United States of America: “Mission Territory”. Wherein Fr. Z rants.
Posted on 17 July 2012 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
For a long time the Church in the USA was under the aegis of the Holy See’s then Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, called now the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. This is why, for example, the seminarians at the North American College in Rome and at the Pontifical Seminary “Josephinum” in the USA wear the same cassock as the seminarians of the Propaganda Fide College in Rome. Mission countries were in many important spheres under the governance of Propaganda. That changed as the Church in the USA, “a Christian country”, was able to sustain itself.
Dioceses are declaring bankrupcy. Identity is crumbling. The decidedly post-Christian Obama Administration, with its anti-Catholic catholics such as VP Biden and HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, are viciously attacking our 1st Amendment religious freedoms.
Many years ago I was chewing the fat with an American bishop. I asked him, “What do we do to turn things around in the USA?” He responded, “The first thing we have to do is stop blowing happy gas!”
In sum, things are terrible. Yes, there are signs here and there of an awakening of Catholic identity, but things are simply dreadful, all in all. Maybe that is what we need: the Church grew from the seeds of the martyr’s blood drops.
On that note, I read with interest the comment by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia:
“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia . . . is now really a mission territory.”
Of course it is, Your Excellency! It has been for a long time!
What is encouraging is that Archbishop Chaput had the guts to say it and Card. Dolan of New Yorkopenly agreed.
If the USA is mission territory, then every US Catholic is a missionary.
But when have we not been?
Before His Ascension, Christ said “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20 Douay)
All Catholics are called to the sequela Christi, the following of Christ, to become holy, to be saints. We strive to become saints for ourselves, because we desire our salvation, but also for others, whom we have an obligation to help to salvation from love of God and neighbor.
Our Faith is for us, and our Faith is for others.
There is no authentic Catholic life without a mission to others. Even hermits and the cloistered are missionaries. The cloistered Carmelite St. Therese de Lisieux was named Patroness of Missionaries. If she was a missionary in her convent, how are we not all the more missionaries?
The Christian is called to holiness. The Christians is called to give witness. Christian witness is manifested first in the pursuit of holiness. Some are called to the special witness of the exercise of virtues in a heroic manner according to the circumstances and the opportunities which present themselves. Others are called to the outstanding but bloody witness of martyrdom. All are called to witness, however, for salvation is not just for ourselves alone. We are not islands. Unity in Christ necessarily means love of neighbor, which requires sacrificial love and choices that aim at the good of the other.
In this age which is ever more hostile to the Christian Faith and to “the Catholic Thing” in particular, how are we not being offered opportunities to give witness? Holiness is for ourselves, and it is for others. There is always an opportunity to be on mission in his Church Militant.
The rich modern West is mission country. Rich in material, at least for now, we are impoverished in spirit and in the spiritual.
May I now refer you back to my rant, tirade, jeremiad? My manifesto after the Notre Shame debacle?HERE.
Since Pope Benedict’s election I have thought that a principle aim of his pontificate is to revitalize our Catholic identity. Just as in the Marshall Plan the US rebuilt war-torn Europe to create good trading partners and foster a bulwark against Communism, so to Pope Benedict is trying to build a bulwark against the dictatorship of relativism through a revitalization of our Catholic identity. To my mind, and I think also to Papa Ratzinger’s mind – if I know anything about his thought – at the heart of what must be done to strengthen our identity is the revitalization of our worship of Almighty God.
Liturgical worship is the key and sine qua non for any rebuilding of our Catholic identity.
As I wrote in my aforementioned tirade…
I urge all priests and bishops who read this blog with any slight quaver of resonance or benevolence, to consider this with care:
If you sense that something quite serious and important is going on right now, for the love of God rethink your approach to how you foster Holy Church’s proper public worship.
Do all in your power and through your influence to foster a worship of God which conforms not to worldly goals – as praiseworthy as they may be in a world still dominated by its dire prince – but rather to the real point of religion: an encounter with mystery.
Our worship must become more and more focused on the one who is Other. Seek what is truly above in your rites and raise people to encounter mystery.
You will be challenged and reviled, blocked and attacked as you do. You will be worn down and afraid under the weight of resistance.
To save the world we must save the liturgy.
Holy Catholic worship will be an attractive force for conversion.
We need to foster worship which stuns, which leaves the newcomer, long-time practicing Catholic, above all the fallen-away simply thunder stuck. Worship must at some point leave people speechless in awe. We need language and music and gesture which in its beauty floods the mind with light even while it swells the heart to bursting.
The more people encounter mystery through liturgy, the more hollow will clang the false or incomplete messages of those who have strayed from the good path, either to the left or to the right.
Our goal must be that which is good and beautiful because it is true, that which reflects what is of God, not man’s image merely. Give us mystery, not fabrications smacking of the world, fallen and transitory.
Fathers, and you Reverend Bishops, if anything of alarm has sounded in your hearts and minds of late, rethink your approach to our worship. Examine your approach with an eye on the signs of the times. Take a new approach.
The approach we have had least last few decades isn’t getting it done. Really … it isn’t
Going neither left nor right along the road toward the Lord, even as He comes to us, take the flock now deeper, now higher on that path, but always to encounter the mystery which distinguishes truly Catholic liturgy… and therefore true Catholics.
Lines are being drawn, sides taken, choices made.
More than ever we need what Christ, the true Actor of our liturgy, desires to offer us through Holy Church’s worship.