What is a Popular Mission? The Popular Mission is simple way to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the People of God. It is the fulfillment of Christ’s missionary mandate: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
As part of our formation as religious of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, the seminarians carried out 5 popular missions during this time of our semester breaks. These were in Tanauan (San Isidro Chapel), Cavite (Chapel of St. Isidro Labrador, Kawit) and Caloocan (Church of Our Lady of Lujan, Bagong Barrio), in the Philippines and Wufeng (Church of St. Joseph) and Taiping (Church of the Incarnate Word) in Taiwan. These intensive exposures to missionary work is a crucial aspect of our formation as religious of the Incarnate Word who are aiming to be missionaries.
A group of religious and priests work in a parish for one or two weeks, they visit the families and the sick of the community; organize activities such as recreational activities for children and youth, prayer (adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Holy Rosary), processions in the neighborhood, confessions, the presentation of a doctrinal point, controversies, etc. The priests administer the sacraments and preaches the homily during the main event, the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Church each day.
Together, the processions with the recitation of the Holy Rosary, the celebration of the Holy Mass and the hearing of confessions and the doctrinal point and controversies form what we call the Missionary Act.
The Mission begins with the solemn commissioning of the missionaries and the presentation of the missionary crosses and the official sending of the missionaries, authorizing them to proclaim the Gospel to all.
The missionary’s day begins with a dawn procession with the recitation of the Holy Rosary and an hour of Adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Here he gains his strength and renews his purpose and orients the entire mission.
Another key component of the Popular Mission are the house visitations. The missionaries, in teams of 2 or more and sometimes accompanied by a local guide, tries to visit all the home in the area allocated to us.
During the house visits, we inquire about the need for the sacraments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, the Anointing of the Sick, etc and move them to request for the sacraments and make preparation to receive them and to bless the houses of the faithful and to offer some catechetical instruction. We also invite the people to the other activities in the parish, chiefly the Holy Mass and the doctrinal catechesis.
The home visitations are important in the effort of the New Evangelization. There are many Catholics who are not fervent in practicing their faith and the visits serve as a stimulus to call them back. This was a main thrust of our visitations in the Philippines. In contrast, in non-Christian countries where Catholics only form a minuscule fraction of the population, the home visits serve to reinforce the faith of these often elderly and infirm Catholics and ensure them of the support of the Church. Such was our mission in Taiwan.
Each afternoon, there are also missions for youth and children, and also catechetical instruction for those preparing for the sacrament. The Youth mission consists of some games, followed by a catechetical talk, a presentation, watching a video or a group discussion, all with the idea of letting the youth be more informed about their faith and how they can practice it in their lives.
The children’s mission comprises songs and games as well as simple catechetical instruction, which is age-appropriate.
Every evening, there is another procession, with the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the praying of the Most Holy Rosary. There is also a day dedicated to the Most Holy Eucharist during which a special Eucharistic procession takes place.
The Eucharistic procession featured four stations prepared by the people in the four corners of our assigned area in order to bring the Blessing of Our Eucharistic Lord to all the people. Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel ended the procession.
Following the procession, there is a presentation of a doctrinal point followed by a controversy, involving questions and answers on the disputed point. The main part of the Missionary Act comprises the Holy Mass, with the Missionary Sermon, a crucial catechetical component of the Popular Missions, exhorting the people to conversion. Also, each day was dedicated to a special theme, such as a day for the departed souls, days of families, pregnant mothers, etc. where a special blessing is given.
The Mass was followed by performances and skits, with a moral message put on by the missionaries. There also songs and other cultural presentations to give a festive and eutrapelical atmosphere to the missions.
In Taiwan, we had a special outing with the children to a mountain for an outing and took advantage to visit a Church ministering in particular to Aboriginal Catholics, dedicated to the Chinese martyrs. The elements of the Church as well as a brief presentation of the Chinese martyrs were presented to these mainly non-Catholics children who attend our after-school program at the Church of St. Joseph in Wufeng. Another special event there was the Family Day, where we gathered the families for some fun and games and ended with a presentation of the Third Order of our Institute. We also visited a Prison and a Home for the Disabled.
An interesting element of the Kawit mission was a dialogue, between St. Peter and St. Paul regarding the effects of the mission and the interruption of Satan, loudly protesting of his presence and power in the mission area. Finally, Satan was vanquished by the power of Christ and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, called upon by Sts. Peter and Paul in their distress, a call taken up by the participants in the procession. The symbolic burning of Satan was a very visual moment for the people, and formed a fitting representation of the spiritual reality accomplished during these days of mission and served as a reminder to the people of the Enemy who they need to be aware of and constantly reject. Satan continues to prowl like a roaring lion, waiting to devour souls.
The Popular Mission is an excellent way to materialize Christ’s call to mission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28: 19-20)
One of the important goals of the mission is to encourage the people to request for the Sacraments, particularly, baptism and First Holy Communion. During the period of the mission, catechetical instruction was given to the parents and Godparents of those receiving baptism and First Holy Communion as well as the candidates for First Holy Communion themselves.
The purpose of the Popular Mission is the conversion of sinners. “It calls to the conversion of the heart, which is the return to the truth and friendship with God for those who have lost the faith and grace due to sin, it calls to a more perfect life, excites religious fervour in souls, encourages to live the Beatitudes and awakens priestly and religious vocations.” (John Paul II). We are convinced that God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). We are committed to work for men’s salvation through Christ.
To great edification of all, there were 144 baptisms in Tanauan and over 40 in Kawit with almost 100 first Holy Communions given in both places. To consider that in Catholic Philippines, in just these two small locales entrusted to the missionaries, there were still so many faithful who lacked the sacraments, we can see the urgent need for missions, for missionaries and for more vocations as indeed the harvest in great, but the labourers are too few.
The popular Mission follows the missionary mandate of Christ, which is well expressed by St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort who says that it is a “renewal of Christianity in believers” and St. Alphonsus Liguori, says that “the purpose of the missions, is the conversion of sinners.”
St. John Paul II teaches that the popular Mission “is effective when … it drives conversion, that is, to return to the truth and friendship of God to those who had lost faith and grace through sin, called to a life more perfect to the Christian routines, fervor in souls, convince to life the beatitudes, and the bring vocations to the priesthood and religious life”.
The principle governing all missionary activity of our Religious Family, as its foundation, being revelation of the God’s salvific will is the rule that Paul made to his disciple Timothy, Bishop and Missionary: “God desires all men be saved and to come to knowledge of the Truth”. The holy missions ended with the solemn prayer of exorcism over the place of mission and the Blessing of the Mission Cross. This is a large wooden cross inscribed with the year of the mission and with a reminder “Save Your Soul”. The cross is placed in front of the chapel where the Mission was held as a reminder to the people of the mission and their eternal home that is awaiting them as well as to sanctify the entire place and consecrate it under the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.