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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The right kind of Catholic

The right kind of Catholic

Divisions within Catholicism have been a frequent subject here. In contemporary American Catholicism, ideology often trumps Christ, something Pope Benedict himself noted on his visit last spring:

I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.

Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

That is not a call to paper over differences, to pretend that is all is well as we join hands around the campfire. It is not a call to abandon mutual fraternal correction. It is simply, as a first step, to look to Christ and open ourselves to him, together. And to go from there, dependent on the Spirit to bind us together, to reveal the truth to us, and to empower us to bring the Gospel to a world that thirsts and hungers.

What is true is that this unity is indeed not uniformity, as St. Paul notes and as only one who is blind to history can deny. The diversity within the Body of Christ runs deep, and is complex - as complex as life itself.


As much as we hope to be salt and light ourselves, as much as we would hope to share God’s love with others, would we really want another person’s faith in Christ to depend on our witness?

Then it is not fair to make the lives and works of others, no matter how holy, idols in that way either.

Rome is a good place to run up against this complexity. Of course, if one is aware of history or even aware of what happens in one’s own parish, it is not news. But even if you have avoided the reality before, in Rome, you can’t. For in Rome you walk amid all kinds of Catholics, the right and wrong sort, and you are forced to take a stand.

Most vividly. In Rome, you might stand or kneel within a church built on the home of an ancient martyr. Perhaps the church contains that martyr’s remains and truly bears the martyr’s memory, which has strengthened the faithful in carrying their own crosses for centuries.

But there is a good chance that this same church was built by, expanded by or decorated by a wealthy Cardinal with a mistress or two and some sins for which to atone. The gorgeous art, resonant and powerful in its portrayal of Calvary, might have come from the hands of an artist with little or no faith to speak of, doing what he had to do for the commission. You are walking on paths that were stained by the blood of bishop martyrs and then paved by the edict of bishop rulers. St. Francis walked here in bare feet. Catholic aristocracy were carried above the muck, flattered by clergy as they handed out bread to the poor and paid the dowries of impoverished girls.

What, in that mess, do we reject? What do we accept? What is pure enough for us?

Layer upon layer. Nothing is simple. In this Body of Christ, paradox reigns, inherent at its root - the Body of the Christ, the Anointed of God, descended from eternity, yet broken, yet risen, yet still embodied here.

Ultimately, to sneer at the wrong sort of Catholic leads us to one place.

The mirror.

Do read the rest of this very nice reflection by Amy Welborn HERE

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