The essence of Church as institution, and church as building. And how understanding this is what opens up the ‘Pope Francis effect’ to all people.
A friend was telling me recently how much he is enjoying meeting regularly with a group of friends, a mixture of Catholics and non-Catholics, to read the bible and pray together. From what I gathered, it had started as much for the sharing of friendship and conviviality as it was to explore different ideas of Christianity, but gradually the development of personal faith had become a more and more important part of it.
What had struck him, he told me, was how the different understanding of the church is was proving a stumbling block in explaining his Faith to his friends. I thought it was worth summarizing our discussion of this here, because it relates directly to beauty and worship and how we engage with the culture; and this is something, I suggest, that we can see in Pope Francis as I have been describing in recent articles.
If there was a quick way to describe the different ideas of what a church (as an institution now, not the building) is, then it might be this: for his protestant friends, their understanding of a church is of a community united by common belief. It is the creed, what is believed in common, that makes the church. That community can be local, as in a parish; and it can much wider, something that links many parishes together. Catholics believe this too, but there is something else that defines a church and is present, we believe, only in the Church. That is common worship.
In fact, for the Catholic this identity of common worship is the most important thing of all. All of the Church’s activity is directed towards right worship for it is in its heart, at the Eucharist, we encounter personally, the living God. This is the foundation of our personal relationship, coming before emotions and feelings about God (which may be very good nevertheless). This is the optimal place to respond to the love of God so that in accepting it, we are transformed, supernaturally, as better lovers and, for all our personal inadequacies, become more capable of loving other.
In his book, the Spirit of the Liturgy, as my friend pointed out, Pope Benedict talks about how it is natural to man to worship God. If (Read More)