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How Christianity spreads around the globe

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 30, 2015

The history of Christianity is full of mystery. The apostles, according to the traditions we have, went just about everywhere to preach the Faith, but it took root first in the Mediterranean basin. As the Roman Empire went into decline, with increasing divisions between East and West, enormous figures like St. Patrick and St. Boniface were accompanied by signs and wonders as they converted whole nations, giving rise to what we know as Christendom.

Then, as Christendom began to decline and disintegrate into worldly squabbles, which were increasingly rooted in the interests of emerging nation states, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico. She turned a very questionable European influence in the New World into a veritable explosion of faith among the native populations.

Now, with the quintessential Western nations committing suicide through a kind of disillusioned and even senile grasping at pleasure, evidence increases by the day that Christianity is finally spreading with some rapidity in the East. Much more obviously, it is gaining strength rapidly in Africa, where the Catholic Faith is particularly vibrant. The particular miracles are not as obvious, perhaps, but the Holy Spirit is clearly stirring things up in Africa.

The center of gravity for the Christian world, and for the Catholic Church, is shifting fairly rapidly.

I couldn’t help but think of all this when I considered the title of one of the new books I reviewed yesterday, Christ’s New Homeland—Africa. Again, how Christianity spreads is something of a mystery. Success is always triggered by the confluence of fidelity on the part of existing Christians and particular actions of the Holy Spirit, which are not predictable.

These combinations can take a great many different forms. A winning combination seems to call us more often to suffering than to taking the world by storm. The special grace which causes the Faith to spread rapidly in a particular region is fairly rare, and we don’t know why.

But we can be sure there is a Providential plan for Christianity to reach the ends of the earth, not only in terms of ideas but as a lived reality in the course of history. Nothing could be more consistent with the very historicity of Christ. I believe we are privileged to be able to recognize one of these Providential stages in our own time.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Edward I. - Jul. 15, 2016 4:01 AM ET USA

    That's one striking analogy to the spiritual life. Even though the builder has no formal training, and it's only half-complete, his perseverance and labor has created a beautiful building. But he'll never finish the work in this lifetime. All he can do is trust in God to decide what will happen to it after he's gone. If you were writing a novel and you put this story in as a part of the plot, readers would complain that your religious symbolism was too heavy handed and that it defied realism.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 14, 2016 5:03 PM ET USA

    While the rest of us struggle against the Cardinal Marxes and such, this man builds a cathedral. Maybe we should deliberately take a page out of his book...often.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Oct. 01, 2015 11:46 AM ET USA

    There is nothing but good things to expect in Asia and Africa when the Faith finally takes hold. China seems to be called to suffer more, but Africa is already, for the first time I understand, majority Christian. Come Holy Spirit!