Missionary work is by no means easy work. But Father James Mallon of Halifax believes Catholics shouldn’t do missionary work. Instead they should be mission. He addressed the national convention of the Catholic Women’s League in Halifax about how this is accomplished. What exactly does it mean to be mission? How does one - pardon the pun - do this?
Fr. Mallon proposes that there are four approaches that individuals, parishes and even CWL councils fall into. Most are good examples of how to NOT be mission. They are:
This attitude can be described as the belief that in order to be relevant to society and the wider culture, the church must embrace that culture. However, this approach to spreading the Church’s message presents the risk of putting the culture at the centre of the church’s activity instead of the Word of God. It is vital to “distinguish between the content of faith and the way of communicating it,” says Fr. Mallon.
Given that there is often a disparity between what the Church believes and what the rest of the world believes, it is tempting to take on a permanent defensive position. The pitfall here is developing a tendency to only look at what’s wrong with the world and even the church. This accomplishes nothing.
For some even opposition is just too much, too confrontational. The preferred approach insead is to withdraw from the wider world and live within a Catholic bubble. The big risk with this is that one’s faith becomes little more than personal piety. As Fr. Mallon put it, “it reduces the Church to a club that only serves its own members”
If accommodation, opposition and withdrawal are all counterproductive to the mission of the Church, then clearly engagement must be the preferred stance to take. Instead of trying to engage the culture itself, we must engage the people who are part of the culture. Here the parable of the Good Shepherd becomes a great way of understanding this: sheep have a tendency to flock. Where one goes the others will eventually follow. So, engage one “sheep”, help that person meet Christ and find fulfillment, and the rest will follow. This also means that most parishes and local church organizations will have to radically review what they do. One key question to ask: “Are we more attached to what we do or how we do it?” and from that follows the question “what is our purpose?”
Those questions were on the lips of CWL members for the rest of the day in Halifax. Yes those question should be asked constantly by parishes, church groups, and above all individual Catholics everywhere.