Benedict XVI is on the right track when he speaks about the need for missionary activities within the Church. However, the need of missionary activities really doesn’t go far from the front doors of your local parish. There are lots of opportunities to spread the Gospel message and modern missionaries don’t even need to leave home. Throughout the United States other denominations are actively evangelizing and recruiting Catholics to join their ranks. Perhaps there are many causes for this, the decline of the Catholic educational system, the lack of priestly and religious vocations and even the structural changes of the family. Regardless of cause, the ranks of Catholic churches are dwindling because of multiple reasons, but mainly age, apathy and ignorance of Church teachings are the top three. When I attend Mass there are times that I am the youngest person in the pew. I’m 49. Where are all of the people younger than myself? It seems that the evangelization efforts of the past twenty-five years have been terribly unsuccessful in promoting the faith among each other. While we were teaching children and parishioners about the mystery and allure of foreign missions, no one was planting the seeds of domestic evangelization. While admirable, Operation Rice Bowl neglected the largest mission of all…our own domestic Church. Over the years we have spent a considerable amount of time, prayer and effort to bring the Gospel message to what we used to consider, “pagan cultures.” While we were out evangelizing the rest of the world, Catholics at home stopped going to church, married outside of the faith, raised their children as secular humanists and most critically ceased to support the development of Catholic education. In the past thirty-five to forty years the Catholic Church in the United States has watched the largest disintegration of its educational system ever seen in history. Ironically in the previous century, it was perhaps the largest source of Catholic educational growth since the Dark Ages. What has gone wrong in the course of just one hundred years? Well for one thing it appears that we have stopped being a “Catholic” Church and have tried too hard to be an “inclusive” and “nondenominational” brand of nemo identification. We have moved our altars, whitewashed our artistically intricate ceilings, wet our incense and charcoal, provided business to polyester merchants and alienated quality liturgy in return for quantity of unfulfilled and unresponsive believers. It used to be quite clear; our beliefs were rooted in the teachings of the Apostles, who witnessed themselves Jesus Christ. Now a days if you were to ask ten Catholics to name the signs of the Catholic Church, you would most likely get the names of street signs in return(for the record, the four signs of the Church are one, holy, catholic and apostolic.). Why have we gotten so far off the mark in practicing our Catholic faith? Was the allure of the Reformation so provocative that we had to follow the theological inconsistencies of the Reformers and baptize their erroneous teachings? Fascinating…that when you speak to most Catholics about their belief in Church teachings they always conclude with the qualification…”Well, for me personally!” That is precisely the type of evangelization we need. There is no “personally” in the effective understanding and exercise of Roman Catholicism. You are either in or you are out. When it comes to a revitalization of missionary activities, the first precept should be clear…to be Catholic is not like flavor choices at Baskin Robbins! Next when we get back to the real matter at hand our bishops need to clearly state that the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not offer a series of multiple choice dogmatic beliefs, nor are the principles of Catholicism, “true” or “false”. Finally the test of living the Catholic lifestyle does not require a “Number 2” pencil! Frequently you hear a lot about the debate over the issue of the Tridentine Mass and its possible return. Perhaps that is precisely what we all need. The return to a clear, consistent liturgy that incorporates all of our traditional deposit of beliefs. Maybe the time is right for Catholics throughout the world to put the Andrew Lloyd Weber version of the Mass out of business, and get back to , “I go onto the altar of God”, and put all of the leotard clad, frustrated clerics out of business. We don’t need to be missionaries out there. We need missionaries in here. Not to proclaim the message of the Gospel to a “pagan world”, but to a “pagan Church” that has neglected to recall our theological roots and traditions. Quite honestly there is a Renaissance movement growing in the Church and it is not based on new ideals or concepts. The movement is based on a rebirth and reappreciation of what we have thoughtlessly repressed, rescinded and repealed since Vatican II. That is a deeper understanding of our sacramental mysteries as we journey along the missionary path to Jesus Christ. Missionary activities are extremely valuable, but we cannot begin to evangelize until we interiorize our own mystical identity a Catholics and followers of Christ Jesus.
Copyright 2010 Hugh McNichol