Continued Lesson from Gregory XVI

The good pope continues in his Probe nostis to praise the efforts of Catholics to Evangelize, to spread the Catholic faith, to win converts to the true religion. Why? Because Catholicism is a good. It is the gift of God to the world. And who loves the people in the world, that sit in darkness, will want to give this gift to the world. For Christ comes to his people through his Church, in the Gospels and in the Sacramental Action. And again, Christ calls his followers into unity, the unity of his One Body. Thus, both in terms of source of grace and truth and in terms of end, the Catholic Church is  necessary for salvation. Spreading its reach, winning converts, is love for the poor at its best. It goes without saying that all of this must not be done as means to a political end, to private goals and goods. No. It is for the good of the sinner, which each of us is. Hence, the method of winning converts must be a method of love, not force; of invitation not embarrassment; of gift not gavel.

Let us hear the Pope’s praise for all those who wish to accomplish this loving mission:

6. We are thankful for the success of apostolic missions in America, the Indies, and other faithless lands. The indefatigable zeal of many apostolic men has led them abroad into those places. Relying not on wealth nor on any army, they are protected by the shield of faith alone. They fearlessly fight the Lord’s battles against heresy and unbelief by private and public speech and writings. They are inspired with a burning love and undeterred by rough roads and heavy toil. They search out those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to summon them to the light and life of the Catholic Religion. So, fearless in the face of every danger, they bravely enter the woods and caves of savages, gradually pacify them by Christian kindness, and prepare them for true faith and real virtue. At length they snatch them from the devil’s rule, by the bath of regeneration and promote them to the freedom of God’s adopted sons.

7. However, We are reduced to tears both of sorrow in Our detestation of cruel persecutors and executioners, and of consolation in beholding the heroic constancy of the confessors of the faith, as We recall here the glorious deeds of the new martyrs in the Far East. We have already praised them at length in an address to the consistory. Tonkin and Cochin are still wet with the blood of many bishops, priests, and faithful. They have repeated the achievement of the early Christian martyrs in facing a cruel death for Christ undismayed by torture. This is a major victory for the Church and for religion. It casts the persecutors into confusion when they see that even today the divine promises of unending protection and help are really fulfilled. This is the reason why, in the words of St. Leo: “the religion established by the sacrament of the Cross of Christ cannot be destroyed by any kind of cruelty.”[2]

8. These events bring consolation and glory to the Catholic religion. But there are other grounds of consolation for the Church. Pious organizations are developing for the good of religion and Christian society. Some of these assist the work of the holy apostolic missions. God, who ceaselessly protects His Church, raises up within it new societies as times, places, and circumstances require. Under the Church’s authority each society in its own ways devotes its full energy to works of charity, the instruction of the faithful, and the spread of the faith.

9. Likewise a source of joy to the Catholic world, and a wonder to nonCatholics, are the many widespread sodalities of pious women. Under the rule of St. Vincent de Paul or in association with other approved Institutes, they are remarkable in their practice of the Christian virtues. They devote themselves entirely either to saving women from the way of perdition, or to training girls in religion, solid piety and the tasks suited to their state in life, or to relieving the dire want of their neighbors with every assistance. No natural weakness of their sex or fear of any danger holds them back.

10. A similar cause of joy for Us and for all good men are those groups of the faithful who recently have begun to meet regularly in many cities, especially the larger ones. Their purpose is to combat bad books with good ones written by themselves or others, displaying purity of doctrine instead of foul forms of error and Christian gentleness and charity instead of insults and attacks.

11. Finally We must praise most highly the well known society which is constantly expanding, not alone in Catholic territories but even in the countries of non-Catholics and unbelievers. This society enables the faithful of every class to help the apostolic missions and to have a share themselves in the spiritual graces of these missions. We are referring, as you realize, to the famous Society for the Propagation of the Faith.