Missionaries help keep people, church healthy and holy, pope says

By Carol Glatz

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Missionaries do enormous good for the world and the church by bringing God’s love to the far corners of the earth and by keeping the church healthy and fruitful, Pope Francis said.

Missionaries, who leave their homes and even risk their lives, “have done immense good for the church, because once the church stops moving and becomes closed up inside herself, she gets ill, she can be corrupted, either by sin or that false knowledge separated from God that is worldly secularism,” he said in a homily Oct. 12.

The pope presided over a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica as a celebration of thanksgiving for the canonizations of Sts. Marie de l’Incarnation and Francois de Laval, two 17th-century French missionaries who were pioneers of the Catholic Church in Canada.

Pope Francis declared the new saints April 3 without requiring the verification of a miracle through their intercession or holding a canonization ceremony; instead he used a procedure known as “equivalent canonizations.”

St. Marie de l’Incarnation was a French Ursuline who travelled to Quebec in 1639 and is known as the Mother of the Canadian Church; and St. Francois de Laval, who arrived in Quebec 20 years after St. Marie, became the first bishop of Quebec.

More than 300 people came from Canada to take part in the mass, which was concelebrated by bishops and priests from the archdioceses of Quebec and Toronto. Many parishioners were part of a pilgrimage that stopped first in France to visit cities and places connected with the saints’ lives.

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec at the conclusion of an Oct. 12 mass of thanksgiving for the April canonization of two 17th-century Canadian saints. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope praised the new saints, saying “they inspire us to imitate their faith” and offer encouragement “at a time when we are experiencing a scarcity of labourers in the service of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis said recalling the lives of so many men and women who endured so many challenges and hardships will help bring strength and confidence to today’s Catholics living in cultures that make living and sharing the faith more difficult.

Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto told Catholic News Service Oct. 13 that everyone can find inspiration in the heroic missionaries.

People love heroes, especially young people, but most of “today’s heroes aren’t that wholesome,” he said.

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, Que., said, “each one of them was a hero of evangelization in their creativity, in their attachment to the Gospel and in their love of the people that they met.”

They both came from France, leaving everything behind “to live the Gospel in absolutely new conditions with hardly any resources,” he told CNS Oct. 8.

“Everything had to be created” from scratch as they found new ways to preach the Gospel, said the archbishop, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new saints serve as a model for people today to find new ways to “preach the Gospel, which does not change, in today’s culture,” he said.

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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