Love Without Measure
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) preached ‘the measure of love is love without measure’. The mission of the church as taught by St Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) is to love, and while it is a mission given to each one of us by virtue of Baptism the mission is radically fulfilled through fully dedicated lives of unmeasured sacrifice and giving.
In 2020, Vatican news agency Fides reported, 20 missionaries were killed including 8 priests, 1 male religious, 3 nuns, 2 seminarians and 6 lay people. From 2000 to 2020, 535 pastoral workers have been killed in the world, including 5 Bishops. In 2020, many pastoral workers were killed during robbery or theft. Some were kidnapped or were caught in crossfires or acts of violence. None of them were engaged in great missionary projects but simply shared in their small way the life of most of the people entrusted to their care, bearing witness to Christian hope in situations marked by economic and cultural poverty, moral and environmental degradation and where violence and oppression in total disregard for respect for life and every human right are a norm. In El Salvador, Father Ricardo Antonio Cortéz was killed by gunshots on the road on 7 August. In Brazil, Father Adriano da Silva Barros was kidnapped and his dead body found on 14 October. In Burkina Faso, a catechist was killed along with a group on 16 February, during an assault by jihadists on the village of Pansi. In March in Gabon, Sister Lydie Oyanem Nzoughe was attacked and killed in a home for abandoned elderly in Libreville where she was working. In Indonesia, the body of seminarian Zhage Sil was found in a ditch in Jayapura on 24 December. In Italy, Father Roberto Malgesini, working among the poor was murdered by a homeless man with mental problems in Como on 15 September.
Since the pandemic began hundreds of priests, religious, hospital chaplains, pastoral workers in the healthcare sector as well as bishops have died in Europe, many of them missionaries, who worn out by long years in mission lands amidst hardships and difficulties, have succumbed to the virus.
In his message for Mission Sunday Pope Francis quotes from the Acts of the Apostles; ‘We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard’ (4:20). During this month we celebrate and speak of the unmeasured love demonstrated by those who have given their lives and those who continue to put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel.
‘They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.’ (Psalm 126)
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