Priests have the keys "to open" the missions
(Blessed Paolo Manna)
The special duty of priests for missions
From the Acts of the Apostles
Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.” So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8: 26-31a, 36-40)
From the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
“Priests, [...] are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship, so that they are true priests of the New Testament. Partakers of the function of Christ the sole Mediator, on their level of ministry, they announce the divine word to all.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 28)
“For those ministers, who are endowed with sacred power, serve their brethren, so that all who are of the People of God, and therefore enjoy a true Christian dignity, working toward a common goal freely and in an orderly way, may arrive at salvation.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 18)
“The task of proclaiming the Gospel everywhere on earth pertains to the body of pastors, to all of whom in common Christ gave His command, thereby imposing upon them a common duty.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 23)
“Since no one can be saved who does not first believe, priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all. In this way they fulfill the command of the Lord: ‘Going therefore into the whole world preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:15), and they establish and build up the People of God.” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4)
“The spiritual gift which priests receive at their ordination prepared them not for a sort of limited and narrow mission but for the widest possible and universal mission of salvation ‘even to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8), for every priestly ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles. The priesthood of Christ, in which all priests really share, is necessarily intended for all peoples and all times, and it knows no limits of blood, nationality or time, since it is already mysteriously prefigured in the person of Melchisedech. Let priests remember, therefore, that the care of all churches must be their intimate concern.” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 10)
“Priests [...] should fully understand that their life is also consecrated to the service of the missions.” (Second Vatican. Council, Decree on the Mission Activity on the Church, Ad Gentes, 39)
“Priests are called by virtue of the sacrament of Orders to share in concern for the Church’s mission: ‘The spiritual gift that priests have received in ordination prepares them, not for any narrow and limited mission, but for the most universal and all embracing mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth.’ For every priestly ministry shares in the universal scope of the mission that Christ entrusted to his apostles.’” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, n. 67)
“All priests must have the mind and the heart of missionaries - open to the needs of the Church and the world, with concern for those farthest away, and especially for the non-Christian groups in their own area.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, n. 67)
From the Writings of Blessed Father Paolo Manna
“The key to the missionary problem is in the hands of the priest, for he alone can and is responsible for animating, promoting and leading the great missionary movement among the unbelievers.” (P. Manna, Per una Unione Missionaria del Clero, Milan 1916, p. 9)
“There is no better or safer way to bring a truth to the minds and hearts of the faithful than through the priest, who alone has the authority to teach, and the influence as well. When he preaches and persists in inculcating an idea it is sure to be accepted by the faithful as a rule of conduct. Suppose that a hundred, a thousand priests espouse this cause of God and give regular instructions upon the missions: imperceptibly their spirit and their zeal will be caught up by the faithful, and we will have a hundred, a thousand more communities ready and willing to work with the Church in the interest of the apostolate. The weak point in the work of evangelization is not in the missionaries nor in the pagans nor even in the faithful… the weak point is to be found in the pulpit. When the missionary idea will have taken possession of the pulpit we shall have made great progress in missionary co-operation.” (P. Manna, The conversion of the pagan world. A Treatise upon Catholic Foreign Missions, translated and adapted from the Italian of rev. Paolo Manna, M. Ap. by rev. Joseph F. McGlinchey, d.d., Boston, Society for the propagation of the Faith 1921, p. 189)
“The people have not been instructed upon the great problem of the Church’s apostolate to the heathen, upon the progress and needs of missions in general. This instruction the priests at home can and should give, for since they are the ministers of the Gospel they are the natural ministers for such preaching. For this it is not necessary that they have visited the missions. No priest who preaches on heaven, purgatory, or hell has ever been there, and yet what eloquent sermons some can deliver on these subjects!” (P. Manna, The conversion of the pagan world. A Treatise upon Catholic Foreign Missions, p. 190)
“Of course, a priest inflamed with zeal for the propagation of the Faith is needed. He will frequently speak of it to the faithful and especially to the young men. He will spread mission literature. He will pray and get others to pray for the conversion of infidels, and for the multiplication of evangelical workers. He will transplant his spirit into the souls of those whom he directs. Would it be difficult for such a priest to discover among his parishioners some young men pre destined one day to become apostles of Jesus? (...) It is true that vocations come from God, but they are discovered and nurtured by human means which have been placed in our hands.” (P. Manna, The conversion of the pagan world. A Treatise upon Catholic Foreign Missions, p. 223)
Questions for Reflection
- How much do I feel responsible for missions?
- In my pastoral work, do I spread the mission literature? Do I collaborate with the Pontifical Mission Societies? Do I lead any missionary groups?
- How committed am I to missionary formation and animation among those I serve?
Lord, you wanted to save men and women and therefore you founded the Church as a community of brothers and sisters united in your love. Do not stop visiting us and calling those you have chosen to be the voice of your Holy Spirit, the leaven of a more just and fraternal society.
Obtain for us from our heavenly Father the spiritual guides our communities need: true priests of the living God, who, enlightened by your Word, will know how to speak of you and teach others to speak with you.
Look, O Lord, upon all humanity and have mercy on those who seek you through prayer and righteous living but have not yet met you: reveal yourself to them as the Way that leads to the Father, as the Truth that sets us free, as the Life that has no end. Grant, O Lord, that we may live in your Church with a spirit of faithful service and total dedication, so that our witness may be credible and fruitful. Amen.