From Christianity to the Apostolic Mission is a diagnosis with a prescription for the ailments confounding a post-Christian culture.
“At every moment He who came as light in the darkness to establish a kingdom of truth and love has been opposed by the darkness. The light continues to shine; its origin is in God himself, and the darkness does not can’t beat her.
This is the opening message of the book From Christianity to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age. It continues:
“But the extent of this light, the way it spreads its rays, the kind of opposition it encounters, and therefore the means it uses to keep its light shining and spread its influence abroad, change d place to place and from time to time. It is therefore important that those who are members of the body of Christ, who participate in his divine life and are thus called by him to be the light of the world ( cf. Matthew 5), think about the times in which they live and design pastoral and evangelical strategies adapted to these times”.
From Christianity to the Apostolic Mission (University of Mary Press, 2020) is a diagnosis with a prescription for ailments confounding a post-Christian culture. And it went viral without publicity, revealing that the message strikes a chord in a culture where Christianity is no longer the prevailing wind. By understanding how the first spark of apostolic zeal led to the civilizations of Christendom, which then became complacent and eclipsed, we can wrap our minds around the Catholic Church today and tap into the Holy Spirit for the challenges ahead.
The book was composed by Mgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary. In an interview with the Register, he explained that the inspiration for it started with ongoing conversations between friends. When he lectured on the subject, public reaction in several states revealed that Catholics are genuinely concerned about the rapid secularization of our culture.
“Our main motive in publishing the book was as an encouragement and an explanatory piece for those working here at the University of Mary,” said Bishop. Shea explained. “We want to have a common vision and meaning in our important Catholic higher education work. This was the primary goal of the book. We put it on Amazon, but that’s because all of our University of Mary Press books are on our Amazon account. We haven’t spent a dollar on advertising.
What happened next was a big surprise. “We started to receive a small number of orders and then more and more,” Bishop said. Shea said. “Then I think because a number of podcasts across the country had done episodes on the book, it became so difficult that we were having a hard time keeping up with demand. Dioceses were calling to order thousands of copies at a time. The Diocese of Sioux Falls made a series of videos about the book, then a study guide, with book club meetings in every parish in eastern South Dakota. The archdioceses of Oklahoma City, Portland, Detroit, Omaha and Denver have all placed large orders.
Walk the apostolic march
It is important to note that as someone who has lived in Bismarck for 30 years and had several children at the University of Mary, the book not only shares ideas but also employs them. One of the fruits of the apostolic mission of UMary is two masses a day filled with students. (There are six chapels on campus.)
This engagement is intentional and imaginative. Here are two illustrations. One is a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and Dachau, Germany, taken by 41 faculty members of the School of Health Sciences in 2017 (with the help of an outside donor). The stark contrast between a brutal and dehumanizing concentration camp at Dachau and the reverence for all humanity at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes impacted the faculty in a way that would impact their teaching. As Jodi Roller, dean of the School of Health Sciences, told me at the time: “Teaching human dignity will become more explicit in our mission.
Another example is the school’s Catholic studies program, which is separate from the religion department to convey the imaginative Catholic vision. Catholic studies can be a second major or a minor. It integrates Catholicism into all aspects of academic, professional and personal life, being the leaven in all other sciences to see them as a whole.
struggle of the ages
The book itself guides readers through Christian history, beginning with a time when zeal, truth, and the Holy Spirit were all the Church had — that and 11 apostles. We see the waves of evangelism spreading to create cultures of Christianity, where Christianity becomes the prevailing wind, eventually sliding into the [surrounding] culture through complacency. Once culture snuffs out much of the spirit that should distinguish the Church from the secular world, mission must become apostolic again to overcome it.
Pastoral strategies are to rethink education and reject social analysis that expects defeat, since such methods do not see a spiritual organism with roots in heaven. “What sociological survey could have predicted the conversion of an ancient and sophisticated civilization into the hands of a small group of uneducated workers? says the book. “What numerical analysis could have guessed the explosion of the monastic movement? Or the conversion of all the pagan peoples of Europe? Or the appearance of a Saint Francis and his thousands of faithful in a few years? Or the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the conversion of Mexico? Or, for that matter, the conversion of a single soul?
The book conveys that societies have a moral and spiritual “imaginative vision” that impacts everything about that society. In the United States, we have experienced a dramatic shift in recent decades from an “imaginative view of Christianity” to a secular view demanding that the Church rethink its strategies for spreading the gospel. “It’s urgent,” said Msgr. Shea.
And finally, he said, we must embrace the adventure of working with the Holy Spirit to live and share the saving message given to us by Jesus Christ. “Our task,” he said, “is to understand that we live in a new apostolic age, to believe that the Holy Spirit is at work and, as Saint Paul says, the greater the evil , the more grace abounds. .”