World Mission and Ramon Llull (aka Raymond Lully)

In case you didn't know one of my great heroes of all times is Raymund Lully, and I have a nice quote about him from one of the many old history books I am reading these days that was dug up from the underbelly of my college's library. The author, speaking of Lull says:

The mission to the non-Christian world, he believed, should be the first concern of the Church, claiming its most capable men and a worthy portion of its property. He advocated missions not only to North Africa but to the east, not only to the Muslims but to the Mongols. He knew the Muslims best, however, and said of them, “Once they were converted, it would be light thing to convert the rest of the world." […] Lull’s idea that the whole church should take up this task came to nought. It continued to be the concern of only a few, chiefly from these two Orders [Franciscans and Dominicans], who were scattered over North Africa and, as occasion offered, in Palestine and Syria. Some did go on to the land of the Mongols.

Beginning From Jerusalem: Christian Expansion through Seventeen Centuries
John Foster, London, 1956, pp. 59, 60

Lull's focus on world mission and frontier mission being central to church life would have to wait for the Reformation and then the birth of evangelicalism, but ultimately in the early 19th Century it gained a very significant following among certain Western evangelical and (later) charismatic churches. There were great examples here and there to the contrary, but placing frontier mission and world mission at the center of the Church's life never took root in Catholicism. (Yes, I'm gonna say that, and it makes me sad.)


Patrick said…
Admittedly the Catholic Church has lost much of its missionary focus in the last century. I think it was there at one time, however. As soon as Columbus discovered the New World than legions of priests went forth to baptize the natives. This imperative was one of the reasons the Jesuit Order was founded. It is also why Central and South America to this day are so heavily Catholic.
Abu Daoud said…
Hello Patrick,

You are quite right, but that is why I was very careful in choosing my language because I am aware of this historical reality. The fact then as now is that some religious orders (in your example the Jesuits) had a great deal of missionary zeal. But it stopped there--with the order. It was never really owned by the laity or any large number of the secular clergy.
Patrick said…
Agreed. The situations are not completely analogous, however. Because the Catholic is oriented toward sacraments that require a priest, the role of lay missionaries is more limited than it is for evangelicals. Rather than go off to the mission field in person, Catholics typically donate and pray for the priests and religious who do it. It is a different type of involvement but important nonetheless.

Just two weeks ago, a bishop from Uganda came to visit my parish here in Texas. He has many vocations from his own flock but lacks money to pay for their seminary. After he told his story, the offering plates overflowed with donations for his work. I would argue that in the long run, this approach is better than if our parish had spent the same amount of money sending a few of our people to work in Uganda for a short time.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Patrick,

The key flaw in your argument--and this is what Blessed Raymund Lull addressed I think--is that there are many places around the world where there are NO congregations and NO priests at all. When is the last time you had a missionary visit from Tunis (where Lull was martyred, probably) or Algeria or Turkey or Yemen or Afghanistan telling you that they need funds for training for their young men?

That's right. The answer is never. If the Catholic Church, which I respect deeply and have great affection for, does not recover a sense of the mission of the laity then in the 35% of the world where there are no churches it will be as it has been: only evangelicals will go and make converts.

A strategic move for you parish would have been to stipulate that, say, half of those young men who become priests would go be missionary priests in the many Muslim regions in and around Uganda. That would have been an excellent move.
Patrick said…
I agree, it is a problem that needs to be addressed.

My bigger point is that the church takes a very long term view of these things and works more slowly than many of us would like. I suspect progress is being made in many places that is not always visible to us.

Nonetheless, there is definitely much room for improvement. On that point, we are 100% agreed.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Patrick,

I am actually one of those strange people who specialize (among other things) in knowing what is happening in places that most people will never even hear about it. I can tell you about the history of the RC mission to N. Africa or the Anglican mission to Jordan in the 19th C. if you are interested because that is what I study all the time.

Long view? In 1900 30% of the world population was Christian. In 2000 it was about 32%. In 1900 about 12% of the world population was Muslim. 2000? almost 20%, and more than that now in 2008. A hundred years is a good chunk of time for assessing how well things are going, no?

Practical question: what can you and I do to mobilize Catholics to go to the places where there is NO Christian presence (again, that represents about 35% of the world population).
Fred said…
Thanks for this. Here's something along these lines: "If a person thinks that what he drinks should benefit only himself, then no living water will spring forth from his breast. But if he hastens to bring help to his neighbor, then his wellspring does not dry up, because it is intent on flowing" ~ Augustine (qtd Balthsar Grain of Wheat, 111-112).
Don said…
"Its (the Catholic Church's) greatest losses occurred at the time of the Protestant Reformation, when large sections of Europe broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. What the Church of Rome lost in Europe, however, she regained through her missionary endeavours in Asia, Africa, and the New World...One would naturally expect that the spiritual forces released by the Reformation would have prompted the Protestant churches of Europe to take the gospel to the ends of the earth...But such was not the case. The Roman Catholic Church between 1500 and 1700 won more converts in the pagan world than it lost to Protestantism in Europe...What were some of the contributing factors? The first, and perhaps the most potent, factor was the theology of the Reformers. They taught that the Great Commission pertained only to the original apostles; that the apostles fulfilled the Great Commission by taking the Gospel to the ends of the then known world; that if later generations were without the gospel, it was their own fault--a judgement of God on their unbelief; that the apostolate, with its immediate call, peculiar functions, and miraculous powers, having ceased, the church in later ages had neither the authority nor the responsibility to send missionaries to the ends of the earth." J. Herbert Kane, A Concise History of the Christian World Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1982.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Don,

I am quite aware of the disgraceful lack of missionary initiative among the Protestant communities, but those instances of reformation did in fact lead to the Great Awakenings which culminated in things like Edinburgh 1910 and Student Volunteer Movement and the Haystack Prayer meeting and even the Azusa Street Revival.

And then everything changed. Then there were churches that understood the missio ad gentes as the center of their being. That never happened in the Catholic church. Never.
Don said…
AD, all of this is true. It's important to note, however, that the shift in Protestant missions was due in no small measure to changes in theology. That's especially true of Pentecostal churches, starting at Azusa Street and elsewhere.

I still think the RCC's basic problem now is that it's own institutionalism is in the way of progress.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Don,

In a way you are right, but part of the genius of Catholicism is that it has had a continuing institution while at times allowing for a great array of different kinds of communities, both lay and religious.

I think that an Order with married priests who have a charism of frontier missions (going where there are NO churches or Christians) would work. Since married priests don't work within the Roman Catholic church why not make it an order within the Greek Catholic or Coptic Catholic or best of all the Syrian Catholic church? After years of service these men and their families could return and if the local bishop permits it help with parish life.

A crazy idea maybe, but I think it is worth looking at.
Don said…
It's a great idea. So now it's time for the RCC's genius to come through.
Rob said…
-I think that an Order with married priests-

(NB: The following is said in all charity)

Sorry, but I must laugh. RC's have been the envy of Protestant missions for a long time. It takes few resources and less concern to send a single man into the jungle. I say less concern, because who can send a family to martyrdom? Whereas we have sent hordes of young (and not so young) men into harm's way in the name of Jesus.

I don't buy this "RC's don't mission", Abu Daoud. We were almost everywhere long before anyone else. We got kicked out of Japan before most people knew where it was. If our growth has slowed, forgive us as we organize a billion people.

Also, while I recognize that you are not recommending sending people out willy-nilly, I think it could be argued that "overstrenuous" missionary activity has resulted in A LOT of heresy. Most of the evangelical types I know have no or little regard for the Trinity, let alone Christological doctrine. Their preachers are great at teaching the Bible, I will give them that, but each preacher seems to have his own gospel. This missionary zeal was, IMO, diabolic. It spread seeds that compete against the true gospel. Yes, that is me being partisan, but I am sure you expected this to upset some RC's and rile us up. :-)

Now, some may say that things like doctrine don't matter, that the most important thing is the Bible, a personal relationship with Jesus, etc, but I would say that those who say these things really believe a different gospel. It's like RCs talking to the Orthodox: we can be friendly, but we are worshipping different Gods, preaching and hearing different gospels. I think RC's view of the Great Commission is different than yours, but this difference cannot be characterized as ignorance or disregard.

If anything, our missionary activity has been affected negatively by Vatican II, which was interpreted by many to mean that there was no point in missions and everyone was saved. We had plenty of missions previous to that. One of our most scandalous traditionalist rebels, Archbishop Lefebvre, was a White father in Africa. That said, I do see a great resurgence in the Church among those who have, IMO, finally interpreted VII correctly.

I think that if the example of Latin America and our one hundred million in Africa and an unknown population of martyrs in China are not enough to convince you that we take the Great Commission seriously, but in our own way, then we are speaking different languages.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Rob,

I think you did not read my carefully chosen words carefully enough. I agree with most everything you have to say actually, but the point still holds: frontier mission never was and is not now at the heart of the Catholic church.

Can you mention for us some examples of frontier mission by the Catholic Church? I mean going to a place where there are NO Christians (a third of the world population, btw) and making converts and planting churches? Just two or three, please.
Don said…
Rob, I find it hard to believe that even the most partisan RC would say that he and the Orthodox worship a different God, let alone the Evangelicals. Ditto about those going out in Jesus' name being "diabolic."

I don't even think that the RCC's own pronouncements would go that far. It is dangerous ground.

P.S. Since you like to blog your fiction, take a look at this.
Rob said…
-Can you mention for us some examples of frontier mission by the Catholic Church? I mean going to a place where there are NO Christians(a third of the world population, btw)-

Yes, 1/3 of the population, but they don't all live in one place "beyond the frontier". They live around all the Maryknoll priests I know in Africa. They live around an ex-pastor of my rural parish who goes off to Mongolia now and then. I am not sure of this definition of frontier. There are no Christians at the end of my street. Am I on the frontier?
Rob said…
-I find it hard to believe that even the most partisan RC would say that he and the Orthodox worship a different God-

Oh man, you haven't been to Energetic Processions! LOL

But look, I am not fire breathing trad. I am not even a good Catholic. I missed mass last Sunday (I work weekends and nights). BUt it is simply logical.

I have a friend in Romania, he's Orthodox. He is a great guy and we chat about this and that, but we don't fool each other that our religions are the same. This need not be said with rancor. I mean, look, if you believe that the Spirit proceeds from the Father only and I believe it proceeds from the Father and the Son, then we believe different gospels (however similar)and only one of us (hopefully!) is right. It doesn't mean that we tell each to enjoy eternity in Hell. It is a painful mystery, this division, and one whos epain is not alleviated by pretending it does not exist.

As for "diabolical eveangelicals", you haven't met my mother-in-law. That woman is the devil!
Rob said…
Don, Thanks for the fiction link. I will get to it soon!
Don said…
Rob, I think that you and your Orthodox friend need to stick with important subjects. Like this. But I see that you've already dealt with this subject.

As far as your mother-in-law in concerned, sounds like you have problems like this. But I would be very reluctant to characterise such as from the devil.
Don said…
My first link didn't work. Sorry. It's here:

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