Missionary discipleship fundamental to priestly vocation

Published 17 September 2013  |  
(Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)
The Bishops of England and Wales met with seminarians and staff from across the country at Walsingham on Saturday 14 September

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, has encouraged seminarians to see themselves as missionary disciples.

He was speaking at a meeting of the bishops of England and Wales with seminarians and staff from across the country at Walsingham on Saturday.

Similar meetings were held at Oscott College during Pope Benedict's visit to the UK in 2010 and the first anniversary of his visit in 2011 at Westminster Cathedral.

In his homily, Archbishop Nichols stressed that missionary discipleship was the fundamental vocation of all priests.

He echoed the ideas of Pope Francis in describing himself as a "missionary disciple", as he reminded the seminarians that regardless of the different circumstances they could find themselves in within their parishes, the message of the Gospel and their duty to share that remained the same.

(Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)
Archbishop Vincent Nichols

"A few days ago, I found myself travelling in a silver Mercedes to Canary Wharf for a meeting with leading figures in the financial and business world. I kept thinking to myself 'What am I doing here?' What do I know about questions involving the regulation of the finance industry?

"I also thought that I should be in a Ford Focus - or even a battered old Renault 4 - heading off to one of the many economically deprived parts of London.

"But then a phrase came into my mind, from the summer World Youth Day and reading. It consoled me, and also gave me a sense of identity and purpose as Canary Wharf drew near.

"The phrase is one often used by Pope Francis to describe our fundamental vocation, a title given to us in baptism and lived out in our own particular vocation. I am a 'missionary disciple'. That is what I am and why I am in this car.

"Why I am there? What have I to say? Who do I think I am? A missionary disciple charged with the message of the Gospel."

He reminded the seminarians that no matter how uncomfortable it could be, they were called to go where the Lord wanted them to be.

However, he encouraged them to see that their first calling was not to fulfil a particular role, but "to be in the Lord's company".

"'Being with the Lord' is a journey and it is the heart of this discipleship," he said.

"It is a life-long journey, a daily journey, full of moments of intimacy and joy, marked with moments of darkness, doubt and, of course, real failure. This is our daily focus, even in the back of the silver car: to be with the Lord, to open our hearts to him, to simply let everything else fade away because without him we can do nothing."

It is this 'being with the Lord', he said, that could fuel believers for their mission and experience the mercy that they are called to minister to others.

(Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said the calling of a missionary disciple was one of lifting up the Lord and serving others

Reflecting on the meeting with business leaders in Canary Wharf, he told of how the ideas of virtue and trust he had shared with them had been well received.

"I am called to focus on the world of plenty and the world of poverty – two key defining features of London," the Archbishop said.

"And in those worlds there may not be much public acknowledgement of the truths contained and proclaimed in our Christian faith. But there is a quiet openness to them which we have to know how to enter."

He spoke candidly about the challenges that accompany being a missionary disciple and the times of despondency that can come with taking up the cross, but encouraged them to find their strength in Christ.

"As disciples, bishops and priests act with divine authority to be sure. Yet that authority is God's gift only so that we may be servants, slaves of those for whom we are ordained," he said.

"There's no place in our discipleship for arrogance, only that humility which causes us to follow Jesus to the Cross, to lay down our lives for others.

"You know well that this is no easy calling ... sometimes raising up the standard of the Cross is very hard. It is heavy, very heavy, with the burden of the flaws and failures of our human nature. We can do it only with Him."

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