No, you’re not seeing things! My regular “Monastic Musings” feature in the magazine has changed to “Missionary Musings” for the time being, because, prior to being a monk, I spent seven years in my twenties as a missionary with The Montfort Missionaries, also known as The Company of Mary, an international Roman Catholic Religious Congregation dedicated to the establishment of the Kingdom of God under the patronage of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Founded at the beginning of the 18th century by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, it numbers just under 1000 priests and brothers, who carry out their mission in around 30 countries of the world.
The word ‘missionary’ comes from the latin verb mittere (mitto, mittere, misi, missum), which means to send out. So a missionary is someone who is literally ‘sent out’ to do the work of God in far flung and sometimes very dangerous places.
In my own time as a Montfortian I was sent out to Nicaragua and to Chile where I saw active service under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. On one occasion I was arrested and put in prison, on another occasion I was held at gun point, on yet another I ended up face down on the road as bullets ricocheted all around me. Never in my life had the saying of Jesus felt so real – “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves”! Terrified as I was on those scary occasions I found much of my missionary work very exciting; I was young, full of adventure and this was a wonderful way to live a religious life.
It’s not just missionaries who are ‘sent out’ to do the work of God. Every baptised Christian is ‘sent out’ to take the compassion of God and the love of Christ to the world in which they live. At the end of every Eucharist the President of the Liturgy says: “Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. That is our own personal commission to go and be missionaries, to incarnate the upside-down kingdom of God, to spread light where there is darkness, hope where there is despair, love where there is hatred, inclusion where there is exclusion, tolerance where there is bigotry.
Wherever you find yourself this summer, remember whose you are, and what, by baptism, you have been called to. And may you shine as brightly as the sun as you make it known by your love and example that you belong to Christ.
With every blessing