By Melissa Wheeler
“We can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to our one human family.” This quote from Pope Francis’s 2015 Lenten Message reminds us that during the Lenten season, we are especially called to pray, fast and give alms for those in need both in our local community and abroad. CRS Rice Bowl brings this message to life this week in the example of literacy and hunger programs in Laos and the life of St. Francis Xavier.
Laos is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. With a population of about 7 million people, this landlocked nation lacks the infrastructure to support the development of its people through education and health care. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) works with the Laotian government to provide free lunches for schoolchildren, training for teachers and principals and nutrition training for families. Parents volunteer to cook the school lunches and are provided with a monthly ration of food. Your contribution to CRS Rice Bowl helps to fund programs like this one thousands of miles away. The Gospel message of love, peace and justice comes to life for us when participating in programs such as these. This missionary message is as old as the Church herself.
We read in Acts of the Apostles that apostles were to be sent to the ends of the earth to spread the message of the Gospel. St. Francis Xavier is a marvelous example of this missionary spirit. In the 1500s, after shedding his wealthy roots, Francis committed himself to a life of poverty to more fully devote himself to the love of God. Francis was ordained a priest with Ignatius of Loyola. A few years after the ordination, the two men found themselves in front of the pope. There they were formally recognized as members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.
St. Francis Xavier then embarked on the life of a true traveling preacher. Francis would eventually travel through India, the Philippines and Japan. Imagine that kind of travel in the 1500s. In each place, Francis lived among the people amidst their culture and traditions to proclaim the message of love, peace and justice.
All of us may not be able to travel the world as a missionary like St. Francis Xavier or develop programming in the developing world to provide for people’s basic needs, but we can support those who do through prayer and almsgiving. This week, take time to prayerfully examine your life to see how you proclaim love, peace and justice. Who proclaims love, peace and justice to you?
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