The hubris of the Catholic Church is often a huge turn-off to many people. How can she, the Church, this whore (my mother), claim to know the will of God?
After all, everyone knows her reputation. Everyone knows her mistakes. Everyone believes they know all about her and her kind- those “Catholics” who “claim” to “know” about God, but really, they do dead works and worship dead people.
And yet, the Church lives and copes and, more importantly, thrives. Can that not imply the Church knows something the rest of us do not? Through her faith, she is saved. Through her works, she is sanctified.
In the midst of schismatic nuns and colleges, Vatican leaks, SSPX arrogance, and ad hominem counter-arguments of “pedophile priests!!” during valid cultural discussions, the faithful must hold tight to 1 Corinthians 12-26 (RSV):
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
The real question, then, is how are you, gentle reader, helping or hindering the Church? Are you living out your vocation for the glory of God, or content with lesser shades of happiness? Are you struggling with doubt and earnestly seeking God’s will and an understanding, or are you leading others astray with your own brand of PDA (Public Display of Antagonism)?
For those who disagree with the Church and believe that schisms are a sad necessity for Christianity claim a different, higher ground. They want the inclusion of the Catholic faith, but not hardship of clashing with earthly values. They see only the Church’s blemishes; but if you judge a man’s bride by the fit of her dress, how can you see the beauty of her face?
The Church is more than visible: she is physical. Any Catholic Church on any given Sunday or weekday will give different people the same readings and liturgy; participants can see and feel the fellowship, make the sign of the cross and kneel before the tabernacle, admire the beauty within. Travel the world, and you can find sanctuary within the walls of a Catholic Church and with people of all nations.
I’ve attended Mass in South Korea, Japan, and Germany, hardly understanding a word, but I read along in my Magnificat, prayed in my heart and head, and knew the motions. My soul and body were fully engaged and, as alone as I felt in countries where I could barely communicate to the same people I wished peace, I received the Body of Christ.
It has also been in those countries where Catholicism so contrasts the other prominent religions (Buddhism, Shintoism, the Lutheran and Calvinist denominations, and egoism) where I have been struck by the Church’s true appeal: faithfulness to us. We have no problem referencing leaders in science, history, English, political science and international matters when relevant, and yet, in matters of God and religion, we hesitate to ask the Church, as if she was less valid. Perhaps it’s a trust issue: we’ve been let down so many times.
Nevertheless, the Catholic Church can claim to know the will of God because of divine revelation combined with reason: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, fulfilled the old covenant to become the new covenant, shedding his blood to save the world from its own fallenness.
In Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen, Augustine wrote,
There are those who think that the Christian religion is what we should smile at rather than hold fast, for this reason, that, in it, not what may be seen, is shown, but men are commanded faith of things which are not seen. We therefore, that we may refute these, who seem to themselves through prudence to be unwilling to believe what they cannot see, although we are not able to show unto human sight those divine things which we believe, yet do show unto human minds that even those things which are not seen are to be believed.
The most shocking part of the Church is, like most mothers, she may know what she’s talking about. Which is nothing we children like to hear. But we’ve already been banished from the garden, and now live in a world where shiny wrapping paper and well-spoken lines are more appealing than green living and naked Truth. Being kind to one another is ideal, but upholding beliefs with kindness makes us fearful. What will people think about me if they know I believe this?
But it’s not between you and them. And this post isn’t about you. God uses all kinds of mediums to pound the same message into our brains: He is Lord, and you are not. He gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom, and Peter established the Catholic Church as God’s official mouthpiece on teachings of faith and morals, and himself as the first spiritual leader. The Church is a hierarchy, but that does not lessen lay people’s role within the Church, nor do we have less responsibility to carry out the mission of the Church.
Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:12-15 RSV).
The Catholic Church, Christ’s bride, was given to his followers not to hinder our search for Christ, but enhance. As a mother, she instructs. As a bride, she accepts Christ as the head. She cannot abide schism, though she may tolerate it so as to gently lead back. She loves each of us, practicing and not, and greatly rejoices when we return to the fold, no matter how long we have been away. She shows love and, like Mary, always points to Christ, never to herself, as the end and purpose.
In and out of love, we must turn to the Church. She is our mother, and she, like us, is led by the Holy Spirit. She does know better, and her teachings are consistent. She humbles our own hubris, telling us (who, moi?) we don’t know everything, showing us how teachings are not applied to an individual person, and how dogma and faith can be faithfully and joyfully lived within the whole person. She will always be here for us too, if only to scatter bread crumbs to help us follow her path better.
As Augustine wrote, “Give heed unto me, the Church says unto you; give heed unto me, whom you see, although to see ye be unwilling.”
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Julie-Robison-e1313151018703.png[/author_image] [author_info]Julie Robison is a cradle Catholic who holds to a few truths: Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior; the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life; Guinness is a peerless beer; the best way to eat fruit is in a pie. Everything else seems expendable. Julie hails from the Midwest; she has a B.A. in American Studies from Hillsdale College; she is one of the three Bright Maidens; she is a wickedly competitive croquet player. Her blog is The Corner With A View; she tweets at @thejulieview.[/author_info] [/author]