Q: How do I become a Missionary of Saint Thorlak?
A: To become a Missionary of Saint Thorlak, it is necessary to study the principles of the way of Saint Thorlak (as outlined last week), and then commit to putting these into action in your daily life, wherever you are.
The three fundamental steps are:
Each step connects to the next in a continuous chain:
PRAY [Relationship with God] -> CONTEMPLATE [Relationship to self] -> RELATE [Relationship to others]
PRAY: Each Missionary needs to be open to daily prayer. There are so many aspects to this one concept alone that we might discuss, but for now, what we require is a regular effort to be in touch with God, the One, True God of the Holy Trinity. Everything we do must begin, be experienced, and end with an active awareness that God is present (as we pray), is eager to know us for who we truly are (as we contemplate) and is eager to greet us in other people (as we relate).
You will note that we do not mention prescribed words or prayer quotas. We feel prayer should cultivate an intimate relationship with God. Just as people don’t use scripts in human friendships, there is no single formula when it comes to experiencing God. It must be a spontaneous, genuine and deeply personal experience, as individual as each one of our Missionaries. For some, this is reading; others, song; others, memorized words recited in the comforting rhythm of praise. Others prefer completely impromptu thoughts, remarks and recollections along the activities of the day.
Some people have not spent much time thinking about God. Some have no real idea what God is all about. Some feel God is unapproachable, or judgmental, or distant. All of that is okay, so long as you call this your starting point. All we ask is that you get to know God, so that He can get to know you.
CONTEMPLATE: Our Missionaries need to be learners: thinkers, artists, ordinary workers, puzzlers, dreamers, improvisers, makers and doers. The key is to approach our learning with wonder, not as a chore, always finding the end in discovering something about God and His designs – and how these relate to who we are, and who God created us to be. Whether our concepts are quickly understood or slower to make sense, they can still be pondered, imagined, tested and considered across the situations we experience each day. We do not memorize and move on; we seek to uncover the principles of spiritual nourishment in as many settings as we can.
Please note: Some people are very comfortable studying things, and others are not. There is just as much beauty in simplicity as there is in complexity. “Learning” takes countless forms. We are confident that, if you have the desire to be one of our Missionaries, you are already able to learn and contemplate; how else could you be considering our Missionary work in the first place?
RELATE: By definition, all missionaries are sent out to connect with others. In the manner of St. Thorlak, however, we specifically use Matthew 18:20 as our Missionaries’ guiding principle. It is written that when he was appointed prior over the brothers of the monastery at Þykkvibær, Iceland, St. Thorlak “at once ordered their life so beautifully that it was remarked by wise men that they had never seen such good conduct where there had been a regular life for so short a time as there.” Later, when he became Abbot, St. Thorlak “began anew to hold a remarkable rule over the brothers over whom he was set. He commanded them to maintain love and concord between them and explained to them how much was at stake, since the Son of God says that wherever two or three gathered together in his name that he would be among them” (The Saga of Bishop Thorlak, p. 7). Matthew 18:20 brought something remarkable to the brothers at Þykkvibær, and we want it to bring something remarkable to our Mission: God Himself. When we connect with someone else [relate], we share in their ideas [contemplate] and bring God present to us [pray].
And, that’s it. That is how to become a Missionary of Saint Thorlak.
We just have to stop and ask – really – can there possibly be a more rewarding Mission than to bring God Himself to the people around us, simply by letting Him greet us in them?
As yet, we do not have any more formal structure than this. A “Guidebook for Missionaries of Saint Thorlak” will be available for download in the near future, as will “A Manual on Spiritual Starvation.” These can be used individually or in small groups, and will be designed to be locally available and self-directing.
The Mission of Saint Thorlak is meant to be accessible to anyone, anywhere. It is a way of approaching the life we live, in whatever our circumstances are, in wherever our geographic location happens to be. The digital age has greatly helped make such causes possible. It may well be that we grow to a point where we have a centralized headquarters and a large staff, and that one day we will resemble other missionary outfits from around the world. Our organizational structure is less important to us than putting our message to work. All we need to begin is two or more people in any given place, bringing God present there. The fundamental simplicity of a voluntary humility mindset allows us to get right to business. If it makes the positive impact we expect, we are prepared to expand with our numbers. Why make things more complicated than they have to be?
We have no intention of stopping short of solid establishment and long-term success. Formal structure will continue to take shape as our Mission grows; you can be assured of that. For now, though, spiritual starvation remains a real problem… and we’re not willing to wait any longer.
*This question refers to the Active Missionaries of Saint Thorlak. If your circumstances prevent you from being an Active Missionary, you may wish to help us as a Domestic Prayer Missionary of Saint Thorlak. To learn about this very much needed aspect of our ministry, please see this link.
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