We hear this phrase tossed around in Catholic circles often enough. “We are Church.” An otherwise beautiful statement, through cloudy interpretation, has come to be one of the ensigns of the “progressive” camp. What was once supposed to convey the unity of Christendom in firmness of belief now, trough this misinterpretation, betrays it, relegating the sentence to nothing more than a slogan of religious relativism. Naturally, the majority of people who march under this banner, who employ these phrases, are not purposely prolonging unnecessary debates. Indeed, they are wonderful Christians, brothers and sisters in faith, whose efforts have been bumped a little, nudged off target by the errant teachings of wayward “catechists.” Was it the German corporal’s fault for throwing Europe into war, or was it the Kaiser’s?
This is why what we strive to do is so difficult, and so often met with virulent opposition. When one professes to be Catholic, and believes in his heart to be so, it is painful to be told “No, that’s not quite right.” The vast majority of Catholics who have gone astray (in deed, not in profession of faith) have done so because they believe they are actually upholding the Faith. They consider themselves to be the pillars they truly can and ought to be, but they don’t realize that they aren’t bearing the same load as some of us. They’re rather like little boys who, desiring to help at a funeral, are made pall-bearers, but who serve more to get in the way, trip the adults up, than actually to help carry the casket. But do we slap them, throw them down in derision because of their inability? No, I should hope not.
But what, then? Am I saying we should excuse the vast majority of people many in our circle might call “heretics”? No, we should not excuse them. To excuse means to pardon, to absolve, to mitigate the culpability.What we must do, like the parents of the little-boy-pall-bearers, is to help them grow. We must be firm, yet still kind. We must be clear, yet not harsh. Soon enough, little boys grow up “and put aside childish ways.” So too, with unerring guidance, will our fellow Catholics come to appreciate the true sentiments behind “We are Church.”
What, then, does this make us? Sometimes we can feel like crypt-keepers of antiquity. Some of us rather look the part, too. Other times, we feel like Crusading knights, defending all that is right and chivalrous. But those of these images are flawed. The former is often inaccurate, for true Christian foot-soldiers must be joyful in their duties, and not guard the empty tomb; it needs no guard. The latter is often too gallant and noble for what we do. We might consider ourselves great defenders of Truth, donning mantillas, wielding our missals, and chanting our war cries of “Christus Vincit!” Our duty, though, is simpler than this. It consists of bearing, at all times and in all places, a gentle demeanor of prayerfulness. Respect for the liturgy, devotion to Our Lady, reverence throughout life, not just in the pew on the the internet or on the sidewalk before an abortion clinic. We must remember that “we are Church.” We are the guardians of the Guardian of Truth, we are servants of the Servant. And it is through our orthodoxy, our “traditionalism,” our “conservatism,” our…Catholicism…that we make a whole and complete offering of ourselves.
Just as the priests prays that his offering at Mass might be wholly “acceptable to You, an offering in spirit and in truth,” so too must we pray that our daily witness to Truth be acceptable to God. As richly and ornately as our Masses ought to be adorned, and beautifully as they ought to be offered, we must offer ourselves daily with equal consideration for the higher things. It is through the beauty of the Faith, the beauty which we so devotedly uphold, that we show ourselves truly right in saying “we are Church.” We stand in communion with the saints, with the popes through 2,000 years, with every faithful follower of Christ, with every individual who stayed true to God rather than bend the knee to passing trends and fashions. The Church transcends all this temporal nonsense of Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, progressive or traditionalist. Truth is Truth. It needs no modifier.
I think, then, to clarify what we are in our own eyes, it is safe to say, yes, “we are Church,” but we are something unique under that venerable umbrella. We who have seen the heinous abuses within our local Church, the willful and absolute contempt for authority beyond our own chancery’s, the profanation of our sanctuaries time and time again…we are now seeing the reversal of all this. In the spirit of Shakespeare, I think it’s safe to say that the winter of our discontent has been made glorious summer, that “the clouds that lowered upon our house” are buried deep now in our memories, “our stern alarums changed to merry meetings.” Friends, we are the Church Resurgent. We are the ones who are blessed with the privilege to see the new spring in our Diocese rise from the thawing ground, dotted with ruins of what was, plotted with plans of what will be. What need have we of gloom, of doubt, of despair? We are Church. The gates of Hell will not prevail.