On the Call to Evangelize
"Christian Marriage Is Also a Missionary Vocation"
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Dear brothers and sisters,
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, in which the liturgy presents Jesus to us as the Good Shepherd, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated. On every continent, church communities are united in invoking the Lord to ask him for numerous and holy vocations to the priesthood, the consecrated and missionary life, and Christian matrimony, meditating on the theme: Vocations at the Service of the Church on Mission. This year, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2008 is framed within the perspective of the Pauline year, which will begin next June 28, to celebrate 2,000 years since the birth of the Apostle Paul, the missionary par excellence.
According to the experience of the Apostle to the Gentiles, who the Lord called to be a "minister of the Gospel," vocation and mission are inseparable. He is, therefore, a model for all Christians, in particular, for the "ad vitam" missionaries, that is, those men and women who dedicate themselves totally to announcing Christ to those who still have not known him: a vocation which continues to maintain all of its validity.
This missionary service is carried out, in the first place, by priests in offering the Word of God and the sacraments, and in manifesting the healing presence of Jesus Christ with their pastoral charity for everyone, above all for the ill, the little ones and the poor. We give thanks to God for these our brothers, who give themselves without reserve to pastoral ministry, sometimes sealing their fidelity to Christ with the sacrifice of their lives, as happened yesterday to two religious assassinated in Guinea and Kenya. To them we direct our thankful admiration, as well as our prayers for their souls.
We pray also that there be an increasing number of those who decide to radically live the Gospel through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience -- men and women who have a primary role in evangelization. Some of them dedicate themselves to contemplation and prayer, others to a multifaceted educational and charitable work. All of them, nevertheless, are united in the same objective: to give witness to the primacy of God over all and to spread his Kingdom in every sphere of society.
Many of them, as the Servant of God Paul VI wrote, "are enterprising and their apostolate is often marked by an originality, by a genius that demands admiration. They are generous: Often they are found at the outposts of the mission, and they take the greatest of risks for their health and their very lives."
Finally, it mustn't be forgotten that Christian marriage is also a missionary vocation: The couple, in fact, is called to live the Gospel in the family, in the workplace and in parish and civil communities. In certain cases, moreover, they offer their valuable contribution to the missions "ad gentes."
Dear brothers and sisters: Let us invoke the maternal protection of Mary for the many vocations that exist in the Church so that they are developed with an intense missionary character. To her, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, I also commend the special missionary experience that I will live in the next few days with the apostolic trip to the United States and the visit to the United Nations, as I ask all of you to accompany me with your prayers.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[After praying the Regina Caeli, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. This Tuesday I leave Rome for my visit to the United Nations Organization and the United States of America. With the various groups I shall meet, my intention is to share our Lord's word of life. In Christ is our hope! Christ is the foundation of our hope for peace, for justice, and for the freedom that flows from God's law fulfilled in his commandment to love one another. Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you all to pray for the success of my visit, so that it may be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans. Upon each of you present, I invoke the protection and guidance of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
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