Friday, October 12, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 38, “The Church”

Dear friend,*

At the end of our junior year at boarding school, the religion requirement was dropped. Before that, each student had to attend a weekly religious service of his choosing. (There were no hers at our school then.) You could choose Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Quaker—any denomination—as long as you checked in. A friend of ours was placed on “restrictions” because he checked in, snuck out, and got caught.

The religion requirement was strictly enforced until senior year, but I didn’t take it seriously. In fact, I can’t remember being in church once during the two years I was required to do so—probably saying more about me at the time than about the school. My body moved into the sanctuary; my heart remained outside. After all, wasn’t having to attend church a restriction of my freedom?

I joined the Catholic Church five years ago and have willing submitted to its “restrictions.” Guardini’s chapter on “The Church”—founded by Jesus just before his final entry into Jerusalem, when Peter identifies him as the Christ and Christ names him Peter—is a meditation on the Church Jesus created, which endures to this day.

I love being a Catholic precisely because I am part of this thing called the Church. You might think I give up my freedom to be a part of it, that it restricts me. In fact, I experience a warm sense of inner freedom inside its walls. Scorned by some as wealthy, by others as abusive, and dismissed as unnecessary by many in the culture, this Church is so precious to me exactly because it is where I find Jesus Christ today—in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in my fellow faithful Catholics. After forty years in the wilderness, I am happily, safely home, though I still must do my homework every day.

I will end this post where Guardini ends his chapter: “The Church is a mystery of faith and can be experienced only in love.” My love for the Church is inexpressible, which makes this post relatively short—God be praised!

In good faith,

This series of posts continues here with chapter 39.

* This post continues a series of meditations on The Lord, Romano Guardini’s book about Jesus, in the form of open letters to a boarding-school classmate and dear friend of mine.


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