Thus says the LORD… The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD… will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Is 56:1, 6-7)
You have probably read how the United States Representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, recently denounced the statue of the missionary priest St. Damien of Molokai (which stands in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall), as part of a “pattern” of “patriarchy” and “white [supremacy]”. This charge has been ably addressed by many such as Dr. Paul Kengor (Catholic World Report), Michael Warren Davis (Crisis Magazine) and Bishop Robert Barron of Word on Fire (who called Ms. Cortez’s comments “ridiculous”). We will not add here to their fair criticism.
Yet what was absent from these critical pieces was a constructive (and instructive) declaration about the mission of the Church which sadly even the Church has not made in response to Rep. Cortez. So here it is: The Church which has been sent out by Christ with a special commission to make disciples of all nations is not, nor ever will be, a vehicle for “colonization” but rather for evangelization and the salvation of souls. It is vital that we repeat this to all who want to claim or infer that the mission of the Church is, by its evangelical activity, racist, when it sets out earnestly to overcome paganism and false religion in various nations and cultures.
The unjust inference perpetrated by Rep. Cortez – that the very missionary work of Father Damien is supremacist and colonizing – is sad-to-say perpetrated even within the Church itself. For example, just before the 2019 Amazon Synod, Father Corrado Dalmonego of the Consolata missionaries serving in Amazonia made it a matter for boasting that his order has baptized no one in over five decades! What such churchmen do not realize is that while they sit pitifully self-satisfied in a place of “presence and dialogue” there is an ever-growing enemy which sees even their watered-down mission as nuisance and ideologue. In response to this hostility, Catholics need to boldly declare for the Great Commission of Our Lord even under threat of being called “racists”.
For this 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a work by the High Renaissance master Fra Bartolomeo entitled Christ with the Four Evangelists (1516 – Wikiart). Bartolome was a Dominican Friar who resided mostly in Florence. He was friends with Raphael and each gained artistically from their association.
Here is the High Renaissance: classical architecture, idealized and precise human figures, flowing, clinging cloth and postures of virtuous purpose. St. John (the youngest shown) points to Jesus where all evangelization begins. The gospel writer standing near him points outward indicating the command to take Jesus out into the world. The two evangelists on our right embrace in a show of solidarity as the one in the forefront (right) looks forward as if to challenge us to profess Christ to others. Upholding this cause to bring all peoples into the Church is the chalice of the Blood of Christ, the Holy Eucharist, while the mirror below it reflects the world as a dry wilderness without the Good News of Jesus.
Let us never treat the word of God, the commission to make new disciples, and the teachings of the Church as an affront to race, and culture. They are the great hope of both.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services