by Fr. Gerard Saguto, FSSP.
With Thanksgiving Day, many are (or were, depending on where you live) looking forward to getting together at home and spending time with family and friends.
The thought of home is something that is written into the heart of every human being; while often times it brings to mind a physical house or location, it goes deeper.
In fact, there seems to be an unspoken standard for comparison about what constitutes a home: home is supposed to be a place of security, stability, and safety, a place where one found love and learned about life, was educated and allowed to mature, so as to engage and contribute well to the larger world outside it, and remained always a place one can return to for a needed respite. While every home has its own mix of dysfunction, the anger and frustration displayed by those raised in more dysfunctional ones reveals this innate sense of what was to be expected.
A home then is not a sum of commands or rules given by a father or mother. Rather, a home is ultimately an interaction between personalities that are supposed to be loving each other – spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents. Rules or commands should be in play, and they need to be, but these are not what are supposed to define the home. The rules and commands originated with a person.
A few years ago, there was a large national media initiative to reach out to lapsed Catholics called Catholics Come Home. While it had varied levels of success, it was an interesting approach, because this reality of the Catholic Church as a home often escapes Catholics when they consider what the Church actually is.
With only a vague sense of her origins and history, and an anemic experience with the institutional aspect of the Church, many Catholics indeed tend to view the Church as a sum of commands and rules, imposing a morality that they find outdated or even impossible. Finding little support, the faith infused at Baptism is stifled and choked by the thorns of the world, and it becomes easy to drift away. What they ultimately have lacked, though, is a real sense of contact, intrigue, and love with a Person. Where to begin?
But we preach Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor:23)
Is the Man on the Cross just a man?
The Church is a home, and that is because it begins with a Person, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Faith must begin in Him, for faith is a meeting of two personalities – Christ and me.
Who do you say that I am? Christ asks His Apostles. (Mt 16:15) There is only one correct answer to this question, upon which is built the entire deposit of Faith.
As our Lord taught, governed, and sanctified by His physical Body that He took of our Lady overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, so He continues to do now with His Mystical Body, the Church, overshadowed by the Holy Ghost on Pentecost. There is no doctrine, no moral apart from Him who declares Himself to the be the Truth.
Nothing is credible in the Church apart from Christ who lives in it with us; if we do not believe Christ is God, then we never believe in the truths that flow from that and have had tremendous impact on us – the Holy Trinity, the Holy Eucharist, the Resurrection, the forgiveness of sins.
Therefore, the Church cannot be considered as something that stands between me and Christ, as so often is alleged.
The Church is Christ, in her visible human element and invisible divine element, living through the ages in such a way as to be a place of dogmatic and moral security as a house built on rock, and where one understands how to love and live from the Person who is Life itself.
This means that love is the basis of being a member of the Church, as it is supposed to be the basis of being a member of a home.
We have been baptized into Christ’s death, the greatest act of love ever displayed and graciously made available to all. As dysfunctional as the Church can be in her human element – and she is – it is perfect love of Christ Crucified, our “Eternal Contemporary” as Ven. Fulton Sheen coins Him, living in the Church that seeks to unite her members and remain the constant inspiration for our holiness and mutual forgiveness.
Falling away from the Church is falling away from love of a Person, a veritable running away from the home Christ built. A Person stands behind the doctrine and morals.
Be convinced that He always leaves His runaways with a key to get back into the house. And a real hand with a hole in it stands ready to open the door.
That is something to be most thankful for.
November 25, 2020