The challenge Pope Francis is offering to the church, apparently goes much deeper than merely tinkering with the trappings of the faith.

In an interview last winter, then-Cardinal Bergoglio told Andrea Tornielli of Vatican Insider:

Instead of just being a Church that welcomes and receives, we try to be a Church that comes out of itself and goes to the men and women who do not participate in parish life, do not know much about it and are indifferent towards it. We organize missions in public squares where many people usually gather: we pray, we celebrate Mass, we offer baptism which we administer after a brief preparation.

In a civilized, suburban, comfortable little city on the west coast of Canada, what might it possibly look like to be a church “that comes out of itself”?

It is an understatement to say that we are surrounded on all sides by an overwhelming majority of “men and women who do not participate in parish life, do not know much about it and are indifferent towards it.” Many people around the churches in most Canadian cities today have almost no idea what possible purpose church might ever serve in their lives. There is almost nothing churches can do to attract these people into worship services inside a church building. How can the church even begin to think about going to these people in ways that might be remotely meaningful in their lives?

Where are our “public squares”? Where do “many people usually gather”? Is it even possible to imagine going to these places to “celebrate Mass” and “offer baptism”?

Jorge Mario Bergoglio offers a stern rebuke to any church that refuses to embrace the challenge of these questions.

We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman.… If I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one …

Are we a “sick withdrawn Church”?

Are we willing to embrace “the risk of accidents happening,” or are we determined to stick to the safety of the familiar protected world of church-land?

What might it take for us to become “a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets” to encounter people in their lives where they are? Is there any way to do this in our cultural setting that might have the slightest chance of being anything other than embarrassing for participants and off-putting for observers?

I am a naturally fairly timid person. I am not given to elaborate gestures in public. Most of my life I have been pretty sheltered behind the sacred walls of the church. I am poorly qualified to propose a vision for what it might look like for the church to “go outside itself.” But I am open to discovering what it might mean to move “out onto the streets” to encounter people where they are rather than always demanding they come to the place where I feel comfortable.