October 2019 is designated as an Extraordinary Month of Mission. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops for the Amazon has distracted our attention from this other extraordinary celebration, but we should never forget the missions. This was impressed on me effectively during my childhood when we were asked to pray for the missions and to give some of our pocket money to support them. I remember the APF missions box in our hall; it carried a quotation from Pope Pius XII, “For there are none so poor as those who lack the knowledge and the grace of God.” That really impressed me with the importance of helping the missions.
Pope Francis asked us to observe this month as an Extraordinary Month of Mission in celebration of the centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud (1919) of Pope Benedict XV “On the Propagation of the Faith Throughout the World.” Pope Benedict XV was in some respects a tragic character. During the first World War he worked heart and soul to bring about a peaceful settlement. Sadly, along with Blessed Charles, the Austro-Hungarian emperor, he was unsuccessful.
It is all the more impressive therefore, that the same pope should have instituted an important reform in missionary activity just after the end of that terrible war. It behoves us to consider some of the principles of Pope Benedict’s letter and to learn from them.