TWENTIETH CENTURY MISSION
By a Chaplain to the Young Christian Workers The great need of the Church is an educated people who realise that they are the Church
IT we were to pass a light-hearted judgment on the present state of English Catholicism, we might say that as Catholics we became middle-aged before our time and by-passed that stage in our spiritual growth corresponding to physical youth. We grew prematurely old in mind and spirit because we failed to grow up. Spring passed us by.
By rights, when Mother Church cut her apron strings and crossed us off her books as a missionary territory (missionary in the geographical sense), we should have grown into a missionary people (missionary in the priestly sense). We didn't. We never got over thinking of missionary cl's something entirely associated with the foreign missions, and fastened on to the idea that, until God's Kingdom arrived. our life in the Church was just a filling in of time.
LEADERS FOR ALL
HAPPILY,' the youth fulness of the Church is eternal and we share with her a certain ability she has of endlessly renewing her youth, a process which always involves some measure of dying as far as her visible human structure is concerned.
As we might expect, contemporary society, of which she is the vital principle, throws some light on our problem. There are three aspects of it which bear looking into.
First, in our complex way of life the transition from childhood to young manhood has become a very protracted process, often lasting over many years: in a primitive society, for example, a boy becomes a man much more quickly.
Secondly, whereas in the first industrial revolution it was adequate that a literate people came into existence to run the new way of life, the present technological revolution and age of human relations in industry requires an educated people to ensure some measure of success materially and socially.
Thirdly, the old belief in a strong middle-class element in society, making for stability and providing the necessary leadership at the top, is now seen to be no longer valid, since true leadership is not imposed but grows from within at every level of society.
THIS advance in education reflects itself in a similar development in the Church. It is becoming obvious that a rhristian formation can not cease at school leaving age but must continue well into adolescence (the most formative years in life).
Again, the great need of the Church is for an educated people who are riot content merely with the external observances of religion but realise that they are the Church and are responsible for the making of the Church in society.
Finally, to carry out this leadership of love. the Church needs on every level of society a " leavening " group which maintains the Church as something organic and growing and corrects the spiritual middle-class attitude which is content with the mediocre and " security at al costs."
OR many years now the news item which follows has been the main diet for Catholic life.
A small country church had been tilled to overflowing with a large contingent of workers from a local camp. The parish priest, seeing that this might remain the state of affairs, suggested, half jokingly. that the men might build an extension. They took him at his word, started operations but, unexpectedly, were moved to another camp some distance away. Never thelcss, at no small sacrifice, they continued to come over at weekends and, in time, the extension was completed.
It is no criticism of their generosity to see in this " huilding " of the Church a commonly accepted view of the faithful that their responsibility for making her in the world goes no further than the offertory collection and the annual garden fete.
SHARING A GIFT
OUR Lord continually speaks of the Kingdom of His Father as a mystery: like any mystery of the Faith it can be " solved " only in the form of a vital act whereby we elect to receive it as a gift from God and to share it.
The Jews refused the gift absolutely but, as is suggested in the parable of the Wedding Feast celebrating the mystical marriage of the Word made flesh with the human race, there is always the temptation for those present to lay down their own terms for receiving the gift and to make a pretence of corning.
We have to be continually on our guard not to fall into the
WHEN I have visited Hawkesyard Priory I have always admired the statue of Blessed Martin Porres in the church there. It seems to me that it cleverly conveys the oneness of man beneath the colour of the skin. So I took an opportunity of photographing it. and as we shall shortly he celebrating the feast of the Beatus (November 5—Guy Fawkes Day; a good way to remember it!) I reproduce it.
RbCENTLY I met Fr. John J. Flanagan, manager of New Zealand's Catholic paper, Zealandia. He was doine a tour round the world on behalf of his paper, which suggests a prosperity considerably greater than anything we in Fleet Street can reach. We discussed the respective merits of clergy versus lay-owned Catholic papers, and while perhaps we disagreed on this question. we found ourselves in cordial agreement with the plan which some American Bishops have adopted. It is the simple one of ordering the parish priest to take as many Catholic papers as there are parishioners. Then it is up to the P.P. to drag the money oat of the congregation. I ought perhaps to add that in these cases the owner of the paper is the Bishop!
Old and new
TN the summer exam. papers in a Catholic school in the North, one question was : " In the olden days, who looked after the sick when there were no hospitals ? " A nine-year-old boy's answer was .Grope captins." That is what comes of reading a Catholic paper in the home.
danger of usurping a Kingdom which is not of this world by making it conform to our own limited. self-sufficient standards.
Where we so often appear to do this is in restricting the missionary character of the Church to her foreign missionary apostolate. In our minds we see the Church as two separate personalities and, by mistaking a part of her for the whole. we fail to see thather missionary character is of her very essence.
The Church is missionary because she is Catholic, and she is Catholic because of her inborn capacity of raising up into unity with God every human person and every human value.
With our aptitude for putting things into watertight compartments we don't easily discover, for example, that the method of the Young Christian Workers adopted by the Church to bring back the masses of young workers throughout the world to Christ was fashioned, long before Mgr. Cardijn discovered it, in the " laboratory " of the Church, the foreign missions; or that the researches carried out in the workers' apostolate to bring realism to the liturgy and to make it a source of nourishment and a missionare force in the lives of working boys and girls have brought liturgical enrichment to the whole Catholic world.
It is the one Church in Africa or in the West End of London, and the Law of her growth is essentially the same whether she is bringing the life of God to a pagan tribe or to a gang of so-called Teddy Boys.
A FULL LIFE
A S the sun awakens the inborn qualities dormant in the seed and brings it to its full flowering so, too, the Church with the spiritual impetus of divine grace awakens io fulness of life whatever she finds actually present whenever she appears among humanity.
When she appears in Africa it is Aot to impose something alien on the Africans: it is to help them to become fully African. She will come to understand the chief means whereby they express themselves; their art, for example, through which they interpret the world in which they live. The Church, seeing into the heart and essence of created things, recognises what lies behind the singularities of this art, its spontaneity, its sense of spiritual movement, its power to suggest the spiritual through the material; it respects it, reverences it, and then inspires the African artist to greater achievements on his own original lines.
With the Teddy Boy her method is the same; she respects the original elements she finds, for she is in touch with the Creator of them Himself, and strives to reveal to her subject the truth as incarnate in him; she never imposes, never tyrranises, never impoverishes; always she develops and enriches.
She is unique in that she has no department labelled " spare parts." The world may talk of types, classes, categories, masses : the King speaks of a people, of numbering the hairs of one's head; for Him everyone is unique and irreplaceable. The King brings His glory and the nations their treasures.
BY missionary, therefore, is meant not just establishing of the Church in some pagan land, for one can foresee the time when the Church ceased to be missionary in this sense; nor do we mean a direct teaching mission to the unconverted by means of talks, articles in the Press or half-hours on 1.T.& While these may sometimes be necessary they need not always be. We mean that the Church must be missionary all the time because this is the innate quality of her being whereby she realises her unique gift of Divine unity among Creation's magnificent variety.
The more we grow up in the Church.and become concerned with our Father's business, so much the more we act with the King finest as mediators in the world. restoring to God what is His and to every creative thing its essential creative nature: we become missionary in the same sense as the Church is missionary and extend the King
dom of God and widen the borders of His Charity.
In this way, also, we witness to the necessity of the Church, a necessity which many of our countrymen 'have ceased to feel: we show her in her fullness, not as a self-enclosed society. not as one wishing to impose an ideology on others hut as the Mother of men whose spouse is the Desired of Nations.
SONS OF GOD '
NEW chapters have been written on the theology of the Incarnation in the lives of many of His missionaries of the interior, seeking to discover the unfathomable riches of the Word through Whom all things are made: the doctrine of work, recalling the partnership of man with the Creator and the Redeemer; the doctrine of leisure curing man of his " despairing refusal to he himself "; the doctrine of womanhood disclosing those distinctive yet complementary qualities through which woman is the spiritual mother of the full man; a doctrine of the cinema, showing how, as a synthesis of many arts and with its own gift of " mobile composition" this art form best interprets the civilisation which gave it birth ("The Gold Rush " -has much in common with " The Song of Roland "), yet another of television, investigating its particular quality of intimacy and " spatial concentration."
Underlying all this activity in depth is the Church through her members seeking the Kingdom of God and raising tip the human person to his true freedom of the son or daughter of God.
" Where the Lord's spirit is, there is freedom."