Monday, July 25, 2016

Out of Africa: Christ Continues to Speak

A recent family mission trip to Malawi, the "Warm Heart of Africa," opened my eyes to the beauty of a youthful Catholic Church.

A youthful Church dares to keep itself attuned to the voice of Christ; it is more interested in leading others to the fullness of life than in making accommodations with a post-modern culture. A youthful Church may experience growing pains, but it trusts in Jesus' promised Advocate--and in its supernatural mission.

As with any authentic mission experience, this was more of a pilgrimage than an outreach--a journey forth from a Land of Libertine Comfort Zones, into a Land Alive to the Presence of God Among Us.

When my parents first traveled to the Namitembo Mission a number of years ago, they were deeply moved by the joyfulness and generosity of the people. They were also edified by the Malawian reverence for the Mass and by the multi-part harmony of the hymns--accompanied with drums and shakers (My father even predicted that the music in heaven would be sung in Chichewa!)

I was struck by the experience of praying in communion with the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, while in a small village somewhere in southeast Africa. Novices from burgeoning communities of women religious; seminarians from vibrant centers of formation; families making sacrificial offerings at festive Sunday celebrations: This Church is no self-referential community focused on getting its needs met. They are a people on the move, Spirit-filled evangelizers indeed.

The Church in Malawi is a Christ-centered community which celebrates Mother and Child and which sees suffering in light of the Paschal Mystery. It is a People of God clearly rooted in familial relationships, even while this people recognizes their deepest identity as adopted siblings of the Father whom Jesus came to reveal.

The Church in Malawi continues to touch minds and hearts through education, resisting the neocolonialism of the West which insists on tying economic development to an atheistic anthropology. Like the Church universal, the Church in Malawi stands committed to solidarity with the people rather than to slavery to anonymous cultural forces and powerful ideologies.

The Church in Malawi seems to embody Jesus' simple saying: "The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed."  From humble beginnings not so long ago, through sacrificial giving of selfless missionaries, the beauty of God's self-revelation in Jesus has begun to bear much fruit.  I pray that the small seed planted by my family at the St. Joseph Center in the Thyolo region of Malawi will continue to germinate and flower.

The vibrant voice of Christ himself continues to speak through the Church in Malawi. A people attuned to beauty and goodness and truth can still recognize that He alone makes all things new. 

Our Lady of Africa, pray for us--

P.S. The U.S. Bishops continue to promote this Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, as a way to contribute to helping our brothers and sisters begin meeting their many needs.