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Thinking Catholic Means Being in Love with the Church

January 11th, 2013by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk

Thinking Catholic involves acknowledging and accepting the church in its full reality. In and through the church Christ makes us holy in his Spirit. Every stage of life is touched by the love and the life of the Lord through his sacraments: baptism that gives us birth, confirmation and the Eucharist that offer us maturity and strength, reconciliation and the anointing of the sick that deal with our moral and physical weaknesses. It’s all part of God’s plan to make us holy as Christ is holy.

 

The Church Teaches Us

In and through the church Christ teaches us. Christ teaches us about the world and our part in it, about the significance of our life, about the Father’s love for us, about what the Father has in store for us when our earthly life is over. Christ teaches us about the worth and dignity of other people and about the dangers of getting too involved with what surrounds us. Christ teaches us that, in the last analysis, he is the unifying power that brings everything together into one and gives significance to all that is. And all this happens in the context of our togetherness in him.

The Church Makes Us Holy

Christ makes us holy through the agency of his ordained priests. Christ teaches us in the context of our families, miniature churches established by the sacrament of matrimony, and then through other teachers who speak in his name. Christ sanctifies, teaches and cares for us through others in less formal ways, too. The love that believers show to other people is the love of Christ. The example of dedication, commitment, sacrifice and prayer that believers offer to those around them is not pious posturing but the simple expression of what friendship with Christ is all about. We need each other because it is in each other that we encounter the Lord. And unless we encounter the Lord, our lives are without meaning.

 

Our Family History

The church has been around for a long time, and so we have an extended and rich family history. It includes those members we call saints (starting with Mary, the mother of Jesus) who have been conspicuously faithful and generous in their response to the Lord’s call. It also includes other members of whom we are less proud.

Our family history includes official rituals and personal devotional practices, some dating from the times of the apostles, some from the imperial court of Byzantium, some from the Middle Ages, some from just a few years ago. Every era of the church makes its contribution to the way in which we express the relationship that Christ has established with us.

Our family history includes a highly articulated body of teaching that reflects, clarifies and develops the teaching of Christ as it has been received and applied over the centuries. It involves thinkers and scholars such as Augustine and Dante and Newman, Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila, who have shared with the church their insights about God, about the order of the world, about prayer, about what it means to be a friend of Jesus. Each has made the riches of Christ available to the community of the faithful in his or her particular way. It’s all part of the church, yet it all reflects the same basic reality of being called into Christ together.

 

Why We Should Love the Mass

The church expresses its nature most eloquently in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. Here is a gathering of people who have been reborn into the life of Christ. Some are fervent believers. Some are lukewarm. Some aren’t sure why they are there at all. Yet they are together in the Lord. And at their gathering, they hear the call of the Lord as the Lord offers it to them in sacred Scripture and as it is applied to the here and now by the Lord’s priest. They express their acceptance of the Lord’s teaching in psalms and hymns. Then they offer themselves to their heavenly Father in conjunction with the offering of faithfulness that Christ made on the cross. In response to their offering, Christ gives them himself in Holy Communion to deepen his life in them and to strengthen them to carry that life with them into the often crazy world in which they live.

For those who think Catholic, Sunday Mass is not just an obligation to be fulfilled. It is a gift, an opportunity to be in touch with the Lord and to be in touch with one another. It is a source of light and energy and joy. It’s something we need in order to stay aware that the real worth of our life consists in being called into Christ together.

The church is old and new, comforting and frustrating, demanding and reassuring. The Lord calls us to embrace it all. Thinking Catholic means being in love with the church.

Photo: Flickr/JeffFran

(Excerpt from Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice, and Think, pg. 225-228 (Franciscan Media,Cincinnati, 2006)

 

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk

This article is excerpted with permission from Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyks book, Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice and Think (Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, 2006). Listen on www.AmericanCatholicRadio.org to Sharing the Word, a daily, 90-second radio homily by Archbishop Pilarczyk based on the readings used at Mass each weekday.