Frank’s Note to Missionaries – Conversion is the Aim

Missionaries –
For a couple of weeks now I have felt the urging of the Spirit to remind you of the importance of working for the CONVERSION of those to whom the Lord sends us. The Lord is intent on bringing about the CONVERSION of those to whom the Gospel is preached, and we cannot set a lesser goal for our evangelistic labors.”The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith.” Mission of the Redeemer, 46.We must ask ourselves whether we are seeing CONVERSION in the lives of those to whom we are ministering, and what is bringing conversion and what is not; and we want to develop strategies that do bring real conversion and drop whatever doesn’t. And we will be ready to shake the dust from our sandals and move on when conversion is being rejected.The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published its “Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization” and exhorts the Church to proceed with a vigorous evangelization of the whole world, “to help all persons to meet Christ in faith, which is the primary objective of evangelization.” Id., 2. “In any case, to evangelize does no 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.”
“…{C}onversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical…. it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from ‘life according to the flesh’ to ‘life according to the Spirit’…. Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple. The Church calls all people to this conversion….” Mission of the Redeemer, 46.
John Paul II says that Catholic missionaries cannot pass over the importance of this call to conversion; it is not enough to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion or simply to work for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. Everyone must be invited to repent and find new life in Jesus.
Recently, I was reporting to a brother that I had found that many Catholics in Asia have more or less learned to suppress their call to evangelization and even brag that they don’t try to “convert” the people around them; and my friend said, “Isn’t that the same attitude we have here in the States?”
Well, FMC missionaries do work for the “CONVERSION” of souls, abroad and here in the States. Our purpose is to present people with a choice and invite them to make a decision; and when people have made a decision for Jesus, we provide them with the tools they need to follow the Lord as good disciples. We teach them Prayer, God’s Word, the Sacraments, how to build and live in Community, and the importance of Service (to engage in the Apostolate, especially caring for the poor and evangelizing).
Look for people who are really converting to Jesus, and attend to their needs in the Church.
Frank’s Note to Missionaries re: Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM – Excellent spiritual reading
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 Renewal was so Catholic, so rooted in sound doctrine – why couldn’t we (the Church, the people who go to churches, me) see that?
                                          LECTIO  DIVINA
I’ve asked all of the FMC missionaries to read the book. 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.
He 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 Millenium).
He 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: welcoming the word; contemplating and meditating on the word; 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 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:”There have been souls who have become holy with the word of God as their sole spiritual director.”
He says we must not just read and study the 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.” He compares the swallowed word as “the most powerful of life principles”, comparing it 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.”
He refers to St. Gregory the Great who 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 for us 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.” I would be interested in your comments on Cantalamessa’s writings.
– In Jesus, Frank

About frankfmcmissions

Frank and his wife Genie are the co-founders of Family Missions Company,serving with a board of directors and the blessing of the Bishop of Lafayette. They have served in foriegn missions, along with their seven children, since 1975. They oversee the FMC apostolates and the training of the fulltime missionaries.
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