no to a church of self-preservation

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 10

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for self- preservation. (Evangelii Gaudium, 27)

Pope Francis nails it! For those who fear that this new pope is about to overturn all the customs and traditions of the Church, carefully re-read the above paragraph. He is not asking us to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. But, he is asking us to consider changing the water as needed. We are called to transform and refresh what exists so we may more effectively answer our greatest call; that of evangelization. The “baby” remains safe…and cleaned up and sweeter smelling too!

The classic example of focusing on self-preservation rather than on suitability for evangelization is the New Roman Missal. The rationale was to remain more faithful to the original, Latin translation. The language is pleasing for those who prefer the more traditional worship styles of the past. But, the modern tongue stumbles in speaking the words. Modern ears strain to hear and understand. Is this a good evangelizing tool?

Church as self-preserving sanctuary, or a risk taking missionary? It’s clear which is the choice of our pope.

4 thoughts on “no to a church of self-preservation

  1. I love the image of the “risk taking” missionary church that the Pope is calling us to be. Our church is blessed with many risk takers – lay faith serving in soup kitchens, and especially the thousands of women religious serving those most in need, are just two examples. Still, we need more! More of the ordinary persons in the pew need to take up an extraordinary faith and risk a little, or even better, a lot of evangelization. With “risk” there is reward. The rewards will be much fuller churches; and our priests will be free from worrying about financial and administrative matters and will then be able to focus on what God called them to. I have worked for our Archdiocese for fourteen years now and I still hear people in parishes all over the diocese lamenting over the fact that we need more young people in the church! Nothing has changed much in 14 years. How can we expect change when we simply keep offering the same “programs” year after year? Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!” We need to take some risks. I don’t know what all the answers are but I do know we won’t find them without more dialogue, creative thinking, and risk taking. We all, each of us in the pews, must think differently and act differently if we are going to solve some of the issues we face as faith communities. I believe we have so much potential in our church if we are just willing to take some risks. Our church is a sleeping giant and it appears that Pope Francis is about to wake that giant up!

  2. Hi Dan,
    You’ve given some good examples of risk takers in the church. Examples can provide the energy for modeling and inspiration. I wonder if you, or other readers have some more concrete examples of evangelical risk taking in the church….inside or outside the parish?

    BTW….love the Einstein quote…

  3. I completely disagree. The Church should be more missionary and not solely focused on self-preservation, but it is foolish to ignore the need to preserve the faith for future generations. Indeed being missionary is part of self-preservation of the Church. So I see it as not either or, but both and. Moreover, the liturgy is the source and summit of the faith, as Vatican II said, and the Church must have self confidence in and respect for its teachings and traditions before it can be missionary, as otherwise what it is selling is not the faith. As for the new translation, it is wonderful to now have a translation that actually tells us what the original Latin said, rather than the banal travesty of the previous translation, which was nothing more than a paraphrase that tendentiously downplayed concepts like sin, merit, etc. We must learn to value to tradition and the faith embodied in it, rather than simply transform the Church into the values of the world. Just look around you, the world is a cesspool. We need to offer it an attractive way out of sin, not confirm and joint the world in sin. I fear the Church is now going back to the seventies, when everything old and traditional is automatically deemed bad, and anything new was supposed to be wonderful. We’ve seen how that has played out in the past fifty years, with emptying churches, seminaries, convents, etc.

  4. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for joining the dialogue!

    You’re correct with regards to the either-or issue. Yes, we need both; to preserve our faith and be missionary. As often happens, though, the pendulum tends to swing too far in one direction at the expense of the other. Yes, the 1970’s saw the pendulum swing too far to the left. Recent years saw an increased restorationist mentality in an attempt to right this. (no pun intended!)

    Pope Francis is calling us to bring our focus back to the center so we can embrace both needs. As I mentioned in my post, Francis is not asking us to do away with our traditions or teachings. But, we must not become enslaved to them for their own sake.

    With regards to the new missal translation, I understand that many Catholics find it inspiring and spiritually uplifting. One of the beauties of our Catholic faith is its universality. There is room for diverse forms of worship, that respect the cultures and languages of all. Vatican II encouraged this diversity, so the Word of God could be proclaimed in meaningful ways to all women and men.

    The biggest problem with the new translation, in my humble opinion, is the way it was imposed on all. It echoed the colonial mentality and forced homogeneity of the past. It does not take into consideration the cultural diversity and modern needs of English speaking countries around the world. The new translation as an option? Yes. As the only acceptable form? No.


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