Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Newest Missionary Venture

Don't miss this week's article by John Allen on a fledgling missionary operation in Mongolia. It's a fascinating subject: a brand new territory for Christian evangelization, Mongolia, just started in 1992 by a Filipino priest, now bishop. To date there are about 400 Christians.

The attraction for the new Christians has come simply from the liturgy (in the vernacular) and from the social relief programs.

Padilla said that when he conducts interviews with Mongolian converts to understand what attracted them and made them decide to join the church, most will say they first came into contact with Catholicism through one of its social programs – a school, soup kitchen, or relief center. What “hooked” them, however, was the liturgy.

“They say it’s the singing, the liturgy,” Padilla told an audience at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita in Rome. “They say it’s more worthwhile than what they experience in the Buddhist temple. They’re active in the prayers and in the singing, It’s not just the monks doing all the singing.”

Padilla said that even though the four parishes in Mongolia (and four parochial sub-stations) use largely Western liturgical music, it’s translated into the vernacular, and most of the liturgy now is also said using the Mongol language. That, too, he said, is a major point of entry for new converts, most of whom are young and from the middle class or below.

“We cater mostly to the young and to the very poor,” Padilla said.

Bishop Padilla also found a strategy to soften up the local officials to get church building permits.

[A] Belgian missionary who had served in Inner Mongolia explained to him how to get things done.

“He told me that when you’re in difficulty, the thing to do is to invite these officials to dinner and get them drinking, especially vodka,” he said.

“It worked, but it was rough. At one point, I was drunk at least once or twice a week. One time I had to leave my car behind because I was too drunk to drive … but God will forgive, and anyway I wasn’t a bishop yet!”

Actually, Jesus attended a lot of parties from all accounts.

Building the Kingdom may not be so complicated as we tend to think.

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