Looking At Misericordia: Missionary and Pastoral Spirit

Christ the King Almada

Pope Francis addressed the Curia last month just before Christmas. It wasn’t the barnburner of 2014, but a reflection on the word “misericordia,” or mercy. The Holy Father also suggested that his listeners could add to this for some kind of personal completion.

When I reviewed it, I felt it a valuable resource for my parish ministry. Over the next few weeks, every few days, I’ll offer a series of posts here. Maybe you see something that suits your ministry, or the responsibility of relationships, even in the family, or something else you might be called to examine during this Jubilee. If so, feel free to comment.

1. Missionary and pastoral spirit: missionary spirit is what makes the Curia evidently fertile and fruitful; it is proof of the effectiveness, efficiency and authenticity of our activity. Faith is a gift, yet the measure of our faith is also seen by the extent to which we communicate it. All baptized persons are missionaries of the Good News, above all by their lives, their work and their witness of joy and conviction. A sound pastoral spirit is an indispensable virtue for the priest in particular. It is shown in his daily effort to follow the Good Shepherd who cares for the flock and gives his life to save the lives of others. It is the yardstick for our curial and priestly work. Without these two wings we could never take flight, or even enjoy the happiness of the “faithful servant” (Mt 25:14-30).

This is clearly not for the Roman bureaucracy only. A missionary spirit is also what makes a parish fruitful. Likewise, the baptismal life of the ordinary believer. What exactly is a missionary spirit? My interpretation would be a person who looks outward. This happens on a few levels.

First, that a baptized believer isn’t concerned as much about her or his own comfort, but looks outside the self. A missionary spirit may be in evidence by acts as simple as holding a door, ceding a place in line, or serving food to a friend first before taking one’s own.

A parish might be thinking about how to give away a tithe of ten percent, more or less, regardless of the perception of constraints as they might appear on the budget ledger. And more, the food purchased is hand-delivered to a location. And people work to assist the unloading, storage, prep, cooking, and serving of the food to the needy. Just one example.

Interesting that Pope Francis speaks of two wings of the church leader: reaching beyond one’s flock as well as caring for one’s own. As a family man, I consider this. Do I keep a balance between professional life and home? Does one leave me “too tired” to do the other? How many good believers get bogged down in work, leaving no energy for spouse and children? Or how many people are focused within the four walls of the home and have nothing to give the stranger, the hungry, the imprisoned, the refugee?

Finally, Pope Francis mentioned “daily effort.” Some might zero in on that adjective, and think of something to do every day. Others might note that a true missionary spirit results in a person who makes a true effort, a commitment of physical exertion and presence as well as a sacrifice of personal time.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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