A Missionary, Not a Functionary

I sat with a group of my colleagues in the Family Life Office Conference room, filled with excitement as the white smoke rose from the chimney.  We all awaited our new Holy Father with great anticipation.  And when Pope Francis finally came out on the loggia, we were all filled with joy and we joined with our brethren around the world in welcoming our new Supreme Pontiff.

Now, having had a few days to learn more about Pope Francis, I am still excited and filled with anticipation.  This has the promise of being an amazing papacy.

If you read the secular media, you would think that the greatest challenge facing the Church is the reform of the Roman Curia — the bureaucracy of the Holy See.  It’s funny.  I think that 99.99999% of Catholics have no idea what the Curia is and does.  Honestly, after almost twenty years of working in the Archdiocesan chancery (our local version of the Curia), I don’t really have much of an idea of what the Roman Curia does, nor can I identify a single instance in which the Curia has had any impact on anything that I’ve ever done.

Most Catholics innately understand that the focus of the Church isn’t inwards, on administrative matters.  We all know, in our hearts, that the Church is always a missionary, going out to the regular people, walking with them in their joys and sorrows, and offering them the hope of a personal loving friendship with Jesus Christ, and life eternal in the loving embrace of the Trinity.

That’s why we have so quickly fallen for Pope Francis — he is that kind of man.  Humble, ordinary, straightforward, uncompromising on teaching the truth, and unstinting in his care and concern for poor people.

He also sees very clearly that the mission of the Church is outward, not inwards.  That we must take the Gospel — and the Cross — with us to the ends of the world.  His first homily at his Mass with the Cardinals says this loud and clear:

We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO [non-government organization], but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity….

When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.

Our new Holy Father is a missionary, not a functionary.  Thanks be to God.

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2 Responses to “A Missionary, Not a Functionary”

  1. Peter Rox says:

    May I recommend the article in wikipedia on “Roman Curia” ? It is interesting.
    I think that everyday Catholics are and should be concerned about the allegations of money laundering by the Vatican Bank, which is part of the Roman Curia, Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. You can be assured that the banks of the European Union gave every possible time extension for the Vatican Bank to clean up its operations and to function with the degree of transparency that is required by any legitimate institution in the European Union, before the Vatican was cut-off from credit card transactions and regular monetary transactions with the Vatican Bank and other banks. The Vatican Bank is only limping along now with the help of an arrangement with a Swiss bank, not part of the European Union. Since the Vatican currency is the euro, they need to regularize themselves. At any rate, aren’t we all ashamed and bothered that a bank run by the Catholic Church has such a bad reputation and such along history of illicit dealings?
    Another section of the Roman Curia that affects everyday Catholics is the Sacred Congregation for Clergy. It has had the grossly irresponsible management of the clergy sex abuse scandals. Those of us who are tired of the church cover-ups, moving around and protecting of offenders, and otherwise incompetent and extremely slow handling of this important matter are hopeful of major changes and improvements.
    Of course, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith needs lots of inspiration from the Holy Spirit if women and gays are ever to be fully recognized as human beings in the Church, equal to the European men who have woven layer upon layer of doctrine, tradition, and practice, to place themselves at the pinnacle of church power for millennia.

  2. Ed Mechmann says:

    “ever to be fully recognized as human beings”?

    Perhaps this would entail the CDF saying something like this:

    “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)

    On the other hand, however, you may be hoping for a declaration by the CDF that sexual acts outside of marriage are acceptable in the eyes of God or that a relationship between people of the same sex can ever be equal to marriage? You’re going to be disappointed, since the Holy Spirit has already spoken quite clearly on this matter.

    As for reform of the Curia, I’m not denying that it’s important, I’m just too occupied with trying to “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) to consider it a top priority for the Church. Structural reforms are useful, but salvation is the mission of the Church.