What I love about the Catholic Church
Friday, November 4, 2011
I heard the other day a couple of people ridiculing catholicism in the media, both of them, I believe, are fallen away Catholics. As a husband praises and cherishes his wife, we Catholics need to honor the Church. Off the top of my head, I rattled off eleven things I love about the Church. I know eleven is not a nice number for a list, but it is what came to mind for me. Everything on this list does not belong exclusively to the Catholic Church, for there are elements of sanctification which exist outside of her visible structure. But in the Church we have the fullness of the means of sanctification.

1. The Church is the home of forgiveness. Because she is joined to Jesus Christ, her savior, who has purified her by his sacrifice on the cross. He is the one mediator between God and men. In her, through the sacraments and His word, we are made clean. She is where we find the Fathers House, where sinners are welcomed home to find salvation.

2. The Church is where we can experience Gods love in a most intense way. He speaks to us when the Scriptures are proclaimed. He welcomes us home through the sacrament of penance when we stray as prodigals. In receiving communion, He comes to abide in us, give us His life, and pledges to raise us to eternal glory. As members of His flock, He gives us His priests to shepherd us and be present to us, in a special way, until the end of time.

3. The Catholic Church has the Eucharist, His greatest gift to us. It is the sacrament of His presence, where we can go to kneel before Him in silent adoration, where we can love Him and be loved in return. As in all the Sacraments, but in a supreme way at the Mass, the power of the redemption is made present to us. The grace of the Paschal Mystery (His suffering, death and resurrection) is applied to us through the sacraments culminating in the Eucharist. In the liturgy by the power of the Holy Spirit the saving mysteries of Christs life, all that He did to sanctify us, is re-presented to us.

4. St. John Vianney said, The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. I have come to appreciate this even more as a priest. The faithful see in the priest something more than he sees in himself. The priest is there to preach Gods word, to minister the Churchs sacraments, and is to manifest Gods love for His people, by caring and tending Jesus flock.

5. In the Church we have a true fellowship. No one believes alone. Our faith is strengthened by others and we, theirs. Faith needs community. I need the witness of others. I need to see how the faith has shaped their lives, how they receive strength from faith. I need to share in their courage as they face the challenges and difficulties of life.

6. The Catholic Church has the papacy. Though it receives scant coverage in the media, millions of people go to see the pope every year. No rock star or president receives such attention. He holds the office of Peter, and the sheep recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd in His vicar. A popes brilliance and even his holiness is secondary, by virtue of his office he confirms us in the faith and lead us in the ways of God.

7. The Church is the bearer of the Good News and she serves the coming of the kingdom through her preaching. In a relativistic world where many do not believe in universal moral truths, the Church, in her preaching and teaching, present the saving truth of Jesus Christ. In her, we find a truth that can be continually unpacked and plumbed for deeper and deeper understanding.

8. She attracts the poor, the suffering and the marginalized. As Jesus was followed by the poor and the sick, the Church is full of those who recognize their own poverty and need for God. Those who suffer, find consolation and hope in the message of the Gospel. Every Catholic Church has a crucifix by the altar because His suffering on the cross is at the heart of the reality of who she is. She was born from the side of Christ, opened on the Cross. He suffered for us and He suffers with us, and the entire Christian mystery is an answer to question of human suffering.

9. She speaks in defense of life and family, this most vital aspect of all our lives. In the great struggle between good and evil, the dignity of human life is always in the crosshairs. The Church is frantically trying to defend this dignity and the importance of the family. It is the fundamental cell of society through which we all pass, yet out culture, in many, ways opposes marriage and family. The Church tries to point out and fight against the great cultural trends and mindsets which threaten the family today, and we have His promise that the powers of death shall not prevail against the Church.

10. The Church is still standing after 2,000 years. She is divinely instituted by Christ, and we stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. Saints that had the same fallen nature we have, and lived their faith in the same fallen world that we do. She is ever young and is always being renewed through the Fathers Word and the action of the Holy Spirit. Even though she has suffered great persecutions, her greatest threats are from within. But even with all that, she has not failed. She is at once holy, and at the same time always clutching sinners to her bosom and ever in need of purification. She has the fullness of the means of sanctification to which her members can avail themselves as they struggle for perfection.

11. The Church is a mother, and in Our Lady the Church has a human face, Marys face. She is the visible figure of the Churchs spiritual reality. In a world torn by sin and a fallen human nature that has left us flailing to say the least, we need the constant, maternal love of Our Lady. She brings us home to Jesus and will never forget us no matter how far we stray.

In the words of St. Bonaventure,

When we follow her we do not lose the way;
when we pray to her we do not despair;
When we think of her we do not go astray.
When she holds us we do not fall;
when she guides us we do not grow weary.
O Mary, your maternal heart
embraces sinners despised by the whole world
and does not abandon them
till they are reconciled to their Judge.

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