Why do we go on mission? Today, the answer to this question is not by any means evident. A widespread mentality in many international organizations, which relies on various means of communication and even on film, sets radical oppositions that could become also our own. According to this mentality, all the religions are considered to be more or less the same, and if everyone is going to be saved, imposing Western visions and values would be considered an act of violence, a source of useless pain. Ultimately, those who do not know Christ have all that they need to live and live well.
So why do we go on mission? Why dedicate one’s life to proclaim that God became a man, Jesus of Nazareth?
To respond to these questions, I would like to recount three experiences.
Valeria is a girl from Taiwan, the daughter of entrepreneurs, who studied Italian at the Catholic University of Fu Jen where our missionaries teach. I recall a dialogue I had with her during one of the visits to our mission in Taipei. We were strolling between the stands in the street market near by our parish of Taishan. In some shops, the lights are lit day and night while in others, the owners pull the blinds and sleep in the same place were they worked the entire day. A life without no pause.
I asked Valeria what generates this kind of culture regarding work. She answered securely, without even having to think, “We Taiwanese, are very numerous. If one of these workers were to give up due to fatigue, he would be replaced within a second. There is a long line of people who are waiting, readily to take his place…everyone here safeguards the space that he has conquered and no one has pity on others.”
Father Cornelio is a missionary priest from Friuli, Italy, who is now advanced in years. I first met him some years ago. He is a hearty, cultured man, always very active. He still heads the religious community that he founded in Tanzania.
One day, I asked him to tell me about his missionary work. The most common religion in that rural area where he lives is a form of animism based on ancient occult rites. Christianity is spreading slowly. Everyday, Father Cornelio visits houses and shacks to meet people. The social fabric in which he has immersed himself is extremely wounded. “Men, in many cases, consider themselves and act like the owners of their family members”, he told me. “They treat their wives and children as if they were a piece of property. In various homes, I often find a terrible hardship, which everyone lives is if it were obvious…after many years, I understood that where the occult is practiced, even the most intimate relationships are without love.”
Last of all, the story of Chris, 42-year-old gentleman who has spent the last 24 years in a house of recovery in Broomfield, Denver. Our missionary sisters in Colorado told me about him.
From birth, Chris has severe spasms, which have prevented him from walking. He trouble speaking, but is very sharp. His father has passed away for some time, while his mother, after being divorced, has remarried with children. However, Chris rarely sees her. Almost nobody goes to see him. Last year, one of the staff members of the house of recovery pointed him out to our sisters, precisely because he was always alone. From then on, they began to see each other every week, and every time they come, he welcomes the sisters with joy. “Everyone looks at me and sees only the wheelchair. They all treat me like a 12-year-old”, he said. “However, they [the sisters] see something more in me.”
At Easter, he will be baptized. He says that in the Church, there is a love that he has never seen elsewhere, which he would not want to lose.
It is not true that those who do not know Christ have everything necessary to live. Christians bring something that everyone searches in various ways, yet are not able to find in themselves. Christians bring a novelty, a truth, and the sign of this novelty and truth are more humane relationships, marked by delicacy, fidelity, attention, and respect. This is why we consider so reasonable the invitation of pope John Paul II, which was given at the 30th year anniversary of the founding of Communion and Liberation. His words still describe the meaning of our life as missionaries: “Go out to all the world and bring the truth, the beauty and the peace which are found in Christ the Redeemer”.
In the picture: Fr. Paolo Di Gennaro, the pastor of the Church of Pastorelli in Alverca (Portugal), leads a moment of singing with a group of students.