As I reflected on what to write for the bulletin, a series of ideas filled my head. There is so much to talk about when it comes to Catholicism. The truth is that any serious intellectual trembles at the thought of discussing our faith; there is a gravitas that overwhelms his spirit. In the end, to write about the Catholic Church is not simply to outline teachings or stale moral practices. It is not enough to report data and factoids. As Catholics, we are part of a story strewn with prestige and largesse, drama and adventure, trial and glory. Our predecessors include the most accomplished and selfless people in world history. No other institution has done more for the cultural, intellectual and societal enrichment of civilization than the Roman Catholic Church. We are philosophers and theologians, builders and founders, artists and musicians, scientists and doctors, kings and presidents, lawyers and teachers, missionaries of justice and heralds of peace. Catholic genius spans the whole breath of human endeavor. Yet, all of its success is not to be found in ambitious exploit or grueling conquest, but rather, in the simple hearts of men and women who sought to love their God and His creation with the same love that they had received. “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34); this is the ultimate maxim of progress. Within these words of Christ, we find the basis of a civilization which upholds the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Church is the world’s heartbeat. She is the redeemed voice of humanity crying out for its Creator in the midst of the world. Although her origin is divine, she exists in the world for the world to give herself to the world. An ancient Christian author reminds us of this in a letter dating from the 4th century AD:
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in…And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country…To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world…Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.
The Church is given; she is a gift that stands above every construct and aspiration of the human person, summoning the whole of our species to the pinnacle of its capacity. Furthermore, within the depository of her soul is the sacred treasure of a truth that all peoples long to hear: there is a God and He loves you. This God is not far away; He is not an imaginary friend up in the clouds. He is a living God, a God who has entered into history and given Himself to the world “once and for all” (Rom. 6:10 & 1 Pet. 3:18). This giving of Himself has been dynamically preserved as a living act within the liturgy of the Church, specifically the celebration of the Holy Mass in which the poverty of bread and wine become the glory of the Crucified-Risen One.
In the upcoming weeks and months I will be writing reflections which seek to make known, augment and instill a deeper appreciation within our hearts of the Catholic religion. I write knowing that my words will join a long list of failed attempts to transmit the beauty of the Church throughout these two-thousand years. But, “the love of Christ compels me” to write (2 Cor. 5:14) and so I will, hoping that in some way my words in their deficiency can help share the splendor of our faith.
Secundum Verbum Tuum,
Fr. Blake Britton