These were crisis times for the Church. The initial years of the Revolution saw everything possible done to destroy the “superstition of religion.” Churches had been destroyed, religious and priests put to death or expelled. Napoleon had stopped the destructive persecution but controlled the Church and its activities. Now in the restoration of the monarchy, the Church was free and had to make up for the destruction of the previous 25 years. People were generally ignorant of their faith and its practices, and those in the country villages were even more abandoned than those in the cities. For this reason the “shock therapy” of the missionaries had to be prolonged and deep.
The missions will last not less than three weeks, in contrast to retreats which may be for three or eight days, but never more than fifteen days.
1818 Rule Chapter Two, §1 article 9
Missions may be prolonged for a month or longer, but never more than six weeks.
1818 Rule Chapter Two, §1 article 10
The length was necessary in order to assure a complete and profound adult catechesis to instruct the people, and to work at their conversion to bring them to a deep and meaningful participation in the sacramental and prayer life of the local church and to change the quality of their lives and social relationships. The basic time was three weeks, but with the possibility of adding up to another three until the missionaries were satisfied that their efforts had taken root.
Today in our superficial and ever-changing world, I ask myself whether our evangelisation goes deep enough to really make a difference and take root in the lives of people. Three to six weeks was a long time – but nature teaches us that there are no instant plants. Just because I say something does not necessarily mean that a seed has been planted.