40 Reasons to Come Home: Reason # 15

Reason # 15: E Pluribus Unum (from the many there is one). I was at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last Sunday afternoon as the Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl,  greeted men and women preparing to enter the Catholic faith this Easter.  The Basilica is one of the 15 largest churches in the world, and is surely the largest Catholic Church in this fair city.  It seats well over 3000 and was filled.  What was amazing, though, was the diversity manifested in those who were gathered.  Quite literally, there were people from all over the world: Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, the Philippines, Japan, China, and of course, from right here in the USA.

 The word “catholic” is actually an adjective that means “universal.”  Christ had told the apostles to make disciples from all nations.  That is what I saw last Sunday afternoon.  All of humanity was represented.  I saw that day young and old, rich and poor, famous and not so famous, clergy and laity, and religious brothers and sisters. It is clear that all are invited; no one is excluded who will accept Jesus and his teachings. 

All of this diversity makes for a rich experience in Church life. We all celebrate the one true faith and are united in the celebration of one liturgy, but there is a great diversity as to things such as music, language, preaching style, etc.  Some people say they have left the Catholic Church because of boredom. But my challenge to you is that if you don’t find a parish you like in your own immediate neighborhood, look around!  You’ll be surprised at what you see. Some of our downtown city parishes feature very formal liturgies, wonderful choirs, and traditional music.  Our African-American Catholic parishes feature dynamic gospel choirs and exuberant preaching.  One of our largest and most diverse parishes is St. Camillus in Silver Spring which features, among other things, a large multicultural choir. We have  Korean parishes and Hispanic and Latino parishes. Several of our parishes also have a large Filipino communities.  Mass is celebrated in over a dozen languages in the Archdiocese every Sunday.  Some of our parishes also celebrate the ancient form of the Latin liturgy.

If you think every parish is the same, look again! E pluribus (and there’s a lot of pluribus) unum: “among the many there is one.” There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; but all of it is manifest in the rich tapestry that is the Roman Catholic Church. Come on home—you might be surprised what you find if you’ve been away for a while!

I’ve  featured this video before, but it makes sense to do so again in this post.

Back to Basics!

The following comment and question came in from a reader and presents a very soul-searching insight.

I am a Catholic in my mid thirties, raising a family and faithfully attending Mass. But I must admit I have some concern that the Church is missing the mark in reaching out to people my age and younger. It seems that all the concerns of the Church are about internal things like translations and where tabernacles should be. Don’t get me wrong, as a faithful Catholic those things are important to me. But these discussions take all our time, and, meanwhile, the world around us gets more and more secular. Many young people I know are practical atheists; God and the Church aren’t even on their radar. Yet we continue to go on and on with our internal preoccupations. Any comments?

Yes, this is a very important insight. There is always the temptation for any organization with humans involved to become primarily inward-looking and to lose sight of its essential mission. Obviously our fundamental mission is to announce Jesus Christ, to go to all the nations and teach them what the Lord Jesus taught for our salvation. We are to bring people into living, conscious contact with Jesus Christ; to bring them into a transformative relationship with Him through Word, Sacrament, and witness. But too easily we can spend all our time consumed with internal procedures and policy, debates about furniture and buildings, etc.

As you point out, some attention has to be paid to internal issues; there can be some very important theological and faith-related issues in such details. But the danger is that this becomes all-consuming. Meanwhile we have lost the culture around us, and even more sadly, many indviduals.

What to do? I would answer that we as a Church should continue the very discussion you have begun. As we both seem to agree, the answer is not simply to disregard internal issues, but rather to continue to summon the Church to her fundamental mission. Your insight is powerful and is a profound call to awakening. If we do not listen to your wake-up call, we risk the proverbial fate of “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Some will counter that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the Church, hence we could never be the Titanic. True, but no such promise is given to our western world, which increasingly has lost its way through secularism. Souls are being lost and error is spreading. We have to renew the good fight and take our message back out into the world as never before. That is one hope that underlies both this blog and the fundamental question asked by our Archbishop: Longing for something? Maybe it’s God!

Fr. Robert Barron struggles with the very problem you have raised in the following video—one of his best commentaries ever. He also has proposed some solutions.

Finding Christ in the Movies

I have mentioned Fr. Robert Barron, A Chicago Priest, to you in a previous post. Among the things that he does very well is to comment on current movies with a particular goal to describe how Christ or some aspect of Jesus’ teachings are found there. In the clip just below Fr. Barron comments on the latest Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino and describes how the main character goes from being a violent man to manifesting the saving love of Jesus Christ. SPOILER ALERT: Fr. Barron describes all aspects of the movie, including how it ends.

One of my favorite movie commentaries by Fr. Barron is his commentary on the movie The Matrix. I had a hard time understanding that movie until Fr. Barron decoded it for me and described how The Matrix is really a very rich study of Christ.

Discovering God in a Snowstorm

There is a heavy snow falling in Washington this March evening. Not every one likes snow but it is an amazing work of God. He takes a barren winter landscape and creates it anew. In the Book of Sirach there is a beautiful and poetic description of God and the majestic work he creates, even in the “dead” of Winter. Enjoy this excerpt from Sirach and reflect on the glory of winter.

 

God in Winter:

A word from God  drives on the north wind.

He scatters frost like so much salt;

It shines like blossoms on the thornbush.

Cold northern blasts he sends that turn the ponds to lumps of ice.

He freezes over every body of water,

And clothes each pool with a coat of mail.

He sprinkles the snow like fluttering birds.

Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes,

The mind is baffled by its steady fall. 

 Sirach 43, selected verses

Longing for Something? Maybe it’s God!

 

One of the most gifted priestly contributors to the Internet is Fr. Robert Barron, a Chicago priest. He is an insightful commentator on cultural issues and current events and how they relate to Church teaching. Here is an example of his commentary on the A-Rod steroid controversy. Through this example he explores a basic theme of this blog: the longing we all have for God.

 

You can see more of Fr. Barron’s videos here.