I have come to a conclusion, we need to do more than simply report on the dissenters who seek to change the Church rather than change themselves. We need to respond with an informal coalition, perhaps called “Catholics by Choice”; representing Catholic Christians who knowingly choose to embrace the fullness of the Christian faith found within the full communion of the Catholic Church with gratitude, fidelity and evangelistic zeal. I am one of those Catholics and I invite the global readers of Catholic Online who share this desire to consider a response to this newest effort to dissent from the Church.
Deacon Fournier put into words something I've been thinking about ever since my return to the Catholic Church. When I first returned, I was unaware of the deep, dividing lines between the liberal and conservatives. I truly wasn't sure which side I fell into. On one hand, I appreciated the attempts from some liberals to make the Catholic faith more accessible. On the other hand, I was grateful for the conservative approach toward maintaining the integrity of the faith. Deacon Fournier pondered this in his article:
The Church is not some “thing” which we try to “fix” or have our “issues” with or which we try to “change” by remaking it into our image. The Church is a communion with the Trinity in and through Jesus Christ and with one another in Him. Living in that communion we are called to love the world as He does. Through our Baptism the Church became our mother, the privileged place in which we live our lives in Christ. To perceive, receive and live this reality requires a continuing conversion.
I love this. Deacon Fournier placed the emphasis exactly where it should be - on communion with the Trinity. When we are drawn closer to God, we are transformed. When we are transformed, allowing God to remove our fears and self-centered desires; we see the world - and the church, much differently. We start to look around at our brothers and sisters in Christ and realize that there may be differences (which are often no more than preferences), we are still One Body and should endeavor always to love one another within that understanding.
Long ago, I studied the concept of feminine submission and was greatly influenced by the great missionary and teacher, Elisabeth Elliott. Elisabeth wrote a book to her daughter, Let Me Be a Woman, and discussed the issue of submission. This certainly is not an easy topic for women, but one that has fascinated me over the years, especially in light of the sweet fruit that results from obeying it. I remembered discussing it with some other women who responded to the biblical admonition, "Submit to your husband." One woman remarked, "Women have it easy. We're called to submit to our husbands but our husbands have the responsibility to submit to God!" In other words, a woman could fully submit to her husband, even if her husband was making some wrong choices according to God. In the end, the woman is faithful to what was required of her but the man would have to answer to God for his rebellious heart.
We are all called to submit to the will of God. And, we are called to submit to leadership:
Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb. 13-17 RSV)
Did you catch the last verse? "Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly..." Why joyfully? This would be an account of the Body of Christ being obedient and trusting their leadership. If they were sad, it would be because they were trying to lead an unruly bunch who had nothing but their own stubborn hearts that prevented them from trusting in God. I know which group I want to belong to.
Submission is not easy for anyone. We all have our own thoughts on the way we think things should be. I'm definitely including myself in this assessment. I have strong opinions (As any of you who has read my blog before would know!) and I'm not afraid to voice them. But in the quiet of my heart, after the passion cools, I examine myself in prayer. I know that all too often, my opinions are nothing more than judgements upon others and a frustration that they don't see the world as I do. That is when I offer myself up to God and ask for forgiveness, and ask for His compassion and wisdom to be poured upon me so that I can be a channel of His grace to those both in the world and in His Church.
So, I am a Catholic by choice. I am certain a Catholic who is more liberal would say they also are a Catholic by choice. My hope and prayer is that in the future, we can join together and trust that God knew what He was doing when He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, initiated His Church through St. Peter and the following lineage of popes, and established the safety of tradition through the Magisterium. It is all for a purpose. May we continue to pursue and maintain the integrity of His Church through and by the Trinity.