Christendom has fallen. It is no more.
It isn’t fatalistic to say that. It isn’t hopeless to admit it. It’s a good thing to realize when and where we are in history, so we can do what is being asked of us right now.
These people aren’t our enemies. We shouldn’t fear them or fight them. We shouldn’t entrench ourselves and dig in, desperately clinging to the last bit of control we think we have over a world gone mad. We have to stop playing defense, stop playing offense, stop playing any type of game where there’s a “them” and an “us”.
We’re all children of God. Either we believe that, or we don’t.
We have to put on the mindset of mission, once again, and be willing to meet people where they are: in an ersatz marriage; in a broken and half-mended family; in a bitter mood of entitlement; in the distracting noise of willful mindlessness; in a parade. We have to begin the process of Incarnation, living among them, learning their stories, eating and laughing and mourning with them. Calling them by name. In this way — same as it ever was — they will see Christ Jesus, and want his Light. They will seek the bond, and the sacramental means of sustaining it, and then what had been a keening emptiness, crammed with what does not satisfy, will become filled and completed.
This is the Way. The Incarnational Way is the Catholic Way. It is the Way of the One. The Way of the Holy. The Way of the Apostolic.
It is the only way.
Confrontational hollering at the curb will bring no one to Christ; it will offer no reflection of his salvific love; it will draw few, if any, toward the sacramental banquet that is Source and Summit.
And then, exactly who will that best serve?
Elizabeth Scalia wrote that, on the heels of a post by Catherine Pakaluk that asked the question, “what kind of a world do we think we’re living in?”
I’ve been thinking about that question a lot. It’s not a small question. If we agree with Pope Francis that we are living in a mission field, it changes everything. Absolutely everything.
Think about it. We will no longer have the luxury of protecting Christendom from heresy if Christendom has crumbled. And can we really argue that in our Western culture, it hasn’t? We’re not talking about a culture that’s lost a general belief in Judeo-Christian morality…we’re talking about a culture that’s lost a general belief that anything can really be true. If that doesn’t herald the collapse of Christendom, I don’t know what will. Maybe if we started sacrificing infants again. Except yeah, we’re already there. We are living here and now, in this time and place.
We are called Christ followers because we seek Him. Hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, and in prison…these are all the people whom Christ assures us He will be. If we really want to seek Him, we’ll go to them, and not be afraid. And really, we won’t have a reason to be afraid, if we go to love them. Not to preach or proselytize, but to make friends. Hang out. Have coffee. Listen to their stories, tell ours, laugh, cry, live. It’s not as grand or heroic as preserving Christendom from the onslaught of barbarians, nor is it as dramatic as putting on grass skirts and going to live with the cannibals. But those times belonged to others. This time belongs to us.
Death owns a wasted kingdom.
Bless and restore the blind, straighten the broken limb.
These mended stones shall build Jerusalem.
-Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours