and able; lots of FMC missionaries showed up, many took part in the wedding parties. It has been a wonderful experience fellowshipping in the Kingdom of God!!! A foretaste of the heavenly wedding banquet to which we are all invited!

Construction of our office/chapel/operations center is making good progress. The roof and exterior wall siding is up, electric work and plumbing pipes are in place, windows and doors have been installed. The building is FMC simple and functional, promising a future of worldwide missions preaching the Gospel to all creation and serving the poor. When you see our new office/chapel/operations center, you will really thank the Lord.

My oldest granddaughter, Alyse (Sarah’s daughter), has graduated with top honors from Mount St. Mary and is now working through her Fulbright Scholarship in Mexico, teaching at a school in the mountains above Mexico City. It is providential that Alyse is teaching English there, she is an American ambassador to our precious Mexican neighbors. (Read Alyse’s blogs chronicling her time in Mexico — https://alysespiehler.wixsite.com/globalpilgrim.)

Mexico is very special in God’s plan for FMC and the Kingdom. Our friendship with brothers and sisters in Mexico and our work there has been a formative influence on our lives and influences our missions around the world. It was in Mexico that the Lord trained us to “make real friends with the poor.” Our family has lived in countries around the world. Nowhere do we USA-Americans have better, more loyal and loving friends and family than our brothers and sisters down in Mexico.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing our missionaries (there are many different challenges) is the challenge the team has of living in UNITY with one another. The witness of unity among God’s servants is so powerful — the people of Jerusalem declared of the early followers of Jesus: “see how they love one another.” God commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” “No greater love has any man than to lay down his life for his friends.” “Bear with one another.” “Forgive one another as I have forgiven you…” “Seven times seven times, each day.”

One soldier of God can withstand a thousand of the enemy. Two soldiers of God united can withstand ten thousand. Call upon the saints in heaven and here on earth (communion of saints) to join with you in your mission to serve the people the Lord has sent you to serve. You are a light upon a lampstand, a city on a hillside. Let your light shine. Know that the Lord has sent you, He is with you, His victory is now yours; give that victory to all creation — announce the Good News – Jesus is risen from the dead – He has defeated sin – He is Emmanuel, God with us!

Build a happy, well ordered home together — with your mission team, with your spouse and family, with the people (poor) of Mexico. Live in peace and unity. Work at peace. Be a peacemaker. Pray constantly.

You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. You are sowing the imperishable seed of God’s Word! His Word accomplishes its purpose, it does not return empty, it brings life and mercy and eternal joy to all who believe it.

I love you,

Frank

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To Mission Team Leaders in General Cepeda, Mexico

Ben and Natalia, and the Schumann missionary kids,

All praise, honor and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, the First and the. Last, the Beginning and the End, the Way, the Truth and the Life; the Light of the World; the Word of God; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World; our Good Shepherd; our Lord; our King; our friend – JESUS, JESUS, JESUS our all in all!

My precious brother and sister, my missionary companions, I love you, I pray for you, you are on my heart all the time. I admire you and think highly of you and the special apostolate the Lord has called you to. I rejoice in your missionary successes, your faithful witness. I rejoice in the good reports we always receive from those who go down to mission with you in General Cepeda, you and Raul and Marta, with Gallo and Rita, and all our FMC missionaries and faithful friends there with you. 

I am always keenly conscious that the Lord has installed you in a very key (maybe the key mission) of Family Missions. Company. It is the mission that all of us have lived and served in; we are all been formed to some degree by mission life in General Cepeda, by our lives with the faithful poor there; we have all prayed and sung God’s praises there, we have carried our crosses there; learning a new language, being sick, dealing with a new culture and sometimes strange or evil things, being lonesome or homesick, “offering it up for the sake of the Gospel.”

You live with Jesus at the center of our Missionary Family – I admire you and our Mexican brothers and sisters there with you!

You receive the scores, hundreds, even thousands of God’s people who come to us to experience what foreign missions is all about on short-term mission trips, to encounter Jesus among the poor, to pray over the sick, to see signs and wonders, opening their sails to the Holy Spirit. They are deeply impressed and blessed by the Lord; these are unforgettable experiences.

People from all over America spend very holy time with you there.

We entrust to you the very important task of caring for FMC’s mission in General Cepeda, caring for the physical house and our Mexican missionaries there, caring for our friends in the ejidos (small dessert villages)It is very important that we preserve the very best relationship with the Bishops of Saltillo and the priests sent to General Cepeda; cultivate and guard these relationships with the pastors and with all the lay ministers who accompany us in our vineyard labors. Develop true ties with the brothers and sisters in the short-term mission groups and all other visitors to the mission house. Get to know government officials in General Cepeda and explore developing friendships with persons in Saltillo and other nearby places – build God’s Kingdom in every way you are able; move in the Holy Spirit.

Rise to the opportunities that come to the mission house “door ministry”, try always to rise to the challenge. FMC has a reputation built over many years of providing friendly, loving hospitality, and help at that door – try to pray with all who come; if someone arrives at your mealtime consider inviting them to share the meal. Give people a ride to the doctor or hospital if they need one. When someone just wants to sit and talk with you or asks your counsel and prayer, be happy to spend time with them. Beg all your benefactors all the time to pray for your family, you will need it! Take time off, you and the family, go off alone to rest and pray for a time. Have desert days. 

Keep up the outreaches to the many ejidos, and try to give help to people from General who want to serve in the ejidos but don’t have vehicles or gasoline, let learners and observers accompany you on your trips to the chapels.

Your Brother in Jesus,

FRANK

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Keep On Keeping On!

Ralph Martin is a famous Catholic Charismatic layman, evangelist, theologian, and missionary apostle. Genie and I first met Ralph by providence in a small international airport in Nandi, Fiji, on our way to the Tonga Islands (our first foreign mission destination), in January 1975. We have corresponded and visited with him over the years; he wrote the foreword to Genie’s book, Go! You Are Sent. Ralph always signed off his letters with the exhortation: “Keep on keeping on!” This exhortation is appropriate for any follower of Jesus, but especially for missionaries. In documents setting forth the teaching of the Church on foreign missions, it is repeatedly declared that missionaries must have fortitude; they must persevere and endure many hardships. The missionary life entails renunciation and sufferings. It is a glorious life but not a glamorous one. It can be adventurous and interesting and fun, but it’s not easy. In training new missionaries, Genie tells them, “All it costs is everything!”

Nevertheless, if the Lord is calling you then you should definitely accept His call. Foreign missionary evangelism is the greatest and holiest duty of the Church. It provides a very full, fruitful life, with so many helps for growing in holiness. You can learn so much as a missionary, although it may not be the sorts of things that are rewarded by the world’s financial markets. I have not met anyone who has become a millionaire living among the poor in the missions, nor have I seen missionaries honored in ticker-tape parades. But there are so many spiritual, even heavenly compensations – serving the poor in missions is not glamorous, but it is often glorious and joyful and very satisfying; it all but forces us to seek the Lord and His helps every day, for which we then praise and thank Him.

I hope to die as a missionary, preaching the Gospel and serving the poor with my wife and children and grandchildren, in Family Missions Company, with our missionaries from around the world. Please pray that I will.

St. Paul, after remembering the heroic lives of the saints of old, says: “[S]ince we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Keep on keeping on! Give it all you have. My coach (the Holy Spirit) urges me: “Kick it in! Run the race to the finish!”

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Evangelical Catholicism // Talk & Resources from Proclaim 2014


 

In preparation for my talk at this year’s Proclaim Conference, I reviewed Church documents on evangelization and collected a number of quotes. View or Download a PDF that contains my notes for this talk: Evangelical Catholicism by Frank Summers

 

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Renunciation and Hardship: Part of the Life We Love

By Frank Summers

Why do some missionaries who begin with the idea of making missionary service a long term or lifelong vocation later decide to leave the missions and return home?

Well, some may only be called to foreign missions for a time. FMC asks its missionary candidates to make a minimum two year commitment when entering our Intake program (for spiritual formation and special training). Of those who go through training and enter missionary service for two years, most leave FMC after the two years to reenter their lives stateside. A few don’t complete their two year commitment. Some return to their university studies, or seek a spouse, or serve with another missionary organization. Some enter religious life or the seminary. Numbers have found positions in stateside dioceses or church parishes, serving in youth or family life or evangelization and community building ministries, some in personal apostolates. Others get secular jobs in their area of study or previous employment. Most who leave do so on good terms with the FMC, after prayer and discernment with FMC directors. Our missionaries haven’t taken vows and only serve for as long as the Lord calls them to it.

But some of these missionaries fail to remain on the mission field when they ought to. Why? I think there are two principal problems: We go into the missions with some good motives, but our lives also remain driven by other incompatible motives. To live a missionary life, we are called to RENUNCIATION, giving up even good and holy things that aren’t part of the mission God is offering us. We give up our culture, country, language, families and friends, comforts, tastes… many of our favorite things. Missionary life takes a big commitment. My wife, Genie, has taught us to say: “All it takes is everything.” And if we are holding something back, sooner or later there can be a conflict between what we are willing to give and what the Lord’s mission requires. Jesus gave everything. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. He was obedient even unto death, death on a cross. When we have put our hands to the plow, we can’t be looking back.

Then, will we accept the HARDSHIP that mission life entails? In theory, we may have accepted the idea of being persecuted, or even martyred for preaching the Gospel; this would be hard and require great courage. But what about other hardships, like not having social media readily available, not having air conditioning or excellent medical attention, or an automobile, or a house that measures up to U.S. standards, or a retirement pension? Suppose there is a lot of mud and bugs and strange food? Suppose living conditions are less than hygienic? Suppose almost no one is noticing our heroic lives and service – do we accept obscurity for ourselves?

American life has not prepared us well for the way of life lived by the vast majority of mankind – they are poor – in comparison, we are the very rich. FMC missionaries are committed to living in Gospel Poverty. We depend on the Lord for everything and live among the poor, to share their lives and to become their real friends. We believe Jesus shows a preferential option for the poor – His evangelization of the poor is the sign of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

In America we have built a society that is incredibly comfortable and convenient; we are determined to be safe and secure; we have worked hard to take hardship out of our lives. But as missionaries we need to accept the hardship and potential dangers that are part of the lives of the poor people around the world. To live in hardship day-in-and-day-out is a very great challenge for us Westerners; nevertheless, we must if we are to evangelize the billions today who live in all sorts of dire poverty.

“Missionary saints” need love, zealous faith, patience, perseverance, fortitude, long suffering. We will “keep on keeping on” when things are inconvenient and uncomfortable, difficult and dangerous. Scripture says:

“…bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” 2 Timothy 1:8..

“Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3.

“…put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5.

“Take as your example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered.” James 5:10-11a.

Missionaries are invited to renounce many good things, and are subject to much hardship. And as we bear our crosses and encounter so many troubles, as we suffer, we already taste the goodness and joys that are our promise of eternal glory. We more and more come to love this life. Yes, our eyes are fixed on Jesus and on heaven. Come Lord Jesus! May the Lord find us fully engaged in missionary evangelism when He returns.

By Frank Summers

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Catholics, JUST DO IT!

This is the Year of Faith; we have entered a New Springtime of Evangelization; missionary evangelism is the greatest and holiest duty of the Church.

Don’t be ashamed of me and my Gospel.

Talk with people about me, pray with them, invite them to be with me.

Pray for the word to run; pray for the spread of the Gospel to all mankind.

Live my Gospel, then speak it out, announce it, teach it,

Proclaim it, preach it,

Preach it boldly, yes, with parresia, with zeal.

Shout it from the housetops – be convinced, committed, and courageous.

Live my Gospel so that others can see it is real, good, true and beautiful, and they can come to believe in it and want it.

My Word is an indestructible seed – it will not return empty. It will accomplish its purpose. It is a light for the path and bread for the hungry; it will not fail to satisfy. It is a solid rock upon which you can build your house.

Announce my Gospel from the pulpits, on the streets, in the schools, at work, at play, always and everywhere, at home, in love.

Contend for the Faith.

Insist on the Gospel in good times and in bad times.

Speak it forcefully, and tenderly, gently, kindly.

GO  INTO  THE  WHOLE  WORLD  AND  PROCLAIM  THE  GOSPEL  TO  ALL  CREATION.

Go to the ends of the earth, and teach them all that I have taught you; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I am with you always, until,the end of time.

Demonstrate the Gospel’s divine origin by signs and wonders; and love and comfort those who weep, and heal the sick and care for the poor and needy.

Carry your cross and follow in my Way; live a holy life, rejoicing and praising and thanking God; stand for justice; build my kingdom.

Listen to what Pope Francis is saying, and JUST DO IT:

“Share Jesus and His Gospel with the marginalized, with people in the public square, be witnesses to Jesus. Go, do not be afraid, serve.”

By Frank Summers II, Founder of Family Missions Company

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Pope Francis – A Witness for JESUS !

From the moment he stepped out onto the balcony to be introduced to the Church and the world as the newly elected Pope, there was something different about Pope Francis. From the moment he stood before the Church it was evident that he was not the one in charge, God was in charge. Pope Francis had been chosen by God to serve God’s People. Francis stood with us in awe at God’s selection. Francis raised his hand, like a regular human being, and waved his acknowledgment and appreciation to the people of God gathered in the plaza, for their faith and waiting, and acceptance of him.

First, he asked the people of God to pray for him; then he blessed the people of God. He was acting and dressed more simply than other popes had been. He was deciding to present himself less like a worldly monarch and more like a shepherd and fisherman. His own words convey this attitude, when he says a Church that is worldly is “a weak Church, a defeated Church, unable to transmit the Gospel, the message of the Cross, the scandal of the Cross…. She cannot transmit this if she is worldly.” Francis was choosing to lower himself, to be with the people: “Hi, everybody. It’s me. God chose me. We’re together in this. We’ll serve the Lord together. Like Jesus did.” Even his papal motto manifests this attitude, “Lowly, yet Chosen.” Francis envisions a “poor Church for the poor!”

In a homily at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (April 14), Francis proclaims that “one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.” “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful, between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.”

In that day’s Mass reading from Acts, when the Jewish high priest demanded that Peter and the apostles stop teaching in Jesus’ name, Peter and the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men.” Jesus had been raised from the dead, after the Jews killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. But God exalted Him at His right hand, as leader and savior, for repentance and forgiveness of sins. “We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:28-32.)

A Living Witness

Pope Francis says the believer is expected to PROCLAIM Jesus, to WITNESS to Jesus, and to ADORE Jesus. We are accustomed to seeing our popes celebrating Mass and praying; we know they adore the Lord. We read papal statements and hear their proclamations; they faithfully preach Jesus and His Gospel. But in the case of Francis we are all marvelling at what a great “WITNESS” he manages to be as he goes about his daily life. The trappings of the papal office make it difficult for us to see a pope’s humanity. Normally the personality and spontaneity of our popes gets drowned in the trappings of their office; someone has been telling them what papal etiquet dictates, what they are expected to do under the circumstances, by the minute. However, when we find Pope Francis jumping off the pope-mobile to be a brother and a friend to the ordinary Catholic, willing and able to actually stop and help someone in need that he happens upon (Good Samaritan), we see him being like Jesus.

Francis takes every opportunity to show the compassion and mercy of our Lord, for others. This reaching for lowliness and service occurs not only when he is in the limelight; it has long been part of his private life – habits he refuses to abandon just because he has been elected pope. The Gospel is his Way, and Truth, and Life; Jesus is the model for his lifestyle. Francis eschews worldliness, and exudes the Gospel of Jesus. Pope Francis is a great WITNESS !

Authentic Witness: Necessary Tool for the New Evangelization

In preparing this blog entry, I was saddened to discover that the index to my edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not have a reference to “witness”.

But the importance of “witness” is well recognized and taught: ”…[F]or the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the sametime given to one’s neighbors with limitless zeal…. ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’…

It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world; in short, the witness of sanctity.” Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41.

I believe Pope Francis’ living witness to the real Jesus does more to open our Western world to the New Evangelization than we can imagine; this evangelization is the principal ministry our Church owes the world today.
We should all labor in prayer that the bishops and priests and religious, and us one billion Catholic laity will all join with Pope Francis in giving an authentic, living witness to Jesus and His Gospel. Now’s our chance. This is God’s time!

By Frank Summers

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Frank’s Note: Pope Francis

Brothers and Sisters,  I am so blessed by the selection of our new pope, and I want to reflect on what he already means for me:


20130314_SOUTH_337-slide-9KQ9-articleLargePope Francis is a  Jesuit
. And that means a lot.  Because he is a Jesuit, he is a member of one of the largest and oldest communities of PROPHETS in the Catholic Church, men who have been willing and able to go everywhere, to stand forward and do what the Lord wants done, and say what the Lord wants said – they know how to endure being despised and rejected my men in the world, even in the Church. I have heard of Jesuits who did things I thought were wrong, but the ones I have served with were doing things I thought were very right. They are the Society of Jesus, not promoting their own special (saleable) religious devotions, but working with the Gospel, in every circumstance:

Fr. Rick Thomas SJ in El Paso/Juarez was a crazy Charismatic in love with the poor and willing to believe in miracles and appear a fool as he went about evangelizing, casting out demons with blessed water and salt, and proclaiming the power of the Holy Spirit – praising the Lord always with a prophetic zeal, against western materialism, speaking in favor of the poor and seeking practical solutions with them (the Lord’s Ranch, the Food Bank, Our Lady’s Youth Center), all the while exercising his charismatic gifts, dancing about, praising the Lord, singing joyful songs, hand in hand with all the common brothers and sisters. What a great servant of God! The Kingdom of God was at hand around him!  Fr. Rick, now in heaven, pray for us and Pope Francis.

8571758068_6b07d8d05b_bAnd my family and I lived and served with Bishop Francisco Claver SJ and his brother Jesuit priests in the Diocese of Malaybalay, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, in the last years of the Marcos regime. Communist guerillas and the Marcos military were at war, terrorizing the people. Yet in the midst of it all, Jesuits were striving for justice and preaching nonviolence, at the risk of their lives (some were murdered). The Jesuits invited the Charismatic Renewal into the churches and an enormous work of Evangelization and outpouring of the Holy Spirit was under way. Beneath clouds of violence and social collapse, God’s people were singing praises, filling their churches, gathering  as small communities in their homes, with inspired preaching and songs  of praise, with signs and wonders – people and families were experiencing New Life in the Spirit,  At the height of the crisis,  a community of Benedictine monks arrived to build their monastery up in the hills. Boy, was there prayer and praise and brotherly love in Malaybalay! The Kingdom of God was being built and it overcame the darkness. The Marcos dictatorship and communist violence were cast out, and today, the church in the Philippines is the healthiest there is.

The Jesuits I have known did not believe the Gospel could be reduced only to religious rites. For them the Gospel involved all areas of human life and society. Jesus had come to be with the people and  to establish God’s Kingdom among them everywhere on earth, as it is in heaven.

8570664349_279cecbf74_bPope Francis is from Latin America.  He is not a European, where churches are on the wane, almost empty. The church in Latin America is very much alive, struggling, suffering, battling for justice and the basic rights and needs of the people, struggling to expand its ministries to serve all. The priests and the liturgies boldly proclaim and insist on “La Palabra de Dios” (the WORD of God). So many people and their bishops and priests have been martyred in Latin America in our time.

Latinos follow the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and they work for social justice. They are committed to gathering and growing and working in small Basic Ecclesial Communities. Their bishops, with the Great Pope John Paul II produced their pastoral plan, the Puebla Document. which now inspires the churches throughout the Third World. The church in Latin America has made a “preferential option for the poor” part of its most basic doctrine and practice, with “communion and participation” by all the laity – the churches there cannot fulfill all the works of their mission without the active and mature apostolates of the laity, and especially all the women. The church in Latin America is different from the European church. (Is the Lord saying something here?)

My best memories are of going about with a small team of lay evangelists, visiting small prayer communities in mountain or desert villages, or in city shanty towns, praying together, singing, testifying, preaching from Scripture and the Catechism, laying hands and praying over the sick and suffering, witnessing the coming of the Holy Spirit and so many miracles, signs and wonders; and then bringing the Eucharist to the saints!


*** BESTPIX *** Pope Francis Celebrates Sunday Mass Service At Church Of Sant'AnnaPope Francis has taken St. Francis of Assisi as his model: 
Can you imagine St. Francis of Assisi amidst the medieval pomp and oppulent splendor and manmade ceremony surrounding the papacy?!  What would he do? In a world divided between often lukewarm, rich western church goers and the very poor of Asia, Africa, and the Islands, perhaps awaiting their first chance to hear the Gospel and encounter the love, forgiveness and salvation of Jesus, where would we find St. Francis? What would be the focus of his attention? If it came to choosing between more splendid buildings and ceremony and religious comforts,  or feeding the poor and reaching them with the Gospel and ministry of their Father’s Church, what would St. Francis be expected to choose? And if he dedicated himself to the established churches, wouldn’t he be rebuilding them?

St. Francis chose practical poverty because it was holiest and best, it freed him to be a missionary; he chose to live with the poor; he understood he would be persecuted but he chose to preach the full Gospel anyway, all the way! St. Francis is recognized by all Catholics and other Christians, even by the world and atheists and the wild animals, to have been a faithful missionary of God’s Gospel of love and peace. People are drawn into unity around  St. Francis of Assisi. He draws us into God’s Kingdom with Jesus and Mary.

I wake up in the morning, and my first thoughts are of  the Lord and Pope Francis. Thank you Lord for Pope Francis, a Latin American Jesuit, inspired by St. Francis. Yes, thank you Lord for Pope Francis!  Let’s pray constantly for Pope Francis!

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Small Faith Communities are the Hope of the Church

Since  the  Puebla  Conference  of  Latin  American Bishops, with John Paul II, in 1979, the Church has encouraged the formation of small community groupings for Christian formation and missionary outreach.

The Puebla bishops noted that Paul VI saw these small communities as “the hope of the Church,” and John Paul II highlighted these small communities as one of the “Paths of Mission”: “These groups of Christians…come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment. These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a ‘civilization of love’.

“These communities decentralize and organize the parish community….[They are] a leaven of Christian life, of care for the poor and neglected, and of commitment to the transformation of society. Within them, the individual Christian experiences community and therefore senses that he or she is playing an active role and is encouraged to share in the common task.

Thus, these communities become a means of evangelization and of the initial proclamation of the Gospel, and a source of new ministries.” John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 51.

In my experience serving in a variety of settings around the world, I would say that by far the best evangelization and conversion, Christian formation and encouragement to the apostolate, and support for the long-term are only available to those Catholics who gather regularly in these small faith communities. Really, these are the people who develop full and well-balanced Gospel lives.

Look around for an existing group that attracts you (there is so much diversity), or invite friends to form one with you. Find a good site to meet (homes of the members) and a good time (one evening every week or every other week). Gather as friends; spend time sharing what is happening in your lives; designate a coordinator, then begin with prayer; declare the name of Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to “come”! Sing God’s praises. Go around the circle giving thanks. Sing another song of praise and thanksgiving. Select a reading from Scripture, read it aloud. Have each person share what the Lord is saying to them in the reading.

After sharing this way for a number of weeks, the group may want to seek God’s Word on some particular aspect of Gospel values, living or ministry. At that point, add selected readings from a particular book or other document dealing with that matter. Keep at it, let the Lord disciple you.

After the reading segment of your meeting, let each person petition the Lord (go around the circle) for the things he/she needs and intercede for the needs of others.

Close with an Our Father and Hail Mary, and ask for the prayer support of your favorite saints.

THIS SAME FORMAT  CAN BE USED FOR YOUR FAMILY PRAYER.

Over time the group, and individuals in the group will hear the Lord calling them to ministries and apostolates. Get involved in building God’s Kingdom in all the ways the Spirit leads. Just do it!

Go out and share your faith experiences with others – give witness by the way you live and with spoken words.  Evangelize others into your small community, and form other small communities – BE  MISSIONARIES!

Recently, a young man wrote to me asking how he should proceed with his new-found interest in God. This is how I responded:

“I was blessed to receive your letter and have been waiting and praying about how to respond. We just returned from a short-term mission into Mexico. While there I told the people (as we tell all our FMC missionaries) that in order to live always in God’s King- dom there are 5 practices that should be part of our daily lives: Prayer, God’s Word, Sacraments, Community, and Service.

Prayer – We need to develop a daily prayer time, with Bible reading. Find a quiet place and regular time to talk with the Lord and listen to Him, for about 30 minutes to 1 hour each day. Follow the outline for prayer that Jesus gives us in the “The Lord’s Prayer”:

(a) Begin by acknowledging God’s presence and praising and thanking Him. – “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” (b) Commit yourself to do God’s will and be His servant – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Listen to the Lord. Read God’s Word in the Bible and believe it and put it into practice. (c) Pray for all the things you need – pray with faith that you will receive what you ask – “Give us this day our daily bread.” (d) Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for all your sins and forgive everyone who has offended you (love everyone, including your enemies) – “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (e) Struggle against all temptation and evil – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

God’s Word – Jesus is the “teacher.” We are His “disciples” – i.e., “students”. You have a lot to learn from Jesus; let Him teach you.  Read the whole Bible (beginning with the New Testament and Psalms) for the rest of your life.  Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Choose good spiritual books on religious subjects that interest you – always be in the process of listening to the Word of God..

Sacraments – Go to Mass every Sunday and during the week from time to time.  Go to Confession regularly. Live in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.

Community – Find Catholic friends who are living their faith.  Meet regularly with them to pray and share.

Service – How does the Lord want you to serve Him?  Go out and do something to build His kingdom, share your faith with others (evangelize) and help people in need.

I will pray for you.

In Jesus, Frank

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Frank’s Note: SERVE 2008

Frank’s Note: As Published in Summer Serve 2008

EVANGELIZATION:

Recently I learned of the Vatican’s “Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization”, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document calls us all to be fervent in our commitment to missionary evangelism:

− “…[T]o evangelize does not mean simply to teach a doctrine, but to proclaim Jesus Christ by one’s words and actions, that is, to make oneself an instrument of His presence and action in the world.” (2)

− The primary objective of evangelism is “to help all persons to meet Christ in faith”. (2)

− “There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and speak to others of our friendship with Him.” (A quote from Mass homily by Benedict XVI.)

− “Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others.” (8)

− “Evangelization does not only entail the possibility of enrichment for those who are evangelized; it is also an enrichment for the one who does the evangelizing, as well as for the entire Church…. Every encounter with another person or culture is capable of revealing potentialities of the Gospel which hitherto may not have been fully explicit and which will enrich the life of Christians and the Church.” (6)

− This apostolic commitment to which everyone in the Church is called is “an inalienable right and duty.” (10)

− Public preaching of the Gospel and personal witness (“whereby an individual’s personal conscience is reached and touched by an entirely unique word that he receives from someone else”) are both essential. (12)

− “Throughout the entire history of the Church, people motivated by the love of Jesus have undertaken initiatives and works of every kind in order to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world and in all sectors of society.” (13)

In His Message for World Mission Sunday 2007, Pope Benedict XVI talks about the urgency of the missionary mandate. The theme chosen for World Mission day was “All the Churches for all the world”. This is meant to incite an awareness of “the urgent need to relaunch missionary action in the face of the many serious challenges of our time.”

Missionary activity allows a providential “exchange of gifts” which benefits the entire Mystical Body of Christ — “the most will be made of the potential and charisms of each one…all the Christian communities…every baptized person.”

He repeats that “missionary commitment remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity”. All the Pastors should promote this “pressing concern to proclaim and spread the Gospel.”

He exhorts the Church to pray for the priests, religious and laity serving in foreign missions. He asks God that their example may inspire new missionary vocations and renewed mission awareness, noting that “it is precisely on the basis of the courage to evangelize that the love of believers for the Lord is measured.”

“For the individual members of the faithful it is no longer merely a matter of collaboration in evangelizing work but of feeling that they themselves are protagonists and co-responsible.” Working together we “use the means necessary for evangelization today”, “working out appropriate spiritual and formative itineraries”, and “training new missionaries to spread the Gospel in our time”.

THE GREAT CHARISMATIC RENEWAL: 

Genie and I have recently read Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled with the Fullness of God, an excellent book on the spiritual life by Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM; he is the preacher to the papal household. Fr. Cantalamessa teaches on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our journey to holiness and fruitful service to God. He affirms the experience of “BAPTISM   IN   THE   HOLY   SPIRIT”,   and   of   “THE CHARISMS”, “SPEAKING IN TONGUES” and prayers for “HEALING”. As I read the book, I wondered, “Where was this book at the height of the Charismatic Renewal in America?” The Charismatic Renewal is so Catholic, so rooted in sound doctrine – why couldn’t we (the Church, the people who go to churches, me) see that? I’ve asked all of our FMC missionaries to read the book.

LECTIO DIVINA is SPIRITUAL DIRECTION:

In our last issue of SERVE, I wrote an article on the importance of LECTIO DIVINA. And during Lent Cantalamessa gave a talk to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia on the same subject. I found the transcript on Zenit, March 7, 2008.

Fr. Cantalamessa quotes St. Ambrose (my confirmation saint): “The word of God is the vital substance of our soul; there is nothing else that could give life to man’s soul apart from the word of God.” He recalls that John Paul II recommended Lectio Divina to all Catholics in his “Novo Millenio Ineunte” letter (where the Pope outlines an authentic Catholic spirituality for the Third millennium).

Fr. Cantalamessa says we come into contact with the word of God in the liturgy; in Bible schools and with written aids; and through “something that is irreplaceable – personal reading of the Bible at home.”

In Lectio Divina there are three steps or successive actions: (1) “welcoming the word”; (2) contemplating and meditating on the word; and (3) putting the word into practice; and for teachers, a systematic study of the Bible. A purely impersonal or academic reading is dangerous, as is a reading without meditation (“fundamentalism”).

More than “searching the Scriptures”, we must allow ourselves to be searched by the Scriptures, coming to self-knowledge and knowledge of God.

Fr. Cantalamessa teaches on the value of Scripture in providing SPIRITUAL DIRECTION: “To every soul that desires it, the word of God assures fundamental, and in itself infallible, spiritual direction.” Ordinary and everyday spiritual direction is assured by meditation on the word of God accompanied by the interior anointing of the Spirit. “There have been souls who have become holy with the word of God as their sole spiritual director.”   There are occasions when powerful, true spiritual direction comes from prayerful “random opening” of the Bible. He cites the guidance St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Therese of Lisieux received in this way.

He says we must not just read and study our Bible word, we must “swallow” it, so that it truly becomes “the substance of our soul,” “that which informs our  thoughts, forms language, determines actions,  creates the ‘spiritual’ man”. This swallowed word is “the most powerful of life principles”, similar to the Eucharist.

We must “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” St. Gregory the Great wrote that the word of God is only truly understood when one begins to practice it. “Listening to” the word means one carries out what one has heard.

The New Testament calls us to “OBEDIENCE”. Studying this holy obedience, “one makes a surprising discovery, and that is, that obedience is almost always seen as obedience to the word of God.” “The obedience itself of Jesus is exercised above all through obedience to written words. In the episode of the temptations in the desert, Jesus’ obedience consists in recalling the words of God and of abiding in them: ‘It is written!’”

“Jesus’ life is as guided by a luminous  wake  that  the  others  did  not  see  and which is created by the words that were written for him; he gathers from the Scriptures the ‘it is necessary’…that governs his whole life.” We should all be guided by God’s word in Scripture: “The words of God, by the present action of the Spirit, become the expression of the living will of God for me in a given moment.” When we receive a special word during prayerful Bible reading, we can understand that though the word does not apply universally in all cases, certainly in that moment it applies to us, and we obey it.

“Obeying visible orders and authorities, is something that we do every so often, three or four times in a lifetime, if we are talking about serious obedience; but there can be obedience to God’s word in every moment. It is also the obedience that applies to all of us, inferiors and superiors, clerics and laity. The laity do not have a superior in the Church whom they must obey – at least not in the sense that religious and clerics have a superior; but they do have, in compensation, a ‘Lord’ to obey! They have His word.

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