Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Ask the Missionaries of Charity if you can interview them about their work. What they’ll tell you is something like this: “Well, we don’t really like to talk about our work — not in our own words. But you can come and watch what we do.”
There’s something profoundly right in their approach. It’s perfectly pitched with respect to how faith needs to speak and will be able to be heard in today’s culture.
It’s not that words don’t matter. But the Missionaries of Charity would rather let the words of the Gospel and the words of their prayers do the talking. And they want their deeds to speak loudest and last.
If you spend any time with the sisters, you’ll see that there’s no finer example of my episcopal motto in action: Serve the Lord with Gladness. The lesson is not just what they do — feed the hungry; it’s how they do it — with profound joy.
Over the course of the coming year, I’d like to focus our attention on people in the Archdiocese of St. Louis who serve the Lord with gladness. But I want to focus, in a special way, on those who do so at the peripheries. I’d like to do that first because I want to share my heart with you. Second, because Pope Francis has urged us to go to the peripheries. I think he’s on to something. Our culture is profoundly skeptical — people doubt whether the faith is true. But our culture is also deeply anxious – people would like to encounter the Lord. Perhaps we can best declare the truth of faith by showing it in action. And we can teach people that the surest way to encounter the Lord is by going to the peripheries. Show up to work with the Missionaries of Charity and find out for yourself!
Rather than simply speak about those who seek and find the Lord at the peripheries, however, I want to show them in action. That’s why every written essay will be accompanied by a photo essay as if to say, “Here’s the faith in words and deeds.”
Forty years ago, Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred in El Salvador. Two years ago he was canonized by Pope Francis. San Romero lived in the midst of political turmoil, but his response wasn’t political. It was to go to the peripheries, meet Jesus there, and speak from that place of encounter. And that’s why he was canonized. In the homily for his canonization, Pope Francis spoke of him as one “who left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters.”
That same faith animates the Missionaries of Charity. May that same faith animate all of us to go to the peripheries, and serve the Lord with gladness.