After the Scandal, does any Beauty Remain?

     What is still beautiful about the Catholic Church?  Everything.  The beauty of the CatholicChurch is unchanging.  Clergy in both high and low places have sinned grievously, and thus the Church is wounded, just as Christ was scourged before His crucifixion, so now the Church is suffering her own scourging.  The Catholic faith is rooted in Christ who is her founder, not in the men He has chosen to lead it.  Men will fail, but Jesus will not.  When He gave the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter he told him that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.  Jesus only speaks the truth.

Because the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, which we learn from St. Paul when He heard the voice of Jesus asking him why he was persecuting Him when he was actually persecuting Christians, the Church can never be anything but beautiful as Christ was and is beautiful, even though he was beaten beyond recognition.  Because she is the Mystical Body of Christ we say that the Church is holy, beautifully holy.  Christ is head of His Body, and he is the Son of the thrice Holy God; the holiness of the Church comes from Jesus himself, not from the members of the Church, although many members have exhibited heroic virtue and holiness.

The Catholic Church, like any institution is made up of sinners, but it is also made up of countless saints, lay people, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who have given their whole lives with great love and devotion to Jesus to serve the Church, the needy, the sick, the suffering, the marginalized, the imprisoned, the orphaned, the dying, the despairing.  That kind of love is beautiful; it is the love of Jesus shining through His faithful servants.

How beautiful a history has the Catholic Church which has lasted two thousand years!  Persecutions have been mandated, empires have fallen, kingdoms have been conquered, revolutions have been lost and won, wars have ripped through every nation on earth, and yet the Catholic Church still stands today, as it will until the end of time.  Heresies and heretics have come and gone, theological battles have been waged near and far.  But for two thousand years the Catholic Church has been visible and easily discerned by anyone who looks for it.

In spite of allegations against the Holy Father, he is still the visible head of the Church.  He cannot teach error.  He may live a sinful life, he may succumb to temptations as we do, but he cannot err when teaching as the Pope from the seat of St. Peter in matters of faith and morals.  How beautiful to know that what we believe can never be changed by the whim of the people or the false teaching of theologians.  The Holy Father is protected from doing so by the power of the Holy Spirit, and so we are protected from believing falsehood in matters of faith and morals. We are assured of the truth.  Therefore, if we are faithful to the teachings of the Church our salvation is assured.  How beautifully comforting!

What can be more beautiful than the living Word of God found in Holy Scripture?  It was the bishops of the Catholic Church in the 4th and 5th century who codified the books that were considered inspired by the Holy Spirit.  It is the church of today that gives us the correct interpretation of the Scriptures.  The Tradition, or constant teaching of the church from the very beginning, assures us that we have an unbroken line of teaching from Jesus and His Apostles. We don’t have to worry about forty different interpretations for one line of Sacred Scripture.  We investigate what the Traditional teaching of the Church has been, and we arrive at the truth.  That is not to say that the Sacred Scriptures cannot speak to us individually day by day.  Of course, they do.  But our understanding must always conform itself to the constant teaching of the Church.  That kind of confidence in our prayer and study is beautiful.

Because we are body and soul, Jesus knows that we need to be fed spiritually and physically.  The sacraments do just that, and their beauty is revealed through the tangible:  water, wine, bread, oil, anointing, the sign of the cross, music, and the words that effect the grace they confer.  How beautiful is the liturgy that beckons us to be present when Heaven comes to earth, when Jesus gives us Himself as food for our souls!

And then of course, the Catholic Church has the most beautiful mother that did or ever will exist.  We have the perfect protector, intercessor, advocate, and queen.  Jesus gave Mary to his apostle John from the cross and from that hour he took her into his home.  Faithful Catholics all over the world have taken Mary into their homes and their hearts.  The book of Revelation tells us that she is the mother of “all those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.”  She is the handmaid of the Lord, full of grace, highly favored.  Because I am Catholic, I claim her as my own beautiful Mother.  Mary Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Yes, evil men have infiltrated the Catholic Church, but her essence will always be beautiful.  Until the consummation of all things, we hope for the fulfillment of what St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:25-27.  “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

 

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