Venerable Fulton Sheen
Isn’t it fair to say that our Catholic faith is under attack from many angles in our world today? The growth of relativism, aggressive secularism, and even attacks from within our own ranks, by people who suggest that Church teaching is wrong on certain matters.
In my own experience it is becoming abundantly clear that more and more self-proclaimed Christians (especially Catholics) are attaching less and less importance to the role of faith, and ultimately Christ, in their lives. It brings to mind a quote of Venerable Fulton Sheen when he said “When somebody says: ‘I’m Catholic but…’ it means: they’re really not Catholic!” There are so many examples of people saying ‘I’m Catholic but…’ in our world today. Indeed it is a daily occurrence on social media forums. ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t go to Mass’; ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t go to Confession, I just go direct to God’; ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t think we should interfere with a woman’s choice when it comes to abortion’; ‘I’m Catholic but I believe that same-sex marriage is okay because two people love each other’.
And while those who propagate the view ‘I’m Catholic but…’ don’t seem to care much for the effect it has on the more traditional, conservative Catholic lay people around them; they don’t seem to appreciate the effect this has on the one who really matters….Jesus Christ.
It is often difficult to comprehend certain Truths taught by the Catholic Church; the Church’s stance on homosexual acts perhaps being the most relevant example. Nothing seems to stoke the flames as much as this issue. And even when the natural law, Sacred Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church is quoted in defence of the Church’s position, it still isn’t enough to eradicate the view that the Church is out of touch and living in the past.
Yet what is the Church? Is it really a bunch of decrepit old men as is often argued? Certainly not. The Church is an assembly brought together by the Word of God, forming the People of God; a people nourished and sustained by the Eucharist. And by receiving this nourishment from Christ’s Body we too become the Body of Christ. The Church is the community of believers in Christ and his Truth. It is a people, stemming from Peter and the apostles through the ages to the present day. It is a people charged with the task of not only proclaiming the Truth but protecting it so that it may continue to live on through time, penetrating the hearts of countless peoples through the ages. And perhaps the most important component of the Church is its head; for it is Jesus Christ who is head of the Church. Not the pope, not the Bishops nor her priests. No, it is Christ; for it is Christ who formed the Church and it is Christ who promised to be with the Church until the end of time so that the gates of hell would never prevail against her.
When he formed the Church Jesus promised to be with her forever; and he remains with her to this day. And his Truth continues to exist to this very day because it has been protected by his Church. Just think of the apostles and how they, as a relatively small number, carried that Truth with them, taking it to everyone they met so that they might come to know Christ as they knew him. Think of how they changed hearts and minds with this Truth and how they were even prepared to take it to their excruciatingly painful deaths. Yet despite this, the Truth continued to penetrate time, through the early Church Fathers, the Saints, and through converts to the faith. And so it continued on and two thousand years later it remains with us today; that same Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles. And it is here because he promised it would be here. Jesus promised to be with his Church, and so his Truth lives on; protected and preserved by a people who love him and who trust completely in him.
While it can be incredibly difficult to live a life of faith in today’s world, especially a life of faith in a Catholic sense, we must remember that we are preserving the Truth of Christ, the one who created us and who loves us more than any other.
Another beautiful way to look at the Church is to see her as Christ’s bride. She waits for him to return to earth so that they, the bride and groom, can be completely united as one. If we let go of the Truth there will be no bride waiting for Jesus at the end of time. That is why it is so important for us to be true to our faith, every last bit of it. I have heard it said that the rib taken from Adam to create Eve was symbolic of Christ and the Church. That is how close Christ is to his Church! And when Christ died on the Cross on Calvary and his side was pierced by the roman soldier, the significance of Adam’s rib became even more apparent. For in the blood and water which poured forth from Christ’s side came his forgiveness; a forgiveness that he would soon thereafter charge to his disciples and to his Church. And the first person to fully appreciate the significance of the blood and water pouring from Christ’s side and who proclaimed him to be the ‘Son of God’? The Roman soldier Longinus (now St Longinus) who pierced his side. Many claim that he was the first convert to the Christian faith. So, the Church, the creation of which was foretold by the removal of Adam’s (Jesus) rib to create Eve (the Church), can now be seen pouring out of Christ’s side and reaching out to his created people, calling them to conversion and to come to know the Truth.
St Longinus would never dream of saying ‘I’m Catholic but….’
Longinus pierces Christ's side