The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerful missionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hands Up in Joy - and Joined Together in Prayer

Some 1,000 young people. Three questions.

Both were part of a children's Holy Hour that I was privileged to preside at this past Friday, October 7, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I stepped into the role when Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, who masterfully handled the event for the past two years, had to remain in New Orleans for the funeral of a beloved predecessor, Archbishop Philip Hannan.

There I was on live television -- calling to mind one of my own predecessors as National Director, Archbishop Fulton Sheen. This beautiful event, co-sponsored by our Holy Childhood Association and the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF), was broadcast to 140 countries by Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). (Connie Schneider, of the WAF's St. Paul- Minneapolis division, envisioned the Holy Hour, now nine years ago; she's a tireless and devout woman whose entire family -- husband and granddaughters included -- embrace a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother and a passion to help inspire Eucharistic adoration among the young. Television host Dawn Kinsman beautifully guided those in the Basilica and those watching -- and yours truly -- through the Holy Hour.)

Midway through, there are three questions from the children. The first two weren't too challenging: Why do popes give "golden roses" to our Blessed Mother at her shrines? I spoke of giving roses to our own mothers as a sign of love and respect, and I recalled being present in that very Basilica in 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI offered such a "golden rose," in that same spirit, to Mary, beloved Mother of us all. We even had the actual papal golden rose on display during the ceremony; complemented by another golden rose offered by the children themselves. (Who wants just ONE rose?)

The second question too -- about why we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary -- presented a natural response since we were celebrating the feast that day. Again, it was about mothers. Mary, our Mother, who knows and loves her Son, asks us and invites us to come closer to Him through praying the rosary.

It was the last question that invited us all to go deeper about what it means to come closer to Jesus, Our Lord. Sophie Smith from Cardinal Hickey Elementary School in Washington, D.C. asked about Pauline Jaricot, just a young girl in France when she longed to help the Missions of her own day, our own country included. How could children help mission churches today, just like Pauline did, Sophie asked?

Pauline was a missionary, I told Sophie and all. "Who else is a missionary?" I asked. "Get those hands up!" I encouraged, noting that everyone who is baptized is a missionary.

And there was the connection, as I saw all those hands in the air. "What can you do with those hands?" I asked the children. They could wave a kind hello to friend and stranger. On a bad day, we might clench our hand into a fist in anger. The hand can reflect the soul, which is why we need to purify ourselves constantly with the Lord's grace. And lastly, I suggested those hands could reach into pockets for a donation to the Missions. Some Catholics give by going to the missions; others go by giving to the missions. We are all able to one or both.

Or, I noted, we could all do what Pauline did. She reached out and created circles of friendship all around the world. She gathered groups to join hands in prayer and in support of missionaries the world over. Her efforts would lead to the foundation of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith (in 1822), the first of four Pontifical Mission Societies, and to the building up of the Church right here in the United States.

Immediately after, I asked the children to join their own two hands in prayer, before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, as we prayed together the World Mission Rosary. I imagined children around the world doing the same, as they watched the live EWTN broadcast – even in Russia this year. All those prayers -- all for the Missions.

Yes, sometimes the answers are in the questions -- hands down.

Father Andrew Small, OMI, STD