From the Jun 2000 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine
On May 18, 1998, the 78th birthday of Pope John Paul II, Curtis Martin, FOCUS president, spoke with the Holy Father following Mass in the Pope’s private chapel.
John Paul II listened closely as Curtis outlined his hopes for the future of FOCUS-that FOCUS could first reclaim college campuses and then the culture for Jesus Christ.
The Pope thought a moment and then gave a short, but memorable answer.
A Message From Curtis Martin
“Be soldiers!” he said. WHEN THE HOLY FATHER SPEAKS, I listen. Here, in two words, was his advice for the success of FOCUS. He didn’t say, “Follow Christ, embrace the Cross, or do everything in love.” He said, “Be soldiers!”
I don’t pretend to understand all that Pope John Paul II means by his advice, but I have thought long and hard about it. It is true that all Christians are called to a certain degree to be soldiers. We are to contend for the faith, to resist the devil, to put on the full armor of God, but I think the Pope had more in mind when he said, “Be soldiers!”
Although a person can do or be many different things, populations fundamentally divide themselves into two classes: civilian and military. Two things, I think, distinguish military from civilian personnel: (1) singleness of purpose and (2) training.
We at FOCUS do share a common vision, a singleness of purpose: to show young men and women on college campuses in the United States and throughout the world the beauty of Jesus Christ as revealed in and through the Catholic Church. However, an army can be fully united in goal and purpose and still fail miserably. To be successful, an army must be well trained and well equipped.
Before being sent out, new FOCUS missionaries attend the equivalent of boot camp: seven weeks of intensive and comprehensive summer training. They study
the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They learn to read and understand Scripture with the heart and the mind of the Church-and to teach others to do the same. They learn how to evangelize, how to defend the faith in a nonconfrontational way, how to disciple and to be discipled.
They learn about-and experience-the depth and grandeur of the sacramental life. They are taught the importance of discipline in their personal prayer lives and are called to lives of virtue and heroic generosity.
Even before a new missionary attends the summer session, his or her training has already begun. Most of our missionaries come from the ranks of college students who have been touched by FOCUS on their own campuses. Those students who show a real heart for the work are mentored by FOCUS missionaries and trained to assume positions of leadership within the FOCUS program in preparation for the missionary life, if that proves to be God’s will for them.
As long as a person remains a FOCUS missionary, training continues in various forms, one of the most important of which is the discipleship chain. Each FOCUS missionary is answerable to another, especially with respect to personal holiness. Although Pope John Paul II didn’t say, “Be holy!” this is a universal call, and without holiness FOCUS cannot hope to succeed.
The Holy Father also didn’t say, “Do everything in love,” but it is implicit in his call to be soldiers. Soldiers of this world conquer by force of arms, by destruction; soldiers in Christ’s army conquer by love, by building up. Our missionaries are trained to see Christ in every person and to respond in love to every situation.
I mentioned earlier that to be successful, an army must be well trained and well equipped. No army can succeed without the active support of its civilian population. It is here that we need the help of every Catholic. First of all, we need your prayers. Prayer is the invisible foundation upholding any successful Christian endeavor. Second, we need your financial support-whether it be a one-time gift, ongoing support, or a monthly pledge in support of a
missionary. The truth is, we are involved in a war. Although Christ is the victor, the battle is not over until He comes again. Call or write to the address below for information on how to fight for the winning side.
Yours in Christ,
Curtis A. Martin
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