Growing up, one of my most prized possessions was my Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. One of those massive volumes you see (or used to) at the library, it was very expensive, and my grandmother bought it for me so that I could look up pronunciations for the words in my Spelling Bee book. Before that my father had to go to the library and spend an entire day using their copy!
I lost my dictionary when my house burned down, but it had been years since I’d needed it, the Internet having taken its place as the ultimate reference tool. But I still have that impulse to look up words, especially when I’m seeking inspiration in my writing.
As I sat down to write my piece on Mission, with many ideas already swirling in my head, I looked up the meaning and history of the term, to confirm what I thought I knew: that mission comes from a Latin word meaning “to send.” Why do I know this? Because many priests have mentioned it in the context of explaining that the final words of the Latin Mass: “Ite, missa est,” should be interpreted as a charge to the assembly, that we are being sent forth to do God’s work in the world.
And I was right, but, as always, the dictionary (in this case vocabulary.com) added to my understanding. For example: Mission comes from a Latin word that means “to send.” It was first used by Jesuit missionaries who sent members of their order overseas to establish schools and churches.
Wow! I was excited to learn that the original sense of Mission was religious in nature. And the first two modern-day definitions retain some of that connotation. Here’s the first one: an operation that is assigned by a higher headquarters.
Again, wow! There’s no “higher headquarters” than God, y’all. And just as He inspired those first missionaries to spread His Word, so also does He have a mission for each of us today. Just read the second definition: a special assignment that is given to a person or group.
That’s right, He has a special assignment for each of us! As a group, our earthly mission is universal and obvious (if you are a well-catechized Catholic, anyway!): to know, love, and serve Him. But we also have individual missions according to our gifts and our stations in life.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, born Edith Stein, stated that “. . . human development is the most specific and exalted mission of woman” while she also made it quite clear that women’s motherliness was not “limited to the physical wife and mother relationship” and that “there is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman.” So we all have lots of options! And we can have more than one mission in life, or over the course of our lives.
Originally I had planned to write about blogging as mission, which is a topic that is close to my heart. But this past week my mission as wife and especially mother has been more on my mind as I launched one of my children into the real world, sending him off to start his first real job 3,000 miles away from home.
As parents, we don’t always think of what we are doing as a mission. We are too wrapped up in the day-to-day stress of trying to do the best job we can with what we know at the time. We can only hope that we are equipping our children with the foundation they need for fruitful lives: love, faith, knowledge. We give them our best and then we send them off to follow their own path.
My son doesn’t know what his mission is yet. He’s excited about new opportunities and is ready to work hard and learn, that’s all. He’s still sorting out the details of life in a new city, and I love that even though my job is largely done, he still asks me for help with some of the details.
Like yesterday, when he asked me to change the delivery address of a package I had bought for him, since he is working so much that he would never be home to receive it. Maybe it’s superstition, or maybe it’s a sign, but I got a chill when he texted me the address of his office–on Mission Street.