One of the notable issues which failed to emerge in a significant way in the recent nationwide consultation of Catholic faithful was the Missionary Outreach of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Along with the Environment, Social Justice, Ecumenism and Inter-faith dialogue, and the Sacramental life of the Church, Missionary Outreach apparently drew little attention. Yet there are still many Irish missionaries and networks of laity supporting today’s missionary activity. Aid agencies such as Trócaire and the Irish Church’s outreach for development are also well supported. Perhaps the absence of these vital topics in submissions may come from the scarcity of contributions from young people who are the most likely to be excited by them. Whatever the reason the Missionary Outreach of the Church remains a litmus test for its spiritual health and energy. The Gospel message has been given to share not hoard. The seed must die, we have been told, in order to live. When the patroness of the missions St Thérèse of Lisieux discovered her vocation she wrote:
I knew that the Church has a heart, that this heart burns with love, and that it is love alone which gives life to its members. I knew that if this love were extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, and the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches out through all the ages, and to the uttermost limits of the earth, because it is eternal.
Love, the saint said, does not cling to itself but reaches out. The many pressing issues before us should never obscure the truth that the Church, in the words of Pope Francis, continues the mission of Jesus in history ‘to touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies and cultures in every place and time’.
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