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SUMMER 2006
Vol 40 No 4




PDF (1.3MB)


Editorial:
MISSIONARY CREATIVITY

Martin Wilson MSC
GSELL CENTENARY. MISSIOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS

Dawn Cordona
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

Lorraine Erlandson
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

Pat Mullins SJ
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

Peter Hearn MSC
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

John Wilcken SJ
THE ALICE SPRINGS ADDRESS AND THE CONCEPT OF NATION

Patrick McInerney
THE ADDRESS OF POPE BENEDICT ON FAITH AND REASON

Abe Ata
DEMONISING AUSTRALIA'S CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM ARABS IN CARTOONS

Anthony Gooley
WHAT'S IN A NAME? PART II: 'ORDAINED' AND 'LAY APOSTOLATE'

Kevin Mark
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS FROM AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS

 



 

Editorial:
Missionary creativity


ALTHOUGH COMPASS is a journal of topical theology we rarely treat topics of breaking news. The logistics of producing such a journal as this do not allow us to discuss the hottest topics at the time of publication. However, there is some advantage in being just a little behind the latest news, because our contributors are given time to write up their more considered thoughts with a measure of calm when the dust has settled after the events.

The contributions of this issue have all been enriched by the generous stretch of thinking time that elapsed between the events and the reporting of them. The early articles look back over one hundred years of missionary endeavour among the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. They make fascinating reading. However we weigh up the positives and negatives of the missionary efforts and the theologies that informed them, we have to admire the creative imagination and inventiveness of the missionaries. Damage was done to Aboriginal culture and social systems, but some purification was achieved, too. And the missionaries were in there with the people, wanting the best for them, sometimes ensuring their very survival, especially during the period when the general population totally neglected them, and some individuals actively worked for their extermination.

The ultimate goal of the missionary’s work among the Aboriginal people was to convert them to Christianity. In the earlier time this meant the people were being asked to renounce their aboriginal religion. In later, post-Vatican II times, a different theology came into practice and efforts were made to discern the Spirit of God at work in the customs and cultures of the people:

[The missionaries] should be familiar with [the people’s] national and religious traditions and uncover with gladness and respect those seeds of the Word which lie hidden among them. (Vatican II, Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, par. 11.)

This story of the hundred years of effort in the Northern Territory has more than academic and historical interest for the rest of us. In our time the whole of Australia has become a place of missionary endeavour. Our population may once have been to some degree Christian but our contemporaries are now largely dechristanized, and a new evangelisation effort is required. As with the Aboriginal Australians over the past century, so with our contemporary dechristianised Australians, we need to discern where the Spirit of God is at work among them, and what is our specific role and challenge as Christian missionaries.

Some general thoughts on both those questions suggested themselves to me as I watched the Schools Spectacular on the television in early December. The Schools Spectacular is an annual end-of-school-year presentation by combined public schools of NSW. It is a variety entertainment celebration featuring (in 2006) 3000 talented school pupils—singers, dancers and musicians. The Spectacular is acknowledged in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s biggest variety show. The young performers had been rehearsing for months in over three hundred schools from the outback to the inner city, and they threw themselves into the performance with heart-warming joy and energy.

The theme of the show this year was ‘Shine’ and the performance, we were told, aimed to take the audience ‘to the very soul of Australia’. I wondered what that might mean in a presentation by public schools. As it turned out, the ‘soul’ was in some way related to a range of fundamental values and concerns: environment, land, nature, aboriginals, reconciliation, justice and harmony, peace, acceptance, multiculturalism. These are aspirations and concerns that we see as integral to our calling as Christians, that we recognise as central to living of Gospel. Yes, I thought, in these values and concerns that are seen as expressions of the soul of Australia, we can ‘uncover with gladness and respect (…) seeds of the Word’, or at least signs of the Spirit at work in the secular culture.

At the same time, however, there was nothing of the Christian message, and no mention of religion of any kind during the whole two hours and thirty minutes. Fair enough, I thought, public schools do what public schools do—they are institutions for secular education.

Still, I did find myself getting a little impatient when the performers spent a good twenty minutes reciting, singing and dancing about the festive season of Christmas and managed to avoid all mention of the mystery celebrated at Christmas. Santa Claus and his reindeers got a good run, also Frosty the Snowman, and we dreamed of a white Christmas. One young singer song-writer sang his own composition about the Christmas Beetle—we will hear more of him, he was good. But the celebration of Christmas had been emptied of its significance.

In a free country we let people celebrate Christmas as they see fit. But my viewing of the Schools Spectacular was a clear reminder to me of our calling and challenge as believing Christians—our proud calling and challenge—to tell the story, not only the story of Christmas but the whole love story of God and us his People—to tell the story, keep it alive, and celebrate it with joy in our secular culture.

I was in the city doing some Christmas shopping the day following the Schools Spectacular, and I saw a Salvation Army lady on the footpath outside David Jones making her appeal for donations for the poor. She had a banner that declared: ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’. I thought to myself, ‘Good on yer, lady!’

In the Prayer of the Church about the same time, my attention was caught by the following verses from psalm 51 which sum up what Christian life is about:

I will thank you for evermore;
for this is your doing.

I will proclaim that your name is good,
in the presence of your friends.


Being a Christian entails conversion. It entails striving to humanize our world, and sharing the fundamental aspirations of the rest of the human race. But what makes us distinctively Christian, besides conversion, is the telling of the Good News—keeping the Story alive, celebrating it—and, most importantly, being inspired by it in our daily lives and relationships.

* * * *

The value of adequate thinking time between events and comment upon them in Compass is also seen in the two articles that address Christian-Muslim relations and that speech of Pope Benedict at the University of Regensberg. It is not sufficient to say, ‘Ah well, the pope did make a bad move…but the reaction was over the top!’ The episode shook the world to some degree and we need to reflect upon it at depth and learn what needs to be learned. The articles we offer give us food for thought. Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, have had to put up with a lot for a long time—that must have something to do with these events.

As we enter the year 2007 our annual prayer for peace among peoples and nations and for our on-going survival on this planet is more intense and urgent than ever. Pope Benedict’s peace message this year is that respect for the dignity of every person of whatever race or creed or station in life is the foundation of peace on earth. A timely message! But it is not a new message—it has been recurring in the pope’s statements since the beginning of his pontificate.

—Barry Brundell MSC, Editor