National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Mission Sunday and Caesar Tuesday

BY Tom & April Hoopes

October 12-18, 2008 Issue | Posted 10/7/08 at 2:51 PM


Sunday, Oct. 19, is the 29th Sunday (Year A, Cycle II) in Ordinary Time and is World Mission Sunday. Pope Benedict will travel to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompeii, Italy. He will say Mass at 10 a.m. and lead the Rosary at 5 p.m.

Family offers help for Catholic families under its “Resources” section.

October 19 is the feast of the North American Martyrs, a favorite of ours. We love to go to Auriesville, N.Y., and visit the shrine there. Here are a group of men who gave everything to Christ in what must have seemed, to them, a totally hidden way. The fruits of their work were uncertain, as the tribes of Indians they sought to convert remained outside the faith. The suffering they endured was horrific. But in the face of it all, they stayed utterly loyal to their mission. Find the story of St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brébeuf and companions at the Faith & Family Live! website.


The movie The Mission (1986) has its flaws, but it remains a visually stunning, superbly acted and moving story of the sacrifices of Jesuit missionaries among Indians in the New World — a good stand-in for the North American martyrs’ story. Some caveats:

1. With children, beware of the early subplot about adultery and vengeance; not much is lost if you simply block the screen and fast forward.

2. The film shows what our film critic Steven Greydanus calls “ethnographic nudity.” Be forewarned that there is nudity of the National Geographic variety throughout.

3. The violence will be judged inappropriate for many children, but it does show the suffering faced by missionaries.

4. The movie does not tell its story clearly. Read the plot summary (find one at out loud a couple of times before watching — this is necessary for viewers, regardless of age.

5. The film doesn’t hesitate to show the imperfections of Catholics, even members of the hierarchy, in its day. We explain to our children that in the 18th century, Catholics who rejected Church teaching about slavery gave the Church a bad name that hurts us to this day. In the 21st century, many Catholics support or turn a blind eye to abortion. When society turns against abortion in the future, and it will, non-Catholics will criticize the Church of our day in the same way.


Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalms 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-10; First Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21 offers free homily packs for priests.

Our Take, in its “Opinion” section, includes the editorial “Voter Traps.”

The best modern commentary on today’s Gospel is in Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). It happens to be an extremely important reminder in this election year, so we quote it here at length:

“Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (Matthew 22:21), in other words, the distinction between Church and state, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere. … The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.

“Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. … But this presupposes an even more radical question: What is justice? …

“Here politics and faith meet. Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God — an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. … Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly.

“This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: It has no intention of giving the Church power over the state. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just. …

“The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the state. Yet at the same time, she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet, the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.”

At the Register’s website, find the editorial “Voter Traps,” which explains how Catholics can help fulfill their civic duties not on “Mission Sunday” but on “Caesar Tuesday” — Election Day — in this crucial year.