Have you ever had the feeling that someone is watching you? I don't mean in a creepy way; just that someone was looking over your shoulder. Maybe to tap you on the shoulder when you're about to make a mistake. In my case, maybe to put their arm around my shoulder and their hand across my mouth to keep me out of trouble!
I've felt that presence for many years, assuming it was my Guardian Angel. It was soon after starting this ministry, that I felt that my companion may be none other than the founder of The Society of the Propagation of the Faith, Pauline Marie Jaricot.
Now, don't get me wrong. I've never been on the receiving end of a verifiable miracle. I've never experienced a vision of her. I have come to believe that many of the occurrences that I like to call "Godincedences" in my life have been inspired by Pauline.
In first grade, I was given my first mission bank -- a Mite Box -- and heard stories of the world's children whose lives were so difficult and didn't know how much God loved them. I was not the most pious child to be sure, but this struck me as too cruel. All those hardships and no knowledge of Christ's sacrifice? Surely, I could DO something! Someone whispered, "Yes, you can."
Years later, as I had children, I remembered the stories of all those babies who went without the sacraments that my children would receive. This unsettled me in a way I couldn't put into words. (Alright, for those who know me, that's a miracle!)
It was then that I was formally introduced to Pauline, as foundress of the Living Rosary; members pray a decade of the rosary daily, not knowing where the others are recited. Dues go to the missions. Now, "her" voice said: "You can do more!"
Once invited into the mission ministry, I learned more about Pauline and her vision for founding The Propagation of the Faith. She saw two oil lamps: one empty, one full. The full one was the missions with its rich stories of growing faith. The empty one was secularized France whose faith Pauline saw as running dry. As the full lamp spilled into the empty one, it never lost its volume. The mission stories retained their power to revitalize the faith of others.
Now, Pauline's truth was shouting at me.
For twenty-three years, I have told the stories of the missions, praying that even one person's faith will be increased. As Pauline is beatified on May 22, may her voice shout to millions: "What does it matter except that Christ be made known?"
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.