<i>Cura personalis:</i> Recognizing Christ in the Other

Catharine Randall

in Black Robes & Buckskin

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780823232628
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240449 | DOI:
Cura personalis: Recognizing Christ in the Other

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The ways in which the Jesuit Fathers convinced Native Americans to convert to Christianity were very different from the ways in which Protestant ministers handled their ministry, or the ways in which they would have attempted to convert the natives, had they been allowed to do so. Briefly put, the Jesuit model was one of inculturation, of living among the natives, getting to know them, teaching them but also learning from them—especially their languages—and not attempting to impose Catholic or French norms. Instead, the Jesuits hoped to persuade by example and by the compassionate witness of self-sacrifice. The Protestant approach was more directive, and more verbal: they relied on lots of preaching from Scripture, citing chapter and verse, and they believed that the natives were “creatures of the Fall” who needed to be saved willy-nilly and, perhaps, despite themselves. Although the first contract of the French Jesuits in America has to do with the fur trade, it is clear that commerce was not their first concern, and never would be. The Jesuit cura personalis, the attention and respect given to the care of an individual person and that person's soul, proved much more persuasive and compelling to the natives of New France than did the Protestant tactics and brow-beating rhetoric.

Keywords: Relations; Jesuit missionaries; Protestants; Christianity; religious conversion; Native Americans

Chapter.  7802 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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