Sursum Corda: A letter on the present burden of c/Catholic faith…

J-M-J

Dear reader,

Whether you be catholic, evangelical, Roman, Orthodox, or Salvationist (or a mixture of many things in one!)….I want to share these thoughts with you. They are mine, so please don’t assume that they speak for anyone else, after all, all of these labels are null and void in eternity, and even here they do more harm than good – but for now, we work with what we have.

One of the things I love about the Epistles, is that in St Paul’s letters to St Timothy, he always ends with some encouragement to a young and often struggling Bishop. Timothy is encouraged by St Paul to ‘set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.’ //1 Tim 4// we can take comfort then, for if St Paul has encouraged Timothy in the safeguarding of his teaching and belief, he would most likely encourage us in the same way also.

It can be hard constantly feeling as though you are inherently at home within a tradition that is so often ridiculed, degraded, overlooked or treated as fundamentally backward. For those who identify with the broad term catholic, as one for whom the tradition of the faith of the Church is essential, then I hope to encourage you a little. Ours is a lonely road, and it seems that in every mainstream denomination those who truly hold to the sacred doctrines of the Faith and the “baggage” that goes with that, are more and more a minority. Whilst this isn’t always the case, perhaps this is where catholics across the board may unite in prayer, solidarity and love. For when we pray in solitude or particularly in the context of the Holy Eucharist, we know that we are one with all the baptized in earth and in heaven and indeed we share in deep communion with the Blessed and undivided Trinity wherein we find our origin, and source of being.

I have lost count on the number of times, I have silently listened to  a sentence that has begun “But what young people really want is…..(insert huge umbrella categorical assumption)”. If I had a pound for everytime I heard this…..!

As a twenty-five year old I have to say that it’s even worse when this is done when someone who considers themselves a young person is present….of course, young as a term is totally yours to define….I wouldn’t dare give a limit!  If you are, like me, a catholic within a tradition that largely defines itself as everything else primarily, you may sympathize with some of what I want to outline…below is a list of things I think most catholics look for – and for those of us who are ordained, perhaps even more so. For those of us who have received Holy Orders, there is a burden in the fact that we often represent that which appears as typical ‘Church’ to the outside world – whether it is being heckled in the street as we go about our duties in clerics for the abuses of priests who have committed evil, or simply attacked (even physically at times) by those who despise the Church and the priesthood – I believe this is our cross to bear, and we must find as much joy in the privilege of our vocation as we can. We shouldn’t be surprised, as catholics, that the Church so often feels like a wilderness in which we are called to live, and move, and offer up to God the sacrifice of praise….we should expect this to be so, for the earth is not our home. As I often whisper into the ears of the dying: “You walk a road which many have walked before – and as you walk, you do not walk alone, for Our Lord Jesus Christ will walk with you, every stop of the way, until you reach home.” Sursum Corda friends – lift up your hearts!

Add to the list below, if you are of similar spiritual inclination….what do you, as a c/Catholic look for in the Body of Christ on earth?

  1. We need a constant sense of the mystery and awe of God….in worship, wherever it takes place, whatever the context – we look for silence, time for contemplation, time to gaze upon the mystery of The Faith. Some days we need to pray the official prayer of the Church and find in the liturgy the words we ourselves do not have.
  2. We find it weird when Christians meet together but don’t pray….or when they eat together and no-one says grace, so we may well silently make the sign of the cross before a meal – this can be a method of evangelization….though this isn’t the primary source of the Church militant, why waste an opportunity?
  3. We don’t like being told that the Spirit only moves in certain acts of worship – for you, or I to define that is just idolatry. The Spirit does whatever the hell it wants, and we’re reminded of that profoundly every time the liturgy embraces us.
  4. We are quite comfortable talking about sin, we know the state of our human condition, but it is this which gives us a total reliance and gaze on Christ who upon the cross sets us free from the burden of sin. We like to be absolved when we confess, and an absolution following the general confession is an important part of the liturgy.
  5. We like order – it’s important that something follows some roughly thought through pattern – it’s really odd to lead/be led in worship where there is absolutely no mention of the Trinity….Father Son and Holy Spirit is pretty imporant…..don’t use some pseudo-pagan formula….Earth, Wind and Fire….anathema!
  6. Multi-sensory worship is so perfectly provided for within the tradition of the Church….so worship should smell, look, and taste good! Particularly the Eucharist!
  7. We don’t often see any dichotomy between the Church past, present and future…..we quite like to talk about those who have gone before us, even if they were related to us, or friends of ours….because if they died in the faith of the Church, they are actually Saints in our eyes…it’s important….and on that note, the dead in Christ are really not dead to us….at all, even though we mourn them like normal human beings.
  8. The Eucharist = Our Life. We need this, often, regularly – this is *REALLY* the body and blood of Our Lord, and he is *REALLY* present….period.
  9. If we have become Priests/Deacons, we will look like we’ve just stepped out of a TV set most of the time…..it’s OK, we’re comfortable with it, and so are most of the people we encounter “out there” it’s just other church folk that get funny…
  10. Just like how not all old people want to go live in bungalows beside their children, not all young people want the same thing in Church…..we’re all different – if we say we’re happy don’t constantly make us feel like we’re “odd”.
  11. We are usually rooted enough in our faith to realise that God takes us on a journey, and true catholics are often more open to change and renewal than we are given credit for…a catholic grounded in the tradition of the Church will see how in each generation the Truth of the Faith has been unfolded in new and sundry ways – this is the beauty of knowing where you come from, it makes you less worried about the journey, for the destination is sure and certain. Heaven is our home, but while we are down here, we want to make it us much like that eternal City as we can….

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