Q: What do Missionaries of Saint Thorlak do?
* This question refers to the “active,” regular Missionaries of Saint Thorlak. To learn specifically about Domestic Prayer Missionaries of Saint Thorlak, please see last week’s post.
A: Missionaries of Saint Thorlak do everything we usually do in our everyday lives; except, we choose to pray, contemplate and relate to others in a manner inspired by the way St. Thorlak lived out the Gospel call, for the purposes of combating spiritual starvation in our circles.
Let us break this down further.
“Missionaries” are people who set ordinary things aside, going to specific places to teach and serve, driven by a “mission” to dictate the way they speak and serve.
The ordinary things we set aside as Missionaries of Saint Thorlak are our hesitance to need and our reluctance to act.
The specific places we go as Missionaries of Saint Thorlak are wherever there might be people who are spiritually starving.
Spiritual starvation can be found anywhere someone might feel disconnected from others. If we tried to narrow down our target area, it would be: the part of the world we live in, and the circles we interact with daily. Our target audience would be: the people we live around.
Our Missionaries pray – that is, have a solid relationship with God, speaking with and listening to Him regularly. We contemplate, meaning that we turn ideas over and over in our minds and hearts, imagining and wondering and discovering truths and applications and patterns within these ideas. We relate, meaning that we deliberately interact with other people in a carefully studied manner that fosters true spiritual connection. This last component is the crucial one which sets our Missionary work apart from our ordinary manner of thinking. We intentionally see in others the opportunity to learn from, and to be greeted by, God Himself, through them. We feed others by seeking spiritual nourishment from them, making ourselves available through offering our need.
To accomplish this, we need to make sure we place ourselves around others. We cannot be hermits. We cannot decline invitations. We cannot claim seclusion as our default; solitude must be something from which we sip, judiciously, only when we need to recharge and not to our excess pleasure. We do not require Missionaries to be outgoing, extroverted, confident or booked socially solid. Introverts and homebodies are just fine; in fact, the quieter among us are often very well suited to our Mission work, so long as they do not give in to the urge to be alone, or occupied, all of the time.
It is a great advantage that our Mission work can be done wherever we happen to be: in school, at work, with our families, with our neighbors, with people standing in line and in situations we have never been before. The key is to do what we do consistently, as a habit of life. Our Mission is ongoing. Nourishment lasts only a short while before it is needed again; there will never be a lack of need.
As we have said, our Missionaries take the time to study the life and teachings of St. Thorlak of Iceland for our own personal instruction. He found a way to live and act that was quietly, powerfully effective in feeding his spirit and the spirits of everyone, wherever he went – even though he had debilitating speech impairments and social anxiety. He was never miraculously cured of his autism. Instead, he consecrated it, making it the source of his need, and offering it to others, everywhere he went. The result was abundant, nutrient-dense spiritual fruit that eventually found him worthy of the title “Saint.”
Let us end with these points.
The Mission of Saint Thorlak is NOT:
-A cult following
-A fan club
-A role play or re-enactment group
-A religious sect
-A therapy program
-A special interest group
-A substitution for church or worship services
-Binding through laws, vows, pledges or restrictions
The Mission of Saint Thorlak IS:
-A way to grow closer to God
-A way to grow closer to others (even for the socially anxious)
-A way to combat spiritual starvation in the world
-A way to find good, nourishing fruit among the thorns of autism
Hmm. “The Mission of Saint Thorlak is a way.”
It is tempting to look at the litany above and ask why we are not simply “The Way of Saint Thorlak,” given that so much of our work is dedicated to prayer, contemplation and imitation. The answer is simple: We are more than just study and methods. We are contemplation PLUS action. We take what we learn about St. Thorlak’s way of combating spiritual starvation and apply it, here, today.
We are not just a way; we are a MISSION.
And we are unabashedly ambitious about it.
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak