A Small Religious Speculation

What if…

The Church’s missionary efforts looked like this:

  • Start with building a smallish but beautiful chapel within the Church’s traditional architectural language.
Image result for Church of Saint Joseph in Zalipie village, Poland,
Along these lines?
  • Assign 2 canons to make sure that the liturgy is celebrated beautifully and consistently, as it has been best celebrated for centuries:
Like these guys, maybe?
  • Then build a multipurpose building nearby, but not too nearby. (Building A should be clearly distinguishable from Building B.) This building will serve as a base for all the Church’s activities that flow from and are directed toward the Eucharist those two guy up above are making sure gets reverently celebrated.
Image result for african clinic building catholic
This would do.
  • Then staff this facility. Note the order is very important, as it carries and communicates the truth that the Church is commissioned with spreading: that Jesus Christ we commemorate and Who is among us in the most powerful and direct way in the Eucharist has died and risen that we might be saved. AND that we therefore must love one another as we love ourselves.

Of course I’m ignoring a bunch of stuff here, such as how much more effort it takes to set up something like this instead of just sending missionaries out to celebrate Mass on a colorful native blankets spread on Mother Earth, and that the people being proselytized will not (at first) understand what is going on, and that if this were put into practice, many fewer (at first) missionary churches would be established. And I’m rejecting outright the idea that the message – of God’s sacrificial Love and our need for salvation – must be in any material way shaped for the particular audience. I’m making the radical assumption that people being people, and all of us needing saving, that this message doesn’t really need to dressed up in local garb in order to be digestible. Instead, I’m recognizing up front that the Way is weird and foreign and potentially off-putting no matter who you are. I’m rejecting the idea we’re going to go easy on it at first, make it seem just like what people are used to, only to spring the full horror/brilliance/dazzling Love on those same people at some future point. (Right? We’re planning on doing that at some point?)

Anyway, I’m just a nobody who hasn’t done anything, let alone been a missionary. I don’t even really know what is being done (except that mass on a blanket thing – got that from a missionary order’s magazine). Nonetheless, I can’t get away from what I expect would be Paul’s reaction to all this, the greatest missionary of all time and the man who tried to cut through the nonsense of the 1st century by declaring: “I preach Christ, and Him crucified!”

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

4 thoughts on “A Small Religious Speculation”

  1. The bit I’ve read about mission work, starting with St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, gives me the impression that most folk around the world are acutely aware that there’s SOMETHING wrong with their lives, and are amenable to being told that what they’ve been doing about it was the wrong approach, but rejoice, God has showed us the right way. Those peoples we tend to think of as primitive have usually been the most receptive to the gospel.

  2. The principle “cultural accommodation” the Apostles made, as far as I can tell, was to preach the Gospel in the local languages, carrying forward the blessing (and principle) of Pentecost.

    1. Right. I would expect missionaries to do as they have always done, and learn the languages of the people they are proselytizing. Beyond that….

      I was speculating on what missionary work might look like if one took the Church’s official position, stated in the catechism, at face value: that everything the Church does flows from and is directed toward the Eucharist. If that’s the case, then the first thing any missionary effort would do is ensure proper and consistent celebration of the Mass. The Eucharist is where the Incarnation is made real, and the salvific act of the God made Man is made immediate. That’s what we’re preaching. That’s the Christ to which we are to go and make disciples of all the nations.

      It is also good to recall how utterly foreign and outrageous the Church’s claims are, regardless of the culture of the people hearing of it. It’s a little like people getting worked up over the multiplication of the loaves or the virgin birth, as if those miracles are not mere trivia compared with the miracle of the Incarnate God. It’s all weird and dazzling and alien. Cultural accommodation, if any, would have to be considered within the context of these mind-blowing truths. They can’t help but be trivial.

  3. My grandparents were missionaries and did exactly that. Except that the church wasn’t anything particular in the architectural sense, German Lutherans rivaling the Scotts for… Thriftiness.

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