From the HouseTops, Catholic Magazine

Saint Benedict Magazine



A Treatise on Catholic Foreign Missions

by Rev. Joseph V. McGlinchey

All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth; going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matt. 28:18-20)

This is the origin of the great mission of the Church which reaches all people, all nations, all times; a mission entrusted to the Apostles by the Son of God, Who alone has all power in Heaven on earth. In view of this divine mission, the Church has the right and obligation to propagate the Faith everywhere and no one has the right to hinder her preaching. The freedom of the minister of the Gospel is the sacred and inviolable right of the Christian world, it is a power that is raised above every other earthly power. The word of God is not bound, says Saint Paul. (2 Tim 2:9)

It is evident that the mission given to the Apostles was intended for their successors from the very command of Our Lord to go into the entire world—to preach to every creature. In order to fulfill the will of Christ it was necessary that the commission given to the Apostles be transmitted to others, for the Apostles were not to live until the end of time. We see as a matter of fact how quickly the Apostles elected Saint Matthias to take up the apostolate of Judas the traitor. Saint Paul says solemnly to the bishops of Ephesus, Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God. (Acts 20:28)

The Catholic Church alone has the mission of leading all men along the road of salvation.

In fact, the Apostles, after they had received the Holy Ghost, and while they were preaching the Gospel, ordained bishops and deacons to whom they gave the same office which they had received from Christ, and they established a rule of succession of the ministry and of their mission. This succession of the ministry of the Church, this continuation of their mission is transmitted and communicated by means of ordination.

The great fact of the continuity of the Catholic Apostolate was solemnly affirmed by Pontiff Benedict XV [1921], in his Apostolic Letter upon the propagation of the Catholic Church throughout the world, Maximum Illud, which we quote.

“The great and sublime mission which our Lord Jesus Christ, just before returning to the Father, entrusted to His disciples in these words, Go ye into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature, (Mk. 16:15) was certainly not to terminate with the death of the Apostles, but to endure through the medium of their successors until the end of time, that is, as long as there would be men to be saved by the teaching of the truth. And, in fact, since that day when they went forth and preached everywhere, so that their sound went forth in all the earth and their words unto the ends of the world, the Holy Church of God, remembering the Divine command, has never ceased through the centuries to send out continually heralds and ministers of the Divine Word to announce the tidings of eternal salvation brought to the human race by Jesus Christ.”

Saint Peter is given the Keys of the Kingdom
Saint Peter is given the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

There is one difference between the ancient and the modern Apostles. The missionaries of our day do not perform miracles, because the proof of their mission has already been demonstrated. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His Apostles through their miracles have proven their mission, which is the same as that of their successors until the end of the world. The mission which the Church fulfills today is the same as that of Jesus Christ, Who promised to be with His Apostles and their successors until the end of time. If ever, and the case is impossible, this apostolic succession should be interrupted in the Church, a new mission, which must be proven by miracles just like the first, would be required. Miracles were necessary in the beginning of the Church because it was necessary that her foundation would appear what it actually was—divine. It was necessary that the marvelous propagation of the Faith should not be attributed to any of those human causes which exercise their influence upon hearts of men, like the genius, the science, the eloquence of the first preachers. Once the divine origin of the Church was demonstrated by miracles, men could not without fault refuse to follow its teaching.

The grandeur, the beauty, the nobility, the lofty character of this mission which Christ has given to His Church can hardly be grasped by our little minds. It is so sublime, that, a Msgr. Du Pont says in one of his pastorals, Our Savior has put His whole heart into it. As the Father has sent Me, He said to the first missionaries, so I send you. Go teach all nations. This mission is the channel through which the Christian Faith is diffused throughout the world; through this the doctrine and the treasures of grace brought upon the earth by the Son of God are communicated to all men; through this His Kingdom grows strong and is extended; through this the fruits of Redemption are gathered up. The apostolate is the continuation of Jesus Christ. In giving that which the Son of God gave, it works with a zeal which recalls that of the Son of God Himself. The apostolate is a series of prodigies. It conquered the Gentiles for Christ and continues in its work. When it began, the earth was a temple of idols; now, even if the false religions still dominate vast regions, everywhere His laws are known, His Kingdom is proclaimed; everywhere religion extends its influence and the civilization of the people flourishes in the light of the Gospel. 

Hence it follows that all men must seek eternal salvation
from the mission and through the ministry of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church alone has the mission of leading all men along the road of salvation. Neither Protestant missionaries nor those sent by other dissenting and separated churches have any authority to preach and evange­lize. Christ gave no other mission than that which He entrusted to the Catholic Church. Truth is but one, and the Catholic Church is the sole depository of this truth. Hence it follows that all men must seek eternal salvation from the mission and through the ministry of the Catholic Church. Their eternal destiny has been entrusted to the zeal and apostolic activity of the Church. Souls will be saved in proportion to this zeal and this activity of the Church in fulfilling her mission. The greater the solicitude of the Church in taking advantage of her strength and resources in the apostolate, the greater the number of souls that will be gained for Jesus Christ, the more effective and complete will become the Redemption.