This week's cover story looks at Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionary to China, in honor of the 400th anniversary of his death. In conjunction with that article we have reprinted "Matteo Ricci's Lesson to a Modern Missionary," from 1996. Mark White, a Jesuit novice at the time, reflected on Ricci's legacy in light of his own work in an inner city school:
Unfortunately, after two years working at a Jesuit middle school for inner-city boys, I have to face some facts. I have not been able to generate measurable results. I have worked till I went home practically weeping with exhaustion and frustration; yet the poor are still with us. The chaotic, dangerous world in which our students have to grow up has not changed. I have made some dear friends along the way among my fellow volunteers, teachers and students, but I cannot list my "accomplishments." Perhaps my presence has changed lives for the better; perhaps not. There is no way to know. Why have I done it? What, after all, have I done?
Matteo Ricci and those who followed in his footsteps into the dangerous and mysterious depths of Ming China knew where to look for the answer. They looked to Christ, to the ministry--the "accomplishments"of Jesus. Ricci's mission was so purely Christian, and therefore so elusive, that it mystified the pious bean-counters looking for mass baptisms in 1600 and it confounds the politically correct looking to expose cultural imperialism today. Matteo Ricci's "mission" was to make friends. That was his apostolate, as, by the grace of God, it has been mine. Nothing was more important then; nothing is more important now; nothing could ever be more important, because the Gospel, I have come to see, is truly shared only among friends.
Also, in honor of our Jesuit education issue, we are very happy to feature a video documentary on the street outreach program of Walsh Jesuit High School in suburban Akron, Ohio. Many thanks to Drew Marquard, a multi-talented Jesuit scholastic, for filming, directing and editing this documentary for us.