THE missionary's job is not to bring more
people into the Church, a group of Catholic overseas volunteers from all over Western Europe were told at a meeting in Belgium this week.
In fact, anyone who went out with that aim in mind subscribed to a false religion: "the attempt by man to use God to satisfy his own human pride".
Fr. Ludwig Rutti told the volunteers that all Christians were called to be missionaries for a very different reason: "because Christ came to save the whole world. The new Jerusalem, which is not yet here, will encompass all the world, so we must work with all men to achieve it."
The meeting, organised by the Ad Lucem association of Catholic volunteers, explored the idea of mission in depth, related both to developing countries and to Western society.
Nearly all the speakers stressed the idea that the traditional divisions between "sacred" and "secular" no longer held water. As one speaker put it, "Everything in a world created by God, saved through the Incarnation and the risen life of Christ, is in some sense sacred."
Christians needed to wake up to the fact that they must co-operate with men whose faith was not in God but in humanity alone, and that by doing so they were not corn promising their religion but furthering God's plan for mankind.
A Belgian worker-priest, Fr. Marcel Cornelis, declared that the Christian ideals of meaningful work and social justice could never be achieved unless the Churchpriests and laymen-seriously accepted the values of the trade union movement.
Fr. Cornelis had some harsh words to say about Christian arrogance. "There must be no more man-made distinctions of superiority and inferiority, rich and poor," he said. "And all must be allowed to contribute in accordance with their own originality.
"When we impose patterns of worship, types of church art, devised by us, on peoples of other cultures we are denying them their own contribution to the Kingdom of God. We are insisting, in yet another way, on our richness and their poverty."
This kind of superiority, he added, "was precisely the sin that ruined Israel under Solomon and kept it disunited. It is the same sin that could break the Church today."
Fr. Paul Ladriere told the meeting that Christians had to shake themselves brutally out of their self-interest if they hoped to see the world with open-eyed honesty.
Today's world, he said, "has made a conscious and radical choice for the secular. the profane. In responding to this we must decide our own attitudes to the concerns and values of the world."