We are not a ' religion' of ideas, of pure theology, beautiful things, of commandments. No, we are a people who follow Jesus Christ and bear witness – who want to bear witness to Jesus Christ - and sometimes this witness leads to laying down our lives.
The triumph of St Thomas Aquinas over the heretics
The Church is fruitful and a mother when she witnesses to Jesus Christ. Instead , when the church closes in on itself , when it thinks of itself as a - so to speak - 'school of religion', with so many great ideas, with many beautiful temples, with many fine museums, with many beautiful things, but does not give witness, it becomes sterile.
On a train from London to Brighton, you often get this situation at the weekend where you board the train and then discover that at East Croydon, some of the carriages separate from the rest of the train. These go to Littlehampton. The rest of the carriages go to Brighton, so you have to make sure you are in the right part of the train. There's usually a bit of a scramble somewhere along the line. There is a separation and a pairing off, one going one way, the other going another. You have to be careful, otherwise you might end up in Littlehampton!
|Alight here for Brighton|
The Church in opposition to 'the real Jesus Christ'?
It can come across sometimes as a separation between Christ on the one hand and the 'institutional' Church on the other. In one sense, when Francis tells us what we are not, I nod in agreement, but in another sense, I do not enjoy the connotations in the reduction that takes place along the way. For example, we are not a 'religion' of ideas, but we are a religion - we have a religion - and it is the One True Faith, the Holy Catholic Faith. Our religion, our dogma is Christ's religion and Christ's dogma, which gives us a measure of 'certainty in all things' (at least those things that pertain to the Faith). This does not stand in opposition to Christ. It is His.
We are not a religion of beautiful things, yet we have beautiful things, chasubles, candlesticks, altars, sanctuaries, Churches, art, because these things can point us to Christ and communicate Christ. These things we employ to glorify Him. We are not a religion of commandments, but a people who worship God, who belong to Christ, but if we reject the Ten Commandments and the two-fold commandment of Christ to love God and neighbour, we are not faithful to Christ. Christ is God - God gave us the Commandments. We cannot throw them away!
|Kasper and Co. Ltd: Demolition Experts?|
Like the Pope, I believe that only Jesus Christ is important, but strip Jesus Christ of His Church - strip Jesus down (which has already happened, of course!) - and what is there left in order for us to communicate Christ? We would have to find something else but what would that look or sound like? Art, music, liturgy, beauty, theology, catechisms, doctrines, churches, laws, customs, devotions, architecture, schools, universities, hospitals, charitable institutions - all are for the glory of God and communicate Christ and serve the Church, Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Of course, divorced from Jesus Christ, all these things can 'get in the way', if there is no love of Jesus Christ. I think that is what the Holy Father is saying, as Benedict XVI would say, but I do wonder sometimes whether His Holiness is saying that these kind of things to knock them down - to suggest these things run counter to Jesus Christ or 'get in the way' by their very nature. I hope His Holiness is not saying that.
The Synod on the Family will be our East Croydon. Teachings, doctrines and laws and catechisms - our entire theology - our whole belief system - will likely come under the spotlight and will be openly challenged. Already, Cardinals are asking whether we are going to Littlehampton or Brighton.
Already, two camps are forming among Bishops and Cardinals, with Kasper and his railway crew going one way and Bagnasco and his railway crew going another. Can I see your tickets, please? His Holiness gives the impression that only Jesus Christ is important and that doctrine, law, custom, teaching is of a lesser importance - yet the Synod will address exactly this - because it is so important because the Church belongs to Christ!
Is the train about to divide? Where are we going? Why do I get the feeling we will be rushing for the right department in October when 'the announcement' is made? What will be the correct carriage? Uncertainty and doubt, confusion and consternation, division and infighting is now taking place towards the very summit of the Catholic Church on Earth. Priests and Bishops whose faith is, I expect, 'rock solid' because they have placed their faith firmly on St Peter and His Successors are likely experiencing a profound sense of weakened faith, because nothing feels safe anymore.
|The Woman of the Apocalypse flees into the Desert|
Everything is starting to feel quite apocalyptic, but I would really like to ask readers to refrain from even suggesting that Pope Francis is the 'false prophet' from the Book of the Apocalypse, even if I understand the fear and consternation generated by the Franciscan pontificate only too well.
Neither do I blame some people for thinking that the prophecies of Maria Divine Mercy, condemned by the Irish Bishops as fraudulent, are 'become exceedingly credible' only because it feels like the walls of the Church could come down upon us come October. If people start to believe that Our Lord and His Mother is talking to an Irish woman who works in PR then it is only because the silliness of the idea is outweighed by the oscillating publicity generated by Pope Francis himself, through statements, interviews, phone calls and who he keeps as close advisors. Those faithful to the Magisterium desperately want the Pope to restrain, correct, refute error, protect, rebuke dissidents, defend the Church and feed the flock of Christ. Instead, Cardinal Kasper's opinions - which are themselves divisive - and some consider downright heretical - are welcomed in an open forum. Despite this, it is neither fair, nor just to describe His Holiness in such manner as the destroyer, the persecutor of the Book of Daniel or the 'false prophet' of Revelation.
Let us pray for the Vicar of Christ and for those who will convene for the Synod in October, that the fruit of the discussion, overseen and guided by the Holy Ghost, heals the Church and does not rip apart the Body of Christ, made up by those who believe in Him and who are members of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Nothing would destroy faith more than that which we are promised is the glorious Train to Paradise, ends up in either Littlehampton, or, heaven forfend, Brighton!
As a footnote, there appears to be some more mystery emerging today over this homily. What did the Holy Father mean today when he described a member of the Catholic Church as being either a Christian who witnesses to Jesus Christ or 'a numerary of this sect'? We might be useless Christians a great deal of the time, but I would argue we are not 'numeraries in a sect'. Not even Opus Dei are that. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Sandro Magister is already asking, what is prompting His Holiness to use such language?
I've had this song in my head quite a bit today...a nice way to end this train based post. May God give strength to Priests, Bishops, Cardinals so confused and divided at this time and to the Chief Shepherd, His Holiness Pope Francis.We need YOU to be the strong ones! How does he get his voice that high?