Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Dangers and Delights of Catholicism

Father John J. Lombardi

Our Catholic Religion is a gift, our most beautiful treasure, and we should be ever grateful for it! We should also realize there are delights as well as dangers in how humans express and embrace our Faith. After all, Jesus basically made the same observation and critique when He was on earth-both promoting Religion and also critiquing it, so shouldn't we? First, let's review some of the many delights of our Faith…

Christ's Church: We should rejoice in the fact that the Founder of Our Catholic Church is Jesus Christ, as He built His Church upon St Peter (Mt. 16:18ff). Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride.

Within His Church Christ gives us the Sacraments-the physical and metaphysical extension of Himself to us by outward signs of Grace, and we may especially delight in the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation-Confession.

Apostolic succession: this means that Jesus gave-and still gives-- His teachings and Spirit to us by the lineage of St Peter and the popes. Our Catholic Church shows forth a "mystical myriadness" of the Body of Christ: at the Grotto and elsewhere people from all over the world join each other and the Lord in believing and worshipping. The word Catholic means universal. That is what and whom we are, thank God-a Church of all races, cultures and locations on Earth.

Down to earth: I recently read a biography of a rich lady in England who loves the Catholic Faith for, among others things, not being too high- fallutin, but rather incarnational-accepting and celebrating the human body and sacred nature of the world (in the best sense), the in colorful pageantry of services and prayers thru Christmastime and Easter flair, and thru the blessing of elements of the earth and creatures, and the dignity the Catholic Church gives to the human body, all expressing a spiritual rootedness on Earth while seeking Heaven.

Defender of human dignity: whether it is an unborn baby or a threatened lady or a disabled person, the Catholic Church proclaims and protects the dignity of that person no matter what. We will always defend God's image in persons no matter their intellect or physique or culture.

Morality: Defining and defending the Plan and Law God gives to us for acting and being in the world, to do good and avoid evil-our Church reasonably and consistently investigates human life and God's revelation to help us avoid sin and practice virtue.

We also offer people concrete lifestyles in which they can live as Christians-whether married or single or religious-all are called to celebrate Catholic culture, and live simply in this world to be signs for others of the Eternal World. We are further thankful for all the saints we have to be shining examples of God's love and human triumph over sin. We should be grateful, too, for gift of the Bible, which the Catholic Church preserved and promoted, and also for a rich spiritual literature form many saintly authors that we can "diet on" for meditation. Be thankful for the examples of servants in our Church who lead us to Jesus in His disguises-in soup kitchens and drug rehab centers, in hospitals and nursing homes- Catholics are called to serve! And think of all the art, poetry and music made by Catholics-from Mozart to Gerard Manley Hopkins to Michelangelo who enfleshed our Religion with brilliance and awe to inspire us.

DANGERS…This may seem weird-- describing dangers of our Catholic religion, however, think of it this way: The Church as Christ's Bride is sinless, but humans within the Church are not always sinless. Remember in 1999 when Pope John Paul apologized for past errors of the Catholic Church-Galileo affair; abuses in Inquisition in Middle Ages; mistreatment of Jews in the past? He was forthright and acknowledged mistakes of human persons and thereby also expressed some dangers we might face. It is not our Religion itself but the interpretation and application of it that is the problem and, sometimes, danger.

Jesus warned His disciples against desiring titles, honors, riches, making babbling prayers, neglecting the poor, attention-getting external appearances, enclosing God thru wrongful thought-ideas, conforming to the world, controlling one's future and over-planning one's life to the detriment of the Spirit.

Don't we Catholics sometimes pile up titles and honors on both clergy and laypersons? Christ warned religious not to seek positions of notoriety or be in front and center. Yet isn't that what we allow or promote sometimes in liturgy and church circles? While Jesus talks about shrewd planning and making money in the world, aren't Catholics as rich as anyone else in the world? And how much do we really trust in Divine Providence when others encourage us to control our futures and expect comfortable lifestyles in retirement? Despite Jesus warning about heartless prayer don't disciples sometimes rattle off prayers in Church without thinking or heartfeltness?

Do Catholics get too comfortable in the world in a desire to be accepted and become "players at the table" of grandiosity? In the attempt to "inculturate" and blend in to various cultures haven't we become too worldly? While Jesus and our Church are for learning and enlightenment, aren't some of our educational institutions sterilized of the Faith to the point of being indistinguishable from other secular places?

When Jesus founded the Church upon Peter He didn't begin a building or bureaucracy, so do we stifle the spirit so much that the institution sometimes becomes sterile to some or even a stymieing steamroller to others. Is our church sometimes overly structured and corporate so that we've lost the mysticism in succumbing to mercantilism? While becoming so universally known and lauded have we sold out Christ as the only way to salvation? Are we losing a prophetic edginess, especially as we have we kicked away some of the prophets who would cajole and convert us? In our desire and success to maintain property and order do many Catholics revere rules and regulations as a false comfort of spirituality? In creating beautiful, extensive theologies do we sometimes think we "got God" and understand Him---only later to find out how elusive and mysterious.

He really is? In our spiritualities of personal prayer and action do we make these and our egoic control of them idols?

Do we rely too much on "faith formulas" to save us? Do some think they can "work" or "earn" their way to heaven" and thereby trump God? Should Catholic and Christians serving in public sector, government and military shed their garment of Catholicism in order to please and gain power?

Point: Our so-called success can thwart further development and closeness to Jesus and His radical way Let us take the best of our Faith and Religion and promote true worship and dignity of every person and center our lives on Jesus Christ the Savior of the World! Be not afraid!

Life is About J.E.S.U.S…

Learn and memorize the acronym J.E.S.U.S. and find Eternal Life J=Joy in living with Him. E=Eucharist: Jesus says: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will abide in Me and I in him" (Jn. 6:56) S= He is The Savior of the world U=Union with Him in prayer and constant communication with Him. S=Serve Him and others!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi