“Why does the Catholic Church … ?”

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

Emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lot of people, including some Catholics, have questions about Holy Mother Church. Some questions are asked out of simple curiosity, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Other questions are posed with a sincere desire to learn or know or understand, and these are wonderful. But sometimes a question is asked that is, well, downright dishonest because it’s asked not out of real curiosity or an honest desire to know but with an ulterior motive. Have you ever had anyone ask a question and as soon as you’d finished answering chimed in with, “Well, I believe … ” and they keep going from there. They didn’t even listen to your answer, they were to busy thinking about their rebuttal. And lucky you, who didn’t even need to ask. But the first two I mentioned, the good kind of question, with questions like those in mind consider the following …

There’s a question that I’ve never heard asked and that I think is at the root of almost, not all but almost, every question about the Church that I’ve ever heard. The unspoken question, around which so many others revolve, is: “Why does the Catholic Church LOOK the way it does?”

Most of the people who ask questions about the Catholic Church, at least in my own personal experience, are folks who know what the first century Church looked like, or think they do, from what they read about it in the New Testament. And that Church doesn’t look anything like the Catholic Church to them. (Actually it does if you know what you’re looking for but because so many people are unfamiliar with concepts like the Papacy, the Magisterium, the Mass, and etc. they really don’t see the obvious.) Looking at it from their perspective for a minute helps. In the first century Church Peter didn’t wear a three-tiered mitre, priests didn’t wear vestments, there were no buildings with statuary, individual believers didn’t carry Rosaries, and the list goes on. So, after having stepped into the shoes of an honest questioner for a minute, lets step back in time and take a look at the Church at Pentecost, its “Birth Day”  …

What was the early Church, in reference to the people in it? What were the people there, the members of the new Church, on the day of Pentecost? French? German? Cherokee? No, we all know they were Jewish. In spreading the Gospel amongst the Jews what did the Apostles use? They used the Jewish scriptures. Every good Jew, and most of the not-so-good ones, knew the Holy Scriptures. It was via these Holy Books that an understanding of Jesus as Messiah could best be explained, best be gained. Now fast forward a few decades …

What was the early Church, in reference to people, by the end of its first one hundred years of existence? It was Gentile, and Gentile is everybody who’s NOT Jewish. How would the Apostles and their successors, many of these being Gentile themselves, explain the Gospel to Gentiles unfamiliar with the Jewish faith and its scriptures? Because you could use the Holy Books but they wouldn’t be understood in context because the Gentiles, not being Jewish, were out of context, spiritually, themselves. So how do you explain the Gospel, what do you use? You use what they’re familiar with. Like Paul did in Acts 17:23 when he referred to an idol dedicated to “The Unknown God”. Having found a point that his listeners could grasp he continued on from there. A little like St. Patrick explaining the Trinity several hundred years down the road. He could’ve talked about the Church Fathers and word meanings in common Greek with a side order of Latin, and he would have had no impact at all because his listeners would’ve had no clue as to any of these. But they could understand what they had and what they had were fields of shamrock.

“Why does the Catholic Church look  the way it does?” Because knowing the answer to this unasked question answers lots of others and the answer is simple. It looks like it does because its open to all, Jew and Gentile alike, and when people come in they bring their cultures with them. Cultures are not evil in themselves. True, certain aspects of any culture may need to be modified or left behind entirely, but the culture itself, the parts that are good or of no real consequence, is absorbed by the Church as God accepts the people into it and THAT’S why Holy Mother Church looks the way she does. Bottom line, we started out looking like a Jewish organization with its way of explaining and being, but quickly changed into a Gentile group with its own necessary ways of explaining and doing. The truths didn’t change, the people did. And God, by His Grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit, took all of this, put it together, nurtured it, let it grow, and now we have something called “Catholic culture”. And that’s all His, not Jewish, not Gentile, but blood-purchased Human.

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Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm  Comments Off on “Why does the Catholic Church … ?”  
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Listen to your mother, pay attention to your Queen … Wednesday, January 23

English: St.Michael parish church in Mondsee (...

Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Rosary Meditation … The Fifth Glorious Mystery, the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.” Sirach 24:24. There is a well-known position, a position meant especially for the mother of the king. It is not symbolic, it is not honorary. The position is that of Queen Mother. It comes with authority and power. Christ is King and Mary, by the will of God, is Queen Mother. All of the politicians, humble or proud, all of the worlds leaders, weak or powerful, are in no way equal to the Queen. She derives all that she has from the King’s position. Because He is great so is she. No constitution, no law, no amendment, no mandate out ranks her word. That’s because THE Word was made flesh, and that flesh came from her body. Think of how much God loved (and loves) humanity, even in our fallen condition. He loves us so much that He became one of us. He wants a union with us. And Mary, in her being elevated to the position of Queen, her Coronation, is an example of and a very real part of that union. The Church is the Bride of Christ. When it’s all said and done we are to be elevated also. Between now and then we have Mary as a queenly human example, and the best of human examples. I know that Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, was and is fully human as well. But in Mary we have one that, for me anyway, is so easy to identify with because she was and is so very human. I don’t mean “only” human as though she is just one more human amongst billions. She is special and I dealt with that specialness a few posts back.  But as Queen Mother she, as a very fully human mother like any other who gave birth in love, gave birth to “fair love” because God IS love. She is the mother of “fear”, not the quake-in-your-boots kind of fear, but the fear of disappointing the One you love the most. It’s the ultimate in respect for God. She gave birth to “knowledge”. To know Jesus is to know (knowledge) the Way and the Truth and the Life. He said to “Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart.” Matthew 11:29. Mary our Queen sets an example of this learning for us. Study her life. You’ll learn of Him when you learn from her. Mary, Queen Mother of our “holy hope”, which hope is found in her Son. The Son loves us an awful lot. He must. Look at the Queen He set over us. And make no mistake about it, she is a REAL Queen with REAL power. And her Son expects us to treat her as such. We are obligated, as Christians, to show respect for our Queen, to listen to our mother.

Today … St. Barnard. A Benedictine archbishop, founder and member of the court of Charlemagne. Do you think he understood the position of royalty, of the queen? He was born in the Frene province of Lyonnais, in 777, and was educated at court. He received his education surrounded by royalty. Do you think this had an effect on his learning process? He became a Benedictine and restored Ambronay Abbey, becoming abbot of the monks. In 810, Barnard was made the archbishop of Vienne, France, where he founded Romans Abbey in 837. As an archbishop, as a prince of the Church, do you think he ever interacted with the worlds royalty? He died there in Vienne. He was canonized in 1907. This saint helped found a Royal Court. He was a part of it. Put yourself in his place for a minute. Do you think he had respect for the King? Sure he did. He worked for the king. Now how do you think he acted towards the King’s mother at court, and away from court? Now let’s go do likewise.

A Royal thought … “Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.” Aristotle.
Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 5:20 am  Comments Off on Listen to your mother, pay attention to your Queen … Wednesday, January 23  
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