I have a fellow missionary who is allergic to plastic flowers in churches. He can’t stand them. When he sees them on an altar in plain sight or even on a hidden pedestal he removes them until they disappear if he can. It is not simply that he does not like them aesthetically. His is a real phobia, although not a prognostic one, because he justifies it with serious reasons.

From a distance, plastic flowers are not all ugly and tasteless. Some are so similar to the real thing that if we don’t touch them we can’t tell whether they are artificial or not.

I think they are a symbol of our times, where artifice and deception are so much in vogue. They represent the spirit of our age, which takes great care over outward appearance and any ostentation.

It is true that plastic flowers do not get dirty, fade or change colour. They are often cheaper than garden or greenhouse flowers and are less labour-intensive. Fake flowers don’t have to have their water changed frequently, nor do they rot… but who doesn’t consider them as tacky, a sign of bad taste?

There is more to say about them. Plastic flowers are dangerous in a church or chapel. Not because they pollute the environment, but because they convey a lethal message. They are quietly proclaiming by their presence that everything that is said or done there is not true! It is all mere appearance, it is false, it is plastic. Christ is not really present in the species of bread and wine, nor are the texts that are proclaimed the word of God, nor is there any movement of conversion or communion among the participants. Everything is “plastic”, pure appearance. Not only what is done there, but also what it represents.

Logically, in order to amend this high risk, it is not enough to eliminate by decree the plastic flowers that are still present in chapels and temples. The problem lies in us; in the authenticity of what we say, what we do and who we really are. An authentic person can be recognised by three traits:

– He says the same message in any of the scenarios in which he moves. He does not change according to the reception of his interlocutors, although he does not fail to act prudently to determine when to speak and when to remain silent.

– He does what he has to do even if no one sees him. He does not need the support, complacency or approval of anyone to make his decisions and set a style in his daily life.

– He does not show off. He shows his weaknesses with good humour, avoids display and cloying self-talk. But neither does he keep his gifts hidden and untapped, even if it complicates his life.


Juan Carlos cmf




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