|Queen of Angels by William Adolph Bouguereau (1825-1905)|
A Church Gathered around Jesus Christ: Jesus’ desire before His death was that His followers would be “one” (John 17:21). Granted, we haven’t always done a good job of that! Still, the Catholic Church traces her very origins to Jesus Christ and His apostles, to whom the Church was entrusted. As Catholics, we are able to get as close to Jesus as were the first disciples, for example, in literally sharing in the Last Supper (the Eucharist), taking into our own selves the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
A Church for All People: The word Catholic means “universal.” The Second Vatican Council states that the Catholic Church is fundamentally the “people of God.” There are countless people across the globe from nearly every culture who have found their true spiritual home in the Catholic Church. I have been privileged to witness several people journey into the Church, discovering joy and peace therein. Recently a young woman told me that the day she became Catholic was the happiest day of her life. The Church’s doors are always open, always inviting.
A Redeemed Church: To be redeemed is to be freed, bought back, and brought back. The Church is the Bride of Christ whom Jesus bought at the cost of His own life, his very Body and Blood, which saves and washes us clean. Before He died, he told His disciples: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” Thus, no matter the “evidence” to the contrary (such as individual members’ sins), the Church’s identity and destiny is as a redeemed people, who can walk “in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.”
A Beautiful Church: The great twentieth-century theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar emphasized that beauty leads us to Truth. God reveals Himself to the world through the power and majesty of the arts. We are an “incarnational” Church, a people that experiences God through the senses. Our worship, sacraments, architecture, images, literature, etc. reach people’s hearts through the bodily world. Catholic artists have helped people to imagine the immensity of God’s love and presence in the world.
A Heroic Church: In and through Baptism and the other sacraments, a Catholic is given every grace necessary to become nothing less than a saint in the world. To be a saint is to have a heroic, Christ-like holiness and love (and to one day enter into eternal life). Sainthood is shown through relentless compassion and service. Blessed Mother Teresa taught that to be a saint is a “simply duty.” It is indeed quite possible to be a saint. As a Catholic, I have literally known and loved several living saints in many corners of the Church.
A Church of Truth: The Catholic Church stands on the truth of Jesus Christ, who told us that “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). The Church boldly seeks and shares the Truth with humanity. So many people misunderstand Catholicism about being about “rules.” What is vital to remember is that since God is Love, all that He wills is out of sheer love. Thus, out of love, God has written His law on the human heart. Moreover, He has given the Church as a shepherd of souls to help remind them of their dignity and worth. There is not a single “rule” of the Catholic Church that is not founded on a deep, intrinsic valuing and love of the human person. As our Mother and Teacher, however, the Church does care enough to tell us what is good for us and what is bad for us.