“As Church we are a community. We should celebrate our joys and share in our sorrows as community.”
Three years ago, sitting in my parish priest’s office, he said these words to me as we discussed how to remember a child I had recently lost. These words have stuck with me these past three years and recently they have come to the forefront of my mind again. Current events such as the HHS Mandate, other attacks on our religious freedoms, and groups of Catholics who openly dissent against the Church have caused me to think more deeply about the community that is our Catholic faith.
A community is any group of people that share something in common, have something that unites them. The word literally means with unity. As a Church we stand together and recite our common creed each Sunday:
I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I believe. Not, I think I believe or you over there, but not I, believe. *I* believe.
One Church. Not two or three. Just one.
We all know people within the ranks of Catholicism who don’t agree with all of Church teaching. Our Catholic teaching on when life begins, for example, is fuzzy in the minds of many people due to several decades of poor catechesis. And there are many more issues too: female priests, contraception, abortion, and the list can go on and on. Misunderstanding is one thing, outright dissention is another. Dissention breaks up community, it creates disunity.
As Catholics we are called to be united in one purpose. United as one body. We come together to worship as one. Yes, we are all still individuals, but we share in a common set of beliefs. Or at least we hope we do.
The sad thing is that we are currently seeing a growing group of dissenters within our beautiful Church. It has had the effect, first of all, of showing us where people really stand, whether they are joined with us in true community or not. And secondly it has brought greater unity among those who are continually seeking to be authentic Catholics.
We truly do want to be “one” Church in every respect. But it can not happen while there are groups claiming to know better than the Church. It does beg the question, why? Why would those who are openly defiant of Holy Mother Church still claim to be a part of the Catholic Church? Why stay in a community with whom you do not share a common set of beliefs? Why not join the other 30,000+ Christian denominations that have broken off of the Catholic Church since the 1500s. We would prefer that everyone remain Catholic, but it does require humility and a joining in the beliefs of our common Catholic faith.
An authentic Catholic seeks to learn why the Church teaches what it does. An authentic Catholic asks questions for further understanding. An authentic Catholic humbly submits to the wisdom of the Church, even when it is hard. An authentic Catholic is not perfect, still makes mistakes, and still has questions. But through the beauty of the sacraments of the Church, namely Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist, a Catholic seeking to be an authentic Catholic can humbly admit imperfections and mistakes, seek forgiveness, and remain in unity with Holy Mother Church.
I often feel that Jesus’ heart breaks every time someone dissents from the Church, leaves the Church, or tries to start their own brand of Christianity. How sad it must be for Him to watch His Church fracture and split in so many ways. We must pray for those within our ranks who are trying to break us apart. We must ask for the Holy Spirit to help them have a conversion of heart to live lives of more authentic Catholicism.
Most importantly we need to continue to build community within the Church, lovingly guide those who are struggling toward the beauty of being an authentic Catholic, and pray fervently for those who are openly defiant.
In closing, it is encouraging to see community building and faithful Catholics coming together to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom currently taking place. As Catholics all around our country come together to pray, study, and take action we are showing the world that we are still a community who knows how to come together to work toward a common purpose, celebrate our joys, share in our sorrows, and worship together as a community with one common belief.