GOD HELP US ! We’ve got to improve the way we do things.

These are very alarming times, for the world and for the Church. A survey reported in one Catholic magazine puts it this way:

…[F]our out of five Catholic youngsters fall away, defect to other denominations, embrace New Age cults or succumb to unbelief…. Catholic students [were found to be] lower in religious knowledge than any other group, including Protestants, Jews and nonbelievers. (America, Sept. 10,2012)

A few Sundays back at Mass here in my diocese, the priest declared that one third of Catholics never go to Mass, one third only attend Mass at Christmas and Easter, and only one third are sometimes attending normal Sunday Masses.

It is certainly right that Pope Benedict has called Catholics to rally for a special “Year of Faith”, with an emphasis on Evangelization. At the same time Benedict has convened a world synod on the New Evangelization (emphasizing the need to reevangelize the modern western world). This synod has already published propositions calling Catholics to a real, even radical  revamping of the style and religious emphases, liturgies, ways and customs of the Catholic People. The synod declares the paramount importance of God’s Word and the work of Evangelization in bringing all Catholics into a personal relationship with Jesus, while also supporting standard Catholic doctrine (the Church, the Sacraments, the papacy, the priesthood, Mary…).

This synod promises to issue a trumpet blast call, heralding a new era of Evangelization, summoning  us to attention and to the mission and spiritual battle Jesus first called us to: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all creation” – heal the sick and cast out devils, build up God’s Kingdom on earth!

All of us must understand that we are called to be evangelists and missionaries. Cardinal Dolan says that in order to evangelize effectively, Catholics must be convinced, and committed, and courageous! We are all expected to live holy lives, lives rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus, lives of deep prayer, lives hearing, reading, studying and meditating on the Bible, lives studying Church Teaching, lives in joyful, real fellowship in the Holy Spirit, with other disciples of our Lord. We haver been commanded to love the Lord with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength. We must love  others, even our enemies. We must forgive others…. The Gospel teaching of Jesus is meant to be lived, really, today, by us!

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Frank’s Note to Missionaries (1/22/13)

We have just ended a very celebratory time of the Year – Christmas and New year – and the new Intake missionaries are now in Gral. Cepeda and Ecuador. Other missionaries have undertaken new missions in the Philippines and India. Genie and I have been moving in to our new house at Big Woods Mission, and I’m working with my brothers and sisters to resolve matters involving the estates of my deceased brother, Will, and my Mom. I have been able to pay off all my debts and renovate our house and use some of Mom’s furniture… we will sell the family’s law office and Mom’s house. Genie and I also want to distribute our lands (except for our house and lot at Big Woods) to our children. We always knew these things would one day have to be done, and now is the time. Genie continues to care for her invalid Dad and is trying to sell his properties. Lots has been happening! We need your prayers.

We continue to remain open to hear the Lord call us back into mission for long or short times. Beau has been exploring possibilities for his future, and Simon’s situation seems to develop and improve. We need your prayers.

Two things repeatedly come to my mind for our missionaries at this time: (1) Be faithful to your daily personal prayer time with Bible reading – maintain a strong personal relationship with Jesus, be always in dialogue with Him..

(2) The Pope has called a world synod of Bishops to seek the Lord about “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. I have already reviewed various Church documents dealing with this matter. (See my recent FMC blog on the subject.) The Vatican prepared a working paper (Lineamenta) for the bishops and cardinals to use during the synod, and one of the statements ties the evangelist’s witness to knowledge of the Bible:

Transmitting the faith essentially means to transmit the Scriptures, primarily the Gospel, which give a person the opportunity of knowing Jesus, the Lord. (Lineamenta 2)

Read and study your Bible constantly, so that the Word of God in Sacred Scripture will fill your heart and mind, form your lives, and be on your lips whenever you are speaking, teaching or bearing personal witness to others. The Word is an imperishable seed, we must sow it everywhere, it will not return empty, it will accomplish the purpose for which it is sent. Our task is to know it, live it, speak it, sow it. The Word contains the grace to fulfill itself in the lives of all who believe. Sow it boldly in love. Be saints and speak the Gospel Word.

TAKING HOLD OF YOUR MISSION:

All of us first came to Family Missions Company because we believed that the Lord was calling us to be foreign missionaries – we believed that was our “vocation”. During our Intake formation we confirmed the calling, we accepted it and committed ourselves to it. In the Church we were commissioned to go forth as Catholic lay missionaries to announce the Good News and to serve the poor in foreign lands. With input from FMC we sought the Lord about where to go and we made plans to go there. With the help of our benefactors we raised the funds and were assured of the prayer support we would need. With our missionary community, we turned to the Lord for the grace and courage to leave everything behind and to go forth to live a missionary life.

Few receive a call to fulltime foreign missionary life – or maybe many are called but few are chosen. To actually get out onto the mission field is a great privilege. Actually getting onto a specific mission location where we are able to live and serve as missionary evangelists has cost a huge investment in perseverance and faith and grace on your part and on the part of your supporters and missionary community, and also on the part of the people who receive us on the mission field. It is rare we will find a “perfect” mission post, but every mission post deserves our full surrender.

We have a responsibility to our vocation, to our supporters at home and on the mission field, to grab hold of the mission and not turn loose, if possible. When we have put our hands to the plow, we can’t be looking back. Arriving on the mission field, we work hard to get into the saddle and stay in the saddle. We can assume we are where God wants us. Yet, the real mission rarely turns out to be just like what we fantasized it would be; often,it will require more sacrifice than we had thought. We will miss home and all the things we imagine we could be doing back there, or in some other place We find we are weaker than we hoped. We encounter opposition. But the Lord never said it would be easy. He told us there would be a cross each day; there will be suffering; we have to persevere and trust Him and call out to Him in our need and wait for Him to act. Missionaries need fortitude.

We will surely be tempted to doubt ourselves and the particular mission. Satan lies and accuses; he tempts us to discouragement and despair. We must stay close to the Lord and devour His Word, and call upon His Holy Spirit, and be united with our community, and rejoice in the Lord and praise Him with thanksgiving, constantly! We stand against the devil and he must flee.

We can’t be easily chased off by our other ideas, or real trials, even dangers. We can’t just give up and walk away from our mission without a fight. We know we are engaged in spiritual battle. Yes, the Lord can remove us from a bad situation; we can kick the dust from our sandals and go elsewhere. But first we expect Jesus to lead us day by day in the narrow way, through the dark valleys, to help us overcome obstacles and to defeat our enemies, to open before us doors of opportunity for preaching the Gospel – to protect us and supply all our needs, and the needs of the people He sends us to serve. Jesus wants us to be there (“just show up”) so He can do His saving work. Jesus had to come to earth and live among the people, to lay down His life for His followers, indeed for all mankind! He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, and God highly exalted Him.

Spending time stateside is not what missionaries are normally doing. Normally, we are living and serving on the mission field, fully engaged in evangelization and service to the poor – that is our calling. And if we are temporarily stateside, we live with the hope and view of returning to missions as soon as possible. When stateside at Big Woods, or with our natural families, we use the time to evaluate and improve our missionary lives and to let the Lord and our loved ones minister to our own personal needs. We use home time to witness to the American church about its “greatest and holiest duty” (foreign missions) – and we seek to inspire others to become missionaries themselves, and to support FMC’s mission works.

It is true that missionaries don’t generally stay in one place their whole lives; they will move to new missions in time; and the local people can continue what the missionary started. FMC missionaries are itinerate; there are so many people to be reached, and the task is URGENT. The Holy Spirit leads us from place, to place during the course of our missionary lives and we continue to GO FORTH eagerly. However,each time we set out on a new mission we are hoping to remain there a good while, as long as we can. When the people receive us and doors are opened for the preaching of the Gospel, we tend to remain there for a good while.

If we think the Lord may be calling us to move on, we should contact FMC leadership before making a final decision, FMC prays with us and counsels us – only then can we make our decision.

Miscellaneous advice: We limit our use of the internet – we build a life for ourselves among the people in the mission land and limit our contacts with friends and family back home.

We are happy to have local people help with our household work, to free ourselves for the work of evangelization. They become our friends and brother and sisters in the Lord; we can learn from them. They can teach us the customs and thinking of the people of the place, We can form them in Gospel living. We can sponsor their education and help their families.

We enter fully into the life of the people of the place. We get involved in the life of the church parish, we learn the language, we consider enrolling our children in the local schools….

We entrust ourselves to the Lord. He is with us and will always lead us and care for us. He is our good shepherd.

In Jesus, Frank

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THE YEAR OF FAITH AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION

Standing here today, it is as though a Tsunami of spiritual events are occurring to foster the kind of evangelism and missionary work our family has been engaged in for the past 40 years!

The Pope declared that last year would be the Year of St. Paul, and that this year is  the “Year of Faith”, with an emphasis on Evangelization. He has called a Synod of World Bishops to consider “The New Evangelization”.

Genie’s second book chronicling our lives in mission has just been published: Our Family’s Book of Acts  –  Love and Serve the Lord. Genie has been interviewed about her book and the work of FMC, by Ralph Martin for his new EWTN program on the New Evangelization (program to be aired in March).

Yes, it seems the whole Church has become focused on doing the very thing we have given our lives to do: EVANGELIZING  EVERYONE,  EVERYWHERE !!  Catholic people are being asked “to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.” (Cardinal Dolan

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th year since publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Below I review of some of the recent Church documents:

POPE  BENEDICT’S  LETTER FOR WORLD  MISSION  DAY: 

Benedict XVI set the tone for the Synod and for the Year of Faith in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei (“A Message for World Mission Day 2012” – January 6, 2012):

He declares the Church’s desire to engage with greater courage and zeal in the missio ad gentes so that the Gospel may reach the very ends of the earth. *** [T]he number of those who do not know Christ has grown: ‘The number of those awaiting Christ is still immense’ [citing JP II, Mission of the Redeemer.] … ‘[W]e cannot be content when we consider the millions of our brothers and sisters, who like us have been redeemed by the blood of Christ but who live in ignorance of the love of God.’ [Id., 86.] *** We therefore need to recover the same apostolic zeal as the early Christian communities, which, though small and defenseless, were able, through their proclamation and witness, to spread the Gospel throughout the then known world.

*          *           *

“The mandate to preach the Gospel…must involve all the activities of the particular Church, all her sectors, in short, her whole being and all her work…. This requires the regular adjustment of lifestyles, pastoral planning and diocesan organization to this fundamental dimension of being Church….”

“the mission ad gentes must be the constant horizon and paradigm of every ecclesial endeavor”

“It is necessary to renew the enthusiasm of communicating the faith to promote a new evangelization of the communities and countries with a longstanding Christian tradition which are losing their reference to God so that they may rediscover the joy of believing. The concern to evangelize must never remain on the margins of ecclesial activity and of the personal life of Christians. Rather, it must strongly characterize it….”

“…[F]aith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it may bear fruitit is a light that must never be hidden, but   must illuminate the whole house. It is the most important gift which has been made to us in our lives and which we cannot keep to ourselves.”

“Many priests, men and women religious…, numerous lay people and even entire families leave their countries and their local communities to go to other churches to bear witness to and proclaim the Name of Christ, in which humanity finds salvation.”

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CARDINAL DOLAN’S  VATICAN  HOMILY:

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York was asked to give the homily at a special Mass before the Pope and the College of Cardinals at the Vatican (posted February 17, 2012). He speaks of “the sacred duty of evangelization,” “ever ancient, ever new”.  “…[T]he evangelical fervor of the Church was expanded during the Second Vatican Council….” John Paul II has made  “The New Evangelization” a household word.

The Vat.II Council has defined the entire Church as missionary: “all Christians, by reason of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, are evangelizers”. “…[N]o Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus….”  “…[M]ission applied not only to unbelievers but to believers ….

Mission was expected “to apply the invitation of Jesus to conversion of heart not only ad extra but ad intra, to believers and cultures where the salt of the gospel had lost its tang. Thus the missio is not only to New Guinea but to New York.”

Cardinal Dolan says that western secularism is an external threat to believers, “manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself.”  Nevertheless, even secularists are looking for answers that only Jesus can provide. We must be convincedconfident, and courageous in the New Evangelization – because of the power of Jesus, and the truth of the message, and the deep down openness in even the most secularized of people to the divine. The Church herself needs evangelization, it has a deep need for interior conversion.

“God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus.” “The invitation…is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve – not a something, but a Someone.”

We are called to “combat catechetical illiteracy”. Cardinal Dolan  quotes Cardinal George Pell who has observed that “it is not so much that our people have lost their faith, but that they barely had it to begin with; and, if they did, it was so vapid that it was easily taken away.” (At a recent Mass in the Lafayette Diocese, a priest declared that 1/3 of baptized Catholics never go to church, 1/3 only go only on special occasions like Easter and Christmas, and 1/3 go to some Sunday Masses.)

“…[T]he Church does not ‘have a mission,’ as if ‘mission’ were one of many things the Church does. No, the Church is a mission, and each of us who names Jesus as Lord and Savior should measure ourselves by our mission-effectiveness.” Our churches cannot “set out from the shallow waters of institutional maintenance”  –  no, the new evangelization “puts out ‘into the deep’ for a catch.”

“…[T]he proclamation of the Gospel – the deliberate invitation to enter into friendship with the Lord Jesus – must be the very center of the Catholic life of all of our people.” We must call the Catholic people “to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.”

He believes JOY is the infallible sign of God’s presence: “the evangelist must be a person of joy:”

The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown.The missio ad gentes is all about a yes to everything decent, good, true, beautiful and noble in the human person.The Church is about a yes!, not a no!

One diocese in northeast India has seen 10,000 adult converts a year. That bishop says it is “Because we present God as a loving father, and because people see the Church there loving them…. Not a nebulous love…but a love incarnate” in good works.

The New Evangelization will produce martyrs: “you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood….” “…[P]eople today learn more from ‘witnesses than from words,’ and the supreme witness is martyrdom.” “While we cry for today’s martyrs; while we love them, pray with and for them; while we vigorously advocate on their behalf; we are also very proud of them, brag about them, and trumpet their supreme witness to the world. They spark the missio ad gentes and New Evangelization.”

“…[W]e need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church.

                                                                                                                                                                 

Excerpts from “Final List of Propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization” 

Proposition 5:

“The New Evangelization is a time of awakening, of new encouragement and new witness that Jesus Christ is the center of our faith and daily life. It calls on every member of the Church to a renewal of faith and an actual effort to share it…. [All of us are invited] to once again hear the Word of God in order to encounter the Lord Jesus in a new and profound way.”

Proposition 10: Right to Proclaim and Hear the Gospel

“To proclaim the Good News and the person of Jesus is an obligation for each Christian…. At the same time, it is an inalienable right for each person, whatever one’s religion or lack of religion, to be able to know Jesus Christ and the Gospel.”

Proposition 11: New Evangelization and the Prayerful Reading of Sacred Scripture

“The Synod Fathers desire that the Divine Word ‘be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity’ (Verbum Domini)…. In the context of the New Evangelization every opportunity for the study of Sacred Scripture should be made available. The Scripture should permeate homilies, catechesis, and every effort to pass on the faith.

*       *        *

“In consideration of the necessity of familiarity with the Word of God for the New Evangelization and for the spiritual growth of the faithful, the Synod encourages dioceses, parishes, small Christian communities, to continue serious study of the Bible and Lectio Divina – the prayerful reading of the Scriptures.”

Proposition 14: Reconciliation

“… the Church has to make an effort to break down the walls that separate human beings…. Our Lord…came to free us from our sins and to invite us to build harmony, peace, and justice among all peoples.”

Proposition 20: The New Evangelization and the Way of Beauty:

“It is important to give testimony to the young who follow Jesus not only of His goodness and truth, but also of the fullness of His beauty.  As Augustine affirmed, ‘It is not possible to love what is not beautiful.’

*   *   *

“Beauty should always be a special dimension of the New Evangelization.”

Proposition 22: Conversion

“The New Evangelization requires personal and communal conversion, new methods of evangelization and renewal of the pastoral structures, to be able to move from a pastoral strategy of maintenance to a pastoral position that is truly missionary.”

We are encouraged to seek “changes in the dynamics of pastoral structures which no longer respond to the evangelical demands of the current time.”

Proposition 23: Holiness and the New Evangelizers

“The universal call to holiness is constitutive of the New Evangelization…. Holiness is a significant part of every evangelizing commitment for the one who evangelizes and for the good of those evangelized.”

Proposition 24: The Social Teaching of the Church

“In order to advance a New Evangelization in society, greater attention should be given to the Church’s social doctrine…. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a precious resource in accomplishing this continuing formation.”

Proposition 26 : Parishes

“…[T]he Synod Fathers would like to encourage parishes to find ways to orient themselves to a greater emphasis on evangelization…. The presence and evangelizing action of associations, movements and other ecclesial realities are useful stimuli for the realization of this pastoral conversion…. [A]ll the parishes and their small communities should be living cells, places to promote the personal and communitarian encounter with Christ, experience the richness of liturgy, to give initial and permanent Christian formation, and to educate all the faithful in fraternity and charity especially towards the poor.”

Proposition 30 : Theology

“The Synod proposes…that a department of New Evangelization studies be established in Catholic Universities.”

Proposition 31 : Option for the Poor

“The preferential option for the poor leads us to seek out the poor and to work on their behalf so that they feel at home  in the Church. They are both recipients and actors in the New Evangelization.

Proposition 32 : The Sick

“In the sick, the suffering, persons with disabilities and those with special needs, Christ’s suffering is present and has missionary force…. They need our care, but we receive even more from their faith…. [T]he sick are very important participants in the New Evangelization. All those in contact with the sick need to be aware of their mission.”

Proposition 42 :

“Every pastoral program must transmit the true novelty of the Gospel, and be centered on a personal and living encounter with Jesus. [It should elicit in all] a generous embrace of the faith, and a willingness to accept the call to be witnesses.”

Proposition 45 : The Role of the Laity in the New Evangelization

“The Second Vatican Council identifies four main aspects of the mission of the baptized: the witness of their lives, works of charity and mercy, renewing the temporal order, and direct evangelization…. The laity cooperate in the Church’s work of evangelization, as witnesses and at the same time as living instruments they share in her saving mission…. Therefore the Church values the gifts that the Spirit is making to every baptized for the construction of the body, and should provide adequate encouragement and training to foster their apostolic zeal in the transmission of the faith.”

Proposition 45 : Collaboration

“…[T]oday, women (lay and religious) together with men contribute to theological reflection at all levels and share pastoral responsibilities in new ways….”

Proposition 47 : Formation for Evangelizers

“This Synod considers that it is necessary to establish formation centers for the New Evangelization, where lay people learn how to speak of the person of Christ in a persuasive manner adapted to our time and to specific groups of people….”

Proposition 48 : The Christian Family

“…[T]he Christian family as the domestic Church is the locus and first agent in the giving of life and love, the transmission of faith and the formation of the human person according to the values of the Gospel…. In many cases the grandparents will have a very important role.”

*   *   *

“The Synod notes with appreciation those families who leave their homes in order to be evangelizers for Christ in other countries and cultures.”

Proposition 51 – Youth and the New Evangelization

“In the New Evangelization the youth are not only the future, but also the present (and gift) in the Church. They are not only the recipients but also the agents of evangelization, especially with their peers.*** Through exemplary Christian adults, the saints, especially the young saints, and through committed youth ministers, the Church is visible and credible for the youth….[I]t is necessary that evangelizers meet the young and spend time with them; propose to them and accompany them in following Jesus, guide them to discover their vocation in life and in the Church. ”

Proposition 52 : Ecumenical Dialogue

“The credibility of our service to the Gospel will be much greater if we can overcome our divisions. While upholding Catholic identity and communion, the New Evangelization promotes ecumenical collaboration, which demonstrates how much the faith given in Baptism unites us.”

Proposition 53:  Inter-religious Dialogue

“Faithful to the teaching of Vatican II, the Church respects the other religions and their adherents and is happy to collaborate with them in the defense and promotion of the inviolable dignity of every person.”

Proposition 55  : Courtyard of the Gentiles

The Synod encourages the ecclesial communities to open a kind of Courtyard of the Gentiles , “where believers and non-believers can dialogue about fundamental themes….”

Proposition 57  :

“This faith cannot be transmitted in a life which is not modeled after the Gospel or a life which does not find its meaning, truth and future based on the Gospel…. [The New evangelization] calls all believers to renew their faith and their personal encounter with Jesus in the Church…and joyfully to share it.”

Proposition 58  :

Mary [is] the Star of the New Evangelization!

Be Faithful,

Frank

By Frank Summers

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Lectio Divina – Spiritual Direction

LECTIO DIVINA IS SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

In our last issue of SERVE, I wrote an article on the importance of LECTIO DIVNA.  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).

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: 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 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”.  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.

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Ask!

By Frank Summers

As followers of Jesus, we have a duty to come to know and discern God’s will for ourselves, for His Church, for others, for creation, – we seek wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  When we understand God’s will, we are instructed to pray for His will to be done:

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  “Let it be done to me according to thy will.”

The Lord expects us to labor in prayer asking Him to do all the good things that need doing and to prevent and deliver us from all evils.  “You do not have because you do not ask.”  “Ask and you shall receive.”  Jesus said it many times, in many contexts.

“If you who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Mt. 7:11);  “how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Lk. 11:13b).

In instructions Jesus gave at the Last Supper, He urged:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.  Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that you joy may be complete.”  John 16:23b—24.

Our missionaries learn to seek the Lord concerning His will; we study His Word and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We decide to obey God’s will and work at conversion and transformation in our own lives, and for others—we seek and receive the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to be sanctified, made holy.  And we PRAY for everything that the Lord wants to do, so that His Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth, as it is in heaven.

What are the thing the Lord wants to do in you and the world?  Pray with faith and perseverance; God will do them!

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The Missionary is the Saint: SERVE Summer 2012 Article

In his encyclical on foreign missions, Pope John Paul the Great chooses to talk about the call to holiness of life and the need for all missionaries to become saints.

We Catholics have great devotion to the “Saints” in heaven. John Paul II canonized more saints than any other pope in history. I was happy to see how many lay people and married couples he beatified and canonized. In the New Testament regular members of the Church are referred to as disciples, believers, brothers and sisters, and saints. Early Christians were considered saints almost as a matter of course. It was understood that all were called to follow Jesus, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit (sanctifying grace). God’s grace was sufficient for all to live as saints. “You must be holy, for I am holy says the Lord” (1 Peter 1:16). It is not God’s purpose that only a few believers become “saints” – saints are not supposed to be rare and uncommon. On the contrary, all who follow the Lord become saints; that is the normal result of living our faith.

The Second Vatican Council and the new Catechism make it clear that all are called to the holiness of Jesus – yes, the pope and bishops, and priests and nuns, but all the laity, too, married people, singles, teenagers and children. God’s grace is sufficient. The laity have available to them everything needed to attain the best and highest holiness; filled with the Holy Spirit and following Jesus, we can all be saints! (Consider Mary and Joseph and the early Christians.)

In our missionary lives, my family and I constantly recall the saints in heaven. We ask their prayerful intercession; and we are inspired by their examples. We also admire the lives and heroic works of the saints still living here on earth today. We walk with them and talk with them and serve with them and share our lives with them. During our lifetime, we have been privileged to bask in the apparent holiness of John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But not all saints become so famous and powerful; indeed, very few do. Like everyone else, most saints live fairly low profile lives.

It’s risky to talk of a still living person as a “saint”, because it is always possible they could backslide and scandalize us all. However, we lose more if we don’t allow ourselves to appreciate, recognize and honor the living saints around us. I am inspired by my own children and grandchildren; I freely honor them when they demonstrate Christ-like attitudes and actions; and when I want the Lord to answer my prayer, I ask my wife and children and grandchildren and friends, as well as my heavenly saint-friends to pray with me to the Lord.

I’m often very inspired by our missionaries in Family Missions Company, by people in the church parishes, and by people we encounter in our work around the world. I’m open to learn from all these saints and to imitate their good actions and virtues. I ask them to pray for me, and they ask me to pray for them. We all aspire and strive to live as saints, building the Kingdom of God here on earth today. Not all the saints on earth have attained the perfection to which they are called, yet. We are works in progress, growing and being transformed, according to the will and plan of the Lord. Nevertheless, the “faithful,” those who love and serve Jesus, are “saints” in my mind.

I know one saint who works tirelessly to announce God’s Word and build up the Church, to renew and reform it. He writes books and appears regularly on TV; he organizes and is invited to speak at large conferences, before bishops, priests and religious. He is an international leader in the Charismatic Renewal, a married man with children, a community member and a friend to many.

I remember Don Carlos in the Andes near Cité, Colombia. His small farm was up in the mountains from our community farm; and he regularly came down to help us prepare our land and sow the seeds. We all worked with asadons; it was hard manual labor. Don Carlos worked steady and longer than most of us, despite his age and slight stature. His hands were as hard and rough as tree bark. He was always quick to enjoy things, and to smile and be a friend; when we prayed and sang God’s praises he hurried to participate. He was surely as poor as St. Francis of Assisi, and his clothes were so worn you couldn’t tell where the cloth of his original pants and shirt ended and the patches began. He seemed to have absolute trust in God, for everything. When my daughter Susanna was born at the community farm, Don Carlos stepped forward with others representing the community to trace the cross on Susanna’s forehead. I was greatly inspired by Don Carlos back then, and the Gospel lessons I learned while with him are indelibly branded in my soul.

One dear saint-family here in Abbeville has been at our side ever since we began missionary life over 30 years ago (and they are not the only ones). They constantly try to encourage us and show a lively interest in our missions. They step forward to help us in every way they can, and make financial contributions too. The husband has been battling bone cancer for fourteen years; and in it all he and his family have received so many helps from the Lord in answer to prayer and are drawn ever closer to the Lord, all the while offering their sufferings for the success of our mission work. Whenever we have been here in Abbeville, their children have grown up with ours; and now their son and his family serve as missionaries with Family Missions Company. Their mission in the Philippines is flourishing.

We could never repay the Abbeville and Acadiana families for all they have done for us, nor any of the hundreds of other saints who have inspired and instructed and helped us in our walk with Jesus – they have never asked to be repaid. These saints manifest the love of God on earth today, they are evangelizing the world, and building God’s Kingdom. The saints are one in Jesus, they form His mystical body, the Church; we live in a “communion of saints” with our brothers and sisters already in heaven.

I like the passage in the Book of Revelation which speaks of a gathering of heavenly saints:

“I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10.

Yes, we are all called to holiness. We are expected to become saints. We can do it! Jesus can do it!

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We’re busy handling the pragmatic things that make our mission life possible

Genie and I are at Big Woods Mission in Abbeville. We have stepped out of our leadership roles in the mission company, and now hold the status of lowly missionaries again (friars minor). We remain active in the Word ministry  and in the scores of activities involving FMC’s apostolates and our extended family’s life (7 children and 16 grandchildren – and our 80 missionaries and their personal and family needs).

I’m delighted at how things are going better in FMC since I stepped down from leadership. Genie and I are still the “founders” and available to counsel and help out when called upon. We are transferring our home to FMC for use as the community house; and we are moving a  smaller house to the mission compound, to house us and Beau and Simon, to give us more privacy and a place to receive our grandchildren. We will go out in mission from here and return here. Genie will have time for her writing. We have a great porch and vistas for prayer and meditation on God’s Word.

We spent February in General Cepeda, Mexico giving final preparation to three families from General that have worked alongside our missionaries for years,  We have commissioned them to now be full-fledged FMC missionaries (they especially need your prayers and financial support). A short term mission group from Acadiana served in General this past month – no violence issues; the Lord worked mightely.

Work on our retreat house, Our Lady of the Bayous, goes forward slowly but surely. We are gearing up for Faith Camp (our summer evangelistic youth camp); a missionary training program is presently underway in the Philippines; applicants are signing up for the next Intake in September; a short term mission group of young people from our area will leave for Joplin, Missouri in a week or so….  In all this we are trusting the Lord for the funds and spiritual power and holiness of life needed to do the work He assigns us – to bear abundant good fruits for His glory.

We love you and need you.     Frank

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Frank and Genie’s Beg Letter

It has been several years since I sent out a regular missionary “begging letter” for Genie and myself. In recent years our letters have requested funds for special mission projects we were involved in (a particular mission trip) or for some general Family Missions Company need. Genie and I have been living on our FMC salaries (about $2500/month for the two of us), and our mission expenses were being covered by FMC, because we did “staff work” assigned to us by FMC.

Now Genie and I are stepping out of our roles as president and vice-president, and we will no longer be salaried. Although we will always remain the “founders” of FMC, and will be available to help here at the office whenever called upon, nevertheless, we will not be salaried or occupying job positions or desks in the FMC office, and will be free to go about like itinerant missionaries again, as the Lord will lead us.

My son, Joseph, and his wife, Brooke, are taking on our salaried work here at the office. They have served as our understudies for several years. Genie and I have spent special time preparing them and our Board of Directors, staff and current missionaries – all look forward to Joseph and Brooke taking over. We believe their leadership will equip FMC to surge ahead in work the Lord is calling it to; they will do a better job than Genie and I can do. At the same time, Genie and I can spend our time doing work we do best:  going about proclaiming the Word everywhere; ministering to the poor and oppressed;  and encouraging  brothers and sisters around the globe who are trying to build faith communities and evangelistic  apostolates  –  all the while  struggling to give  witness as a  family  in mission,  striving to live a holy family life.

I remember that my family returned to Abbeville in 1995 because at the time a crisis in our family prevented us from continuing in foreign missions. I then returned to the practice of law to support my family. While in the States we have sent our children to the universities, where they fell in love, courted and were married. They are raising their families now – we have 14 grandchildren (two more grandsons on the way). Genie was here to nurse her grandmother and mother on their deathbeds; and she has been nursing her invalid father. I am able to sit with my bedridden mother, sharing God’s Word and His love together.

In 1996 we founded Family Missions Company. For seven years I supported my family and contributed to the financial support of FMC with earnings from my law practice. Then FMC grew enough to pay me a salary, and I left law practice to work fulltime as FMC’s president here in the office, making several trips annually onto the mission field. Here we have been invited to speak and conduct retreats, and many people come to visit us. Genie has published her second book, Our Family’s Book of Acts.

Each year we have conducted a special three month “Intake” program to receive, train, and send out foreign missionaries. A minimum two year commitment is required of them. We have sent out hundreds of these missionaries; and they have served in scores of countries around the globe, mostly living among and serving the poor, engaging in all sorts of missionary evangelism, while submitted to the Roman Catholic Bishop of the place, faithful to the Church and its magisterium. There are 85 of these trained missionaries serving with FMC today.

FMC has sent out a couple of thousand short term missionaries (families, laity, clergy and seminarians)  in groups gathered from church parishes and universities around the country, who serve for a week or so alongside our fulltime missionaries. They return to their faith communities better informed about the Lord and themselves as His disciples; they return home knowing they are all called to the apostolate, and eager to be missionaries serving to build God’s Kingdom wherever they are. We have borne witness that the Church is by nature missionary, that foreign missions is the greatest and holiest duty of the Church, that we know Jesus is the Messiah because He preached the Good News to the poor, that when we serve the poor we meet Jesus in them, that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of missionary evangelism, that signs and wonders and miracles are to be expected in the work of evangelism, and that the Great Commission is urgent and essential to Catholics and all mankind today….

FMC and our 85 missionaries are operating on a budget of about $500,000/year. The Company has purchased or had donated  seven buildings which have been  repaired for use as our office and living quarters (Big Woods Mission can accommodate about 42 persons) and a retreat house (Our Lady of the Bayous can accommodate about 35 people). We calculate that out of every dollar, 95 cents is paid out in project services, 4 cents in purely administrative costs, and 1 cent into fundraising. Our newsletter, SERVE, goes out to 6,000 families, communities, ministries, churches and individuals, throughout the U.S.   Our website and missionary blogs are read by many (visit them yourself – http://www.fmcmissions.com).  We regularly make missionary appeals, speaking at Masses in churches in our Diocese of Lafayette and elsewhere, and conduct parish Lenten and Advent missions, and speak at large conferences, and at schools and to all sorts of small faith groups. We are receiving more than 5000 individual contributions a year.

Yes, Catholic lay missionaries and families can serve in the greatest and holiest duty of the Church!  Our Church can go forward to fulfill its Great Commission in the world today, right now!

Well, if we’re going to serve as missionaries again and keep our house at Big Woods operating then Genie and I need to revive our “Benefactors List”. Each of FMC’s missionaries raises their own funds, to cover missionary expenses.   Genie and I are receiving small social security checks and a small amount each year in oil royalties. But in order to dedicate ourselves fulltime to the apostolate, we need additional funds to cover the expenses. (Like all of FMC’s missionaries, we have chosen to live lives in “gospel poverty”.) Sometimes we receive speakers’ stipends, but when we go to evangelize the poor, they do not pay us to do it; and we want to fund projects to provide material assistance to them. So we have to rely on the generosity of benefactors who decide to be part of our mission.

Will you consider being a partner in our mission work? Can you make a generous donation to help us? There is so much need – literally billions of people are waiting to be evangelized; so many suffer dire poverty, waiting and hoping that someone will help them.  We urgently ask your prayers for the people God sends us to, and for us to persevere and to be faithful and diligent in our service to them as missionaries. We will pray for the Lord to bless you and your loved ones abundantly.

One more thing, while on staff, Genie and I were able to use the FMC vehicles. Now we will have to drive our own vehicle. Do you know anyone who could donate a vehicle that is in operating condition? A minivan would be great, but we will accept anything.

We love you and greatly appreciate your prayers and moral and financial support – thank you, thank you, thank you!  God bless and repay you a hundredfold!

In Jesus,

Frank & Genie Summers


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ALL CATHOLICS MUST BE EVANGELIZED

ALL  CATHOLICS MUST BE EVANGELIZED AND THEN EVANGELIZE OTHERS, BY OUR LIVES, OUR WORDS, AND OUR APOSTOLIC WORKS

The Second Vatican Council has launched the Catholic laity into a new era of participation in the life and mission of the Church, and the mission of Jesus in our world.  We must each live a HOLY  life and to engage in the APOSTOLATE, to evangelize and sanctify the world.

Following the Council,  Pope Paul VII  published Evangelii Nuntiandi, reminding us of the centrality of the work of EVANGELIZATION. The Church exists to evangelize – that is the principal ministry which the Church owes to mankind.

“…[T]he mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism.” Verbum Domini: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, 94.  “…[A] member who does not work at the growth of the body to the extent of his possibilities must be considered useless both to the Church and to himself.” Vat. II, “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People,” 2.

It is not enough to live silent religious lives. We must give vocal witness, we must proclaim the Gospel,  even shout it from the roof tops: “The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the  word of life. There is no true evangelization unless the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are proclaimed.” Evangelii Nuntiandi, 33.

“The very witness of a Christian life, and good works done in a supernatural spirit, are effective in drawing men to the  faith and to God….

“This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw  them  towards the faith, or to the faithful to instruct  them, strengthen them, incite them to a more fervent life….”  Vat. II, Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 6.

“The principal duty of both men and women is to bear witness to Christ, and this they are obliged to do by their life and their words…. Indeed  wherever possible lay people should be ready to carry out the special mission of preaching  the Gospel and teaching Catholic doctrine….” Vat. II, Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, 21.

So, we evangelize by living holy lives, according to the Gospel, and we also speak the Gospel Word into the Church and into the world. We undertake the works proposed by the Gospel:  we show love and charity to our neighbors, especially the poor; we struggle for social justice (peace, women’s rights, civil rights, economic justice, church renewal, care for the environment, freedom, pro-life, cultural decency, etc.).

Of course, in order to evangelize or “gospelize”  the Church and the world, we ourselves must be students (“disciples”) of the Gospel. We have received God’s Word as it comes to us in the life and liturgy of the Church and through the witness of others.  We become disciples (“students”) of Jesus; He is our Teacher. We pay prayerful, careful attention to His words: we listen, we accept them into our hearts and minds, we ponder and come to understand as  we put them  into practice,  we live the Word  –  then the Lord Jesus teaches us more. We dedicate ourselves to the study of Church teaching and Sacred  Scripture. Westerners  are inundated by words, words, words…. But God’s Word and wisdom is different from the world’s  words and “wisdom”.  The world thinks God’s wisdom is foolish, but “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Cor. 1:25.

The Church has been saying for years that we need a new evangelization, a springtime of evangelism. Benedict XVI has just declared  2012 to be the “Year of Faith”  and  urges all Catholics to appreciate and proclaim our faith  –  Catholics are summoned  to  stand forth and  actually be evangelized, and to evangelize our world today.

“Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Romans 12:17.  Well, if faith comes by hearing the word of God, and  if we are entering the “Year of Faith”, then it is very right  that Benedict XVI has also recently published an apostolic exhortation titled Verbum Domini: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church . He points to the centrality of the Word of God in the Church, and the irreplaceable  importance of the Scripture in the life of Catholics.

Benedict says the time has come “to renew the Church’s faith in the word of God.” Verbum Domini, 27.  “I wish once more to encourage all the People of God, pastors, consecrated persons and the laity, to become increasingly familiar with the Sacred Scripture. We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based on the word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated and meditated upon in the Church.” Verbum Domini, 121. “May the Holy Spirit awaken a  hunger and thirst for the word of God, and raise up zealous heralds and witnesses of the Gospel.”  Id., 122.

Pope Benedict urges us to  practice  Lectio Divina,  which draws us into a personal and intimate dialogue with God, through  daily private  prayer and Bible reading. The synod of world bishops that met to review the place of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church “ frequently insisted on the need for a prayerful approach to the sacred text as a fundamental element in the spiritual life of every believer.”  Id., 86 (emphasis added).

It is so clear:  the Lord and the popes are urging us to become very Evangelistic, to read and study God’s Word, to prayerfully read the Bible, and to speak God’s Word to others, everywhere.  We must sow the indestructible seed of God’s Word, it will not return empty, it accomplishes God’s purpose.  “It is our responsibility to pass on  what, by God’s grace, we ourselves have received.” Id.,  91.  “Woe to me if I do not  proclaim the Gospel.” 1 Cor. 9:16.

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Frank’s Note to the Missionaries

My Brothers and Sisters  –  I hope all is going well.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep God’s perspective on things. As missionaries we may feel far off and out of it, like the important things are happening in another place. But in fact when we are at the ends of the earth serving God’s poor, little people, we are  at the very center of the Lord’s most important work, the greatest and holiest duty of the Church.

Be FAITHFUL, be a light. Pray yourself into the Lord’s heart and mind. Study the life giving WORD, then live it and announce it to all. Show a preferential option for the poor; make real friends with the poor. Learn to encounter Jesus in the poor.

Pray for one another. Teresa is asking for our special prayers for a young lady named Rowena. Erika and Sarah Carroll need our prayers for their continued safety in General Cepeda.

I love you – please pray for me and Genie and the FMC staff and Board; pray for Kevin and JP Pap., visiting possible mission sites in Peru.  Erik and Sarita are giving a talk on chastity Saturday at the Community of Jesus Crucified – they are struggling to know the Lord’s will for their next mission.

I am about to leave for the New Orleans airport to pick up James and Breanne and Fr. Carvlle returning from Ecuador. Reports are that the mission trip was incredible. Mike and Peggy Melancon just returned from a medical mission to Haiti. Joe just got off the phone talking with the group of seminarians that will be going to General Cepeda in July. Fr. Cantalamessa’s talk last week in New Orleans was so blessed!

The Lord is asking a lot of our little missionary family. Be Faithful and Pray Hard, pray through the intercession of the Missionary Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Endure hardship for the sake of the Gospel.

Plans are underway for Faith Camp, and the Summer School of Missionary Evangelism, and World Youth Day, and Intake. A Come and See is scheduled here at Big Woods in a couple of weeks – pray that all those the Lord wants here will be here for Intake.

Pray for all our needs and finances for this work, pray especially that the Lord will provide for the poor and hungry we are sent to serve.

Pray for our Church to be a resplendent bride without wrinkle or stain or anything of that sort, all of us filled with the Holy Spirit, and evangelizing everywhere. Pray for the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Keep up your blog sites. Send your articles for Serve, which we hope to publish in mid-June.

Be Faithful,  pray constantly for all in the holy company; and pray for me that I may announce the Gospel as I should.

In Jesus,    Frank

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