Reflections On The Catholic Church
by Rev. Mark Connolly
There is no doubt that the Catholic Church is a source of contradictions to some and a source of inspiration to others. Contradiction. Any history book can give you a list of some of the more serious mistakes the Church has made. And since it is so easy to jump on mistakes, like the Inquisition, this becomes a contradiction that colors the mind of some who see very little good in the Catholic Church.
Why do so many people, who know of the mistakes of the past in the Catholic Church, stay as Catholics? Their answers are as diverse as the individuals you ask. For some, the Catholic Church is that institution that for 2000 years has brought the story of Christ’s love to billions of people. If you go back to that first Pentecost, you might recall the story of 12 apostles who spent their entire lives in different parts of the world preaching about that love. And the story of the love that Christ has for us has been told in every part of the world by the followers of Christ.
All the great cathedrals, universities, hospitals, schools, parishes, all are built on that one great and simple story – the personal love that Christ has for each one of us. No one doubts that the Church (made up of individuals like you and me) has made mistakes and committed sins. No one questions that. But even the enemies of the Church will admit that for 2000 years, amidst all sorts of hardships and setbacks, the Church has been loyal to teaching the basic love story of Christ for all people.
Writing this article as a Catholic Priest and reflecting on all the goodness of the Church, I am proud to think that God allowed me to preach his gospel of love to others. I ask the readers of this article to suspend their judgments about the failures of the Church until you meet God face to face. Until that time, reflect that throughout history the Gospel has been preached. Think of how most countries have been bettered and enriched by the gospel of love about Christ that people have heard. Think of the millions of uncanonized people like your parents and mine who fed the sick, clothed the naked, gave compassion to those in pain, all because they heard of this carpenter from Galilee who preached about love and what it can do and has done for so many.
Just reflect on the canonized saints – the Mother Setons, the Mother Cabrini’s, and in years to come undoubtedly the Mother Teresa’s that bettered the world because their presence meant the love of Christ was being experienced. Just go back to the St. Augustine’s and the St. Thomas’ and all the minds that helped the Gospel of love become so real to so many. G.K. Chesterton has a wonderful line where he said, "imagine what the world would be like if we did not have the Catholic Church and the gospel of love that it preaches."
When you think of the 12 apostles who personally knew Christ, one of them betrayed Christ, one doubted him, one denied him, and all at one time deserted him. And yet the Church, from that shaky beginning, now has close to one billion people throughout the world. And most of them have been enriched by the Gospel of Love taught by Christ and his 12 human apostles.
For me to be a Catholic and a Catholic Priest is an undeserved honor and privilege. To be able to teach about the love of Christ, to be able to preach about the love of Christ, to be able to bring the love of Christ to others, for me there is no greater privilege.
If you go back into the 2000 year history of the Church, you have to reflect on the number of great people whom we have met who preached the Gospel of Love. Protestant or Catholic, male or female, each one who proclaimed the Gospel of love left the world a better place.
And may God one day say to us who spread his gospel: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter the kingdom that I have prepared for you who served me on earth."
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