Pentecost and Our Mental Maps

What did “whole world ” mean? The Jewish world? Or did it include the Gentile world? In the Acts of the Apostles we see that it took them a while to figure out these and many other issues. They had to learn new languages and understand new cultures.

They were willing to go out into the world, but did not fully understand what that would mean. They had to change their mental maps. What was essential from their former culture in the new? How to discover the seeds of their former culture in what they had been taught? How nurture the seeds of the Good News in different soil?

Our world has changed radically

We have the same mission. Go out to the whole world. . But, with unprecedented speed, our world has changed radically. The world we are going out to is increasingly different from the world in which we grew up. The world today is more radically different than many of us realize.

Over a period of decades we have seen the slow demise of the Christendom in which we grew up. Pope Francis is very frank! “Christendom no longer exists. Today we are not the only ones who produce culture, nor are we the first or the most listened to. Christianity is often denied, derided, marginalized, or ridiculed.”

We can no longer assume that we in the West make the same associations. “Madonna” evokes Mary to an older generation. For many today Madonna refers to a pop star.

In the last 20 or so years the digital era has changed our lives enormously. These years have served as the formative world of those under 40. Many of us only have superficial glimpses of how differently digital natives think and what values are important to them.

Digital natives look at the world differently. Digital immigrants have learned to use email and other forms of social media. We have not yet learned to think digitally. Thinking digitally is not simply a matter of a new technology.

And now there is growing realization that the COVID19 pandemic will, in ways that are still unclear, most likely forever change us and the way we will live and work.

Each of these changes can be described in various ways. But the changes are real

Adjusting our mental and ministerial maps

No wonder Pope Francis says, “We are not just living in a time of changes, but in a change of times.” It is healthy, he said, to allow ourselves “to be questioned by the challenges of the present time with discernment and courage, rather than to let ourselves be seduced by the comfortable inertia that comes with leaving everything as it is.”

He continues in speaking to the Cardinals of the Curia, “It often happens that we experience change simply by putting on new clothes, and then we stay the way we were before.” It is not enough to do things in a way that once worked.

Whether we recognize it or not, this is not the world many on this Vincentian Mindwalk grew up in. A new generation thinks differently, communicates differently. And will increasingly use space differently.

Yet, whether we understand it or not, the time-honored missionary principle stays the same…Learn the language of the new world … understand the new culture.

It is as simple as that. It is a daunting as that! Are we who follow Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor up to it?

Our mental maps

  • What do you think is the most significant difference in the world today from what so many of us experienced in our formative years?
  • How well do we understand the mental maps of digital natives?
  • What will always be the same, and what needs to change in the way we bring good news, especially to the marginalized?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with how we are living up to the mission of St. Vincent de Paul, and how you can help.