A few months ago, I would have never considered myself a missionary. All this changed, nonetheless, thanks to a divine rebuke I perceived during a small gathering at the missionary house. Dr. Ian Murphy, a Catholic speaker and author, came to speak about his own experience with missionary work and his personal faith journey from an atheist to a Baptist pastor to a now vibrant and outspoken Catholic. The missionaries and many other Basilica parishioners or Source supporters (aka the Source Force) were also present. Imagine the upper room with some tea, chicken nuggets and random assortments of snacks. Dr. Murphy looks around the room and says how happy he is to be with missionaries again. As I prepared to correct him and say, “I’m not a missionary,” I experienced the most strong yet somehow gentle internal divine rebuke within myself. I never said the words and just sat in that feeling, pondering what this might mean (a tip I learned from Mama Mary). After the talk, I decided to go to take a trip to the perpetual adoration chapel to probe into this further.
Praying in the small adoration chapel, in front of our Lord, I asked how He could possibly consider my life to be that of a missionary. I’m a veterinarian, with student loans, a nice home that I rent, and definitely not the image of poverty or a simplistic lifestyle. I work at a job like many where Jesus is not typically discussed and I’m not witnessing any radical conversions. I asked the Lord to reveal more to me because I doubted this title for myself.
The next morning I pulled into work in South Baltimore on a frigid morning. I carry hand warmers in my car during the winter to pass out as needed. A man approached me and asked for money. I offered him some hand warmers, which he so gratefully accepted. I felt called to ask his name, and it was Ian. The same name as the professor from the night prior! A name that I wouldn’t say is the most common of names.
I pondered this encounter, struck after my time in prayer the day prior. And I could not help but reflect on St. Therese of Lisieux, my confirmation saint. She resonated so deeply with me because her life was so simple outwardly but interiorly she so deeply offered even the simplest tasks for God’s glory. She had bold dreams of being a missionary in these great external ways but the Lord called her to complete the ultimate mission of extending His love through her everyday life, which has now inspired the world.
Realistically, the devil doesn’t want me to realize I am a missionary. He wants me to forget any higher calling and believe in a consumerist culture where I am just another cog on the money-making machine. Listening to him, I can convince myself that there is no deeper calling within my job, which is just a means to an end–just as if the apostles settled to be fishermen but did not believe Christ’s call to be fishers of men. He wants to distract me by looking at the “results” of my efforts, and forget my ultimate call to receive and respond to Christ’s love. And by accepting these lies as truth, I limit my own potential, narrow my view, and create my own self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because what would the world look like if all of us lived truly as missionaries? What if we lived our lives every day for a higher purpose? What if we like St. Therese emphatically proclaimed that our vocation is to love?
If we are a baptized Catholic, we are missionaries and we are called to live as such. Does this mean that every person is called to give everything away and move to Cambodia to share the gospel? Probably not. Let’s look at what Mother Teresa, patron saint of Source of all Hope, said. When accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, she said, “And if we love, naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, our next door neighbor, the country we live in, and the whole world.” If we first allow ourselves to be filled with the love of God, our love will naturally spread to others. It cannot be contained. It will fill our home and expand forth. This is a mission we can start here, today, with you.
We need all types of missionaries–the radical ones that move to the ends of the Earth and the Source missionary who befriends those on the Baltimore streets. But also the exhausted mother who can’t keep her eyes open in adoration but still shows up, the retired veteran who feels forgotten but continues to come to daily mass, the immigrant who trusts in God’s providence in his or her flee from violence, the homeless man who still finds hope and praises God in the midst of his poverty, and yes, even the 30-year-old veterinarian who just tries to love well. The love that God seeks, the love that satiates His thirst, the love that catches fire, is the love that continues to show up and seek His face even when we can’t see the fruit. It is not for us to judge the mission field we are placed in or our perceived results. It is only for us to love the Lord first and to thereby extend this love to others. This is the ultimate mission–to give our “yes” each day to what is placed before us, regardless of the results, trusting that the Lord will bring forth the fruit.
Months after these realizations, I felt the desire to write an article like this for all those that love Source or other missionary work but are not the “typical” missionaries. Because the truth is that we are missionaries and we are called to live our lives as such. That may not be the same as others but God still calls and equips us for a unique mission in a field that we were specifically made for. So welcome to the mission of leading souls to the gift that you have found in Christ. We are happy to have you.