Missionaries of the Interior

St Therese of Lisieux would be 150 today if she was still alive. She was born on this day in 1873 in Alencon, France. But why would this be of interest to people today? Pope Pius XI proclaimed her to be the patroness of Catholic Action when Fr Joseph Cardijn took the JOC leaders on a pilgrimage to Rome in September, 1929. Pope Pius XI described all Jocists as “missionaries of the interior” and presented each pilgrim with a medallion in honour of St Therese of Lisieux, whom he had named as the patron saint of missionaries. 

St Therese had a missionary heart. She wrote in her journal, which was later published as Story of a Soul: “I would be a Missionary, not for a few years only, but, were it possible, from the beginning of the world till the consummation of time. ” She never left the Carmelite convent she entered. Her missionary work was done through walking with missionaries given to her as “brothers” by her superior. 

In 1937, Fr Joseph Cardijn preached at the Eucharistic Congress held in Lisieux. In his homily, he said “… may Saint Thérèse of Lisieux obtain that this National Congress, this Eucharistic Congress, facilitates a Eucharistic renewal among all workers in France and among all workers in the world for their own happiness and for universal peace.” The celebration of the Eucharist is essential to the life and work of all missionaries, including those whose mission is to those they meet each day in the workplace.

If we listen with a missionary heart to the Gospel for the Mass of January 2, then we will hear John the Baptist describe himself as “a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord” (John 1:23). He was quoting the prophet Isaiah. All prophets are apostles; they are sent by God to announce his kingdom on earth. This is their mission. Indeed, it is the mission of all who seek to follow Christ. Like the apostles we meet in the Gospel, like St Therese of Lisieux and like Fr Joseph Cardijn, we, too, announce through the way we live as disciples of Jesus, “make a straight way for the Lord.” 

Missionary work is not accomplished without preparation, without prayer and reflection. John the Baptist would have spent years preparing for his few short years of proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus spent thirty years preparing for his mission, which lasted just three years. He handed on his mission to his disciples, who also spend years preparing for their part in the mission. The Eucharistic renewal that Fr Joseph Cardijn called for during the homily he preached in the Cathedral in Lisieux on July 10, 1937 is the heart of the mission of all workers, indeed, of all people.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council described the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). This, then, must be the change that is sought by all missionaries, including those engaged in mission in the workplace. We seem so far away from this in Australia today, where only about eight percent of Catholics celebrate the Eucharist regularly. So, how do we change this? How do we “make a straight way for the Lord” in the workplace and in our homes? 

We start with ourselves, with our relationship with Jesus and what we share with him. How does going to Mass affect our lives? How does it show in our relationships with our family, our friends and those we meet and work with in the community? Here is a simple action that can be done at the same time each day: in prayer, join Jesus on the altar as he offers himself to the Father for all people for all time.

Pat Branson


Joseph Cardijn, Sermon at the Lisieux Eucharistic Congress 1937 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)