A wise decision

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 (21:51)

I received the following encouraging feedback from a friend:

I think, Luc, that as you learnt your catholicism in a culture other than the Estonian one, you have a unique gift to offer the Estonian Church in regard to synodality: +Philippe was wise to charge you with this task. It is a rather synodical thing that he has done. You can observe the people and the Church in a way that they can’t observe themselves, since we all assume our own culture to be normative. An Estonian friend tells me that Estonians say ‘Find a hundred of us and you will find a hundred different opinions.’ This tells us something about the individualism of Estonian culture, evidenced in the rural landscape by the isolated farmhouses sheltered each in their own woody coppice. Despite this, there is a practical and episodic coming together in ‘talgud’ to build or perhaps to harvest or to perform some other common task. How would it be to put the rather ‘ugly’ word synod/synodality on one side and invite Estonian Catholics to think in terms of mõttetalgud. I think the pope is inviting the national churches, and the Estonian Church to think of its culture as a resource in which the gospel has been planted in such a way as both gospel and culture nourish each other.

I was influenced in my active ministry by a book, Christianity Rediscovered, written by Vincent J. Donovan about his experience as a missionary amongst the Masai. Reflecting on what we know of the mission of St Paul, Fr Donovan wrote, the apostle founded churches, taught, baptized, kept in touch by letter, but otherwise left them and trusted the local churches and the Holy Spirit to enculture the gospel as was appropriate for them. There are many examples of the Catholic Church doing this rather well (I have myself, for instance, made a retreat at the Shantivanam ashram in Tamil Nadu, which is a wonderful example of the integration of the Vedic tradition as a kind of older testament and the Christian gospel).

Formerly however, the Catholic Church in its Vatican form is modeled on the Roman empire, with its basilicas, Roman law, monarchic authority structure and the icon of the Christus Pantocrator as a picture of what authority is like in the Church. This model has served the Church well in its history, but I doubt whether this model will evangelise many in a well-educated, egalitarian, wealthy and increasingly cosmopolitan culture as Estonia is becoming in the 21st century.

My reactions

Wow, thanks! Yes, sinoditalgud!