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Uncharted Territory: Weekly Message for 07-27-2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
On this day in 1549, the Jesuit priest St. Francis Xavier arrived for the first time in Japanese waters to begin missionary work (source). He had to wait until August 15th to enter a port. In his own letters, he speaks of how much work there was to do. When he began his missionary work upon arrival in Goa, a colony in India, in 1542 he said, “We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. No Portuguese live here—the country is so utterly barren and poor. […] I have not stopped since the day I arrived” (Letters to St. Ignatius, E Vita Francisci Xaverii, H. Tursellini (edit.), Romae, 1956, Lib. 4, epist. 4  et 5 ). In Goa, he faced Portuguese settlers who didn’t give good examples and natives who’d been baptized but hadn’t received any instruction or spiritual attention after that (source).
A few years later, while on mission to Malacca and the Maliku Islands, he met a man who had fled as a criminal from Japan, named Anjiro, whom he converted to Christianity, the first known Japanese Christian. He became interested in bringing the faith there. Two years later he arrived in the waters of Japan. The local leader (daimyo) welcomed him, but also forbid his subjects to convert to Christianity. Learning the language was difficult, and some of his European customs were frowned upon, requiring him to adapt. He worked a few years in Japan and founded a few congregations, but eventually, Christianity became persecuted, and believers were forced to go underground.
Traditional missionary work is summarized as proclaiming the Gospel and establishing the local Church. Our work as believers is not unlike that mission, although many of us live in countries where the Gospel has been proclaimed and the Church established. St. John Paul II spoke of the need for a “new evangelization” of Christians stuck between zero faith (unbaptized and unevangelized) and fervent faith (evangelized and living their faith): “there is an intermediate situation, particularly in countries with ancient Christian roots, and occasionally in the younger Churches as well, where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. In this case what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization’ “ (Redemptoris Mission, 33).
We’re all called to live and share the faith, and our situation is not that much different than the missionaries of old. Politics often seeks to shut us out or exclude us from public life, relegating the practice of our religion to something that stays in church or at home. The bad example of some Christians hinders our attempts to share the beauty of the faith with others. Speaking of the faith to our family and friends seems like we’re speaking a different language. Catholicism and Christianity are frowned upon, even culturally, and at times ridiculed. Like apostles and missionaries of old, we’re called to rise to the challenge, bolstered by the conviction that the Lord has loved us, saved us, and sanctified us. That Good News must be shared so that others can be loved, saved, and sanctified. We start by evangelizing ourselves and hopefully, the digital resources of RCSpirituality can help.
May the Lord guide you in the uncharted territory of your faith so that you live it, love it, and share it.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Maximizing the Mass