Two days ago, I received this urgent text message from a young priest friend overseas: “Dear Mary, one of our students is admitted in the hospital due to jaundice. Got a call from his principal. I told him to go ahead with his treatment. Please pray.”
The following morning, Father wrote: “He is in need of blood. So I am connecting people to donate blood for him.”
By that evening, two donors had traveled to the hospital for the needed transfusion. Nine-year-old Prasad was out of danger. The missionary who had helped save him, was the same who rescued the poor boy in India from a child labor situation last August, by enrolling him in school. A circle of friends in the U.S. took special interest, and covered the lad’s tuition costs.
Missionaries are optimists and advocates for the weakest: the very youngest and oldest, the most abandoned, the impoverished, and everyone in between. They are the ultimate people lovers, because they cherish Christ first, then seek to embrace Him in all they meet. I’ve admired their fiery hearts and active lives from the time I was little, devouring missionary magazines like St. Anthony Messenger and Maryknoll, that Mom scattered around our house.
I am so blessed to have missionary friends. I write and podcast about their needs through various outlets, including Worldview Wednesday pieces for CatholicMom.com and Missionary Moments for Deacon Tom & Dee Fox’s podcast, Catholic Vitamins.
I had a beautiful time at the Catholic Writer’s Guild/Catholic Marketing Network conference last week in Schaumburg, connecting with missionary-minded authors, publishers, retailers and religious. I met Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com, for the first time in person. She and 15 other CatholicMom.com writers (including myself!) from across the United States and even Ontario, helped launch the new Ave Maria Press book of reflections: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections. Lisa first asked me to write Worldview Wednesday pieces three years ago, welcomed my contributions to the ebook Amazing Grace, and invited me to contribute reflections to her and Sarah Reinhardt’s new Prayer Companion. Yes, the missionary spirit is alive and well in the world today.
Besides the great chance to make new friends and develop as a writer and speaker through various workshop sessions, the four-day conference in Schaumburg offered spiritual uplift through Eucharistic Adoration and Confession. I ducked out of a talk one afternoon to answer a phone call, and had the unique experience of a Eucharistic procession led by candle-carrying Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal and Fr. Andrew Apostoli, suddenly emerging off the escalator and processing by me. The group sang “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” as it headed toward the ballroom to prepare for our Mass.
Some of the most touching moments of the conference, were gathering for Mass daily, concelebrated by Priests for Life’s Fr. Frank Pavone, Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Fr. Andrew Apostoli and Marian of the Immaculate Conception Fr. Donald Calloway, among other concelebrating priests.
Near the altar, flanked by flowers, stood an image of the 85-year-old newly-martyred French priest, Jacques Hamel. We prayed for the repose of his soul. I found myself rerunning the scene of his martyrdom in my mind, grieving that no one could save him. By all accounts, Fr. Hamel was a gentle, well-loved soul in his neighborhood. What a terrifying world, when such a sweet figure is attacked in his Mass and beheaded, by those purporting to do God’s work. Lord, have mercy.
I found a sympathetic ear from Fr. Apostoli in the confessional. I emerged smiling, with a burden relieved. Some days prior, I had also expressed my stress over world events to my missionary friend in India. He responded thoughtfully after I had described my sadness and had asked him the ridiculous question, “Have you been following the news?”
Of course, he read the news. He prayed over it, daily. We must continue to pray when horrible events unfold across the world, he said. We must look to performing faithfully and well, our unique vocations and roles in the world. And we must never lose hope.
Thank God, that He calls us to such a sweet and simple approach. Frs. Pavone, Apostoli, Calloway and others and scores of laity, too, heroically model such hope world-wide. Thank God for every hidden missionary and hero, who spreads Christ’s message of renewal and unconditional love.
Just fresh from my conference this week, I received further uplift from my friend “Fr. V.” He had just admitted Prasad to the hospital, found blood donors, visited with the young patient and simultaneously hosted a family festival at his little mission. He responded to my concerns that he was overburdened and up all night: “Everything under control,” he texted. “God bless you…God always protects me in my need.”
Copyright 2016 Marianna Bartholomew