Prayer is at the heart of being a missionary. In John 15 as Jesus is giving his final teaching to his apostles he reminds them, just before they are sent out on their mission, that they must stay close to Him if they are to have any fruitfulness in their mission.
“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
Not most things. Not some things.
The Church gives us two patron saints of missionaries that model for us holiness and zeal in their mission. These great saints of the Church who had tremendous fruitfulness in their missionary zeal give us a model for how we are to continue to pray too.
St. Therese of Lisieux
St. Therese of Lisieux, who lived most of her short life in a cloistered convent, is one of the two patrons of evangelization and mission for the universal church.
Therese had developed such a zeal for souls, a deep desire that others would come to know Jesus in the same way she did, that she offered up every prayer, every ounce of the tremendous suffering that she had for the whole world to come to know Christ.
“All my strength lies in prayer and sacrifice. They are my invincible weapons, and I know, by experience, that they can soften the heart much better than words” -St. Therese of Lisieux
When Therese learned of a convicted murderer who had been sentenced to die, but showed no repentance or remorse, she began immediately to pray for his conversion. She prayed that God would send her some sign that he had repented.
After his conviction, she read in the newspaper that just before he was executed, he took a crucifix and kissed it three times and asked for forgiveness.
This beautiful story reminds us that our prayer is the essential first step towards all of our evangelization efforts.
St. Francis Xavier
The other patron saint of missionaries has a slightly different story. He was one of the original members of the Jesuit order, founded by his friend, St. Ignatius of Loyola. After joining,by request of the Pope he was sent to India to evangelize there. He ministered to the sick, to children and began to spread the faith everywhere he went. He built hundreds of churches and baptized hundreds of thousands of people.
While St. Francis Xavier had a tremendous impact through his missionary work, it’s important to remember that his mission, and the mission of the Jesuits was rooted in abandoning oneself to God’s will. This is exemplified in the Suscipe, the famous Jesuit prayer written by St. Ignatius.
“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.”
These two saints could not be more different, and yet they are both patrons of Evangelization for the Church - and both rooted their missionary work in prayer. God calls each of us to evangelize, but he doesn't call any of us to do it the same way. The primary thing required of each of us is to follow his command to “remain in me”.
As you continue to respond to God’s call to be a missionary disciple, remember to root all your efforts in prayer.
Looking for more resources on prayer? Check our these great books!
Time for God, Fr. Jacques Philippe
Meditation and Contemplation, Fr. Timothy Gallagher O.M.V.
WRAP Yourself In Scripture, Karen & Lawrence Dwyer
Praying Scripture for a Change, Dr. Tim Gray
Prayer Primer, Fr. Thomas Dubay