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Monday, July 23, 2007

An interesting apostolate

Through some young people I know, I've become familiar with a site called "Christian Forums" and the related "Conservative Christian Forums" which is newer and much smaller. I'm finding it an opportunity to learn a lot about how much Christians, especially younger people, are struggling out there. And, of course, I'm seeing lots of dogmatic arguments as well. Each have lively denominational areas as well as places for inter-denominational discussion, requests for advice or support, etc.

I've been able to talk with a number of women from my rather unique perspective of long-time-happily-married, then-widowed-then-courting-chastely, now-a-newlywed. I'm also finding opportunities to clarify Catholic understandings and teachings in layman's language. I've been thinking of putting some of my outside writing here on the blog, so I'll start by sharing some of what I've written on those forums (fora? forae?).

A current hot topic is the recent Vatican statement on the nature of the Church. It is frequently misunderstood, of course. Here's how I responded to one such discussion with the topic "Only Catholic Church is a proper Church says Pope":
I'm sorry this recent statement has been causing so much confusion. I'll try to explain a bit.

The starting point is that the church that Christ established is his Church. Everyone who belongs to Jesus is part of it. The Catholic Church's believes that Jesus wanted to give his body gifts of a kind that would empower them and equip them so that indeed, as he said, it would be "better for you that I go away." Those would be the sacraments, which are outward expressions of God's inward work. The Eucharist (Communion) is one of them, Baptism, and several others.

Many bodies of Christians do not have this understanding of the sacraments, either holding them to be wholly symbolic rather than both fully spiritual and fully physical events (think of the way Jesus was both God and man -- it's the same principle); or else they believe in some subset of the sacraments, but they aren't in the line of the original elders => anointing other elders => anointing other elders all in union with one another. That's related to what Catholics call "apostolic succession". Of course, other churches wouldn't agree that those issues are critical, but that's the basis for the Pope's recent statement that they aren't fully "churches" but rather ecclesial communions. It would help if there were more words available to make the distinctions clear.

So, according to this, more of the things that are part of making God's saving grace available to the world are resident in the Catholic Church than elsewhere, but the other bodies have authentic portions, certainly enough to effect salvation (as you'll see if you just look around at the wonderful spirituality and vibrant life in many congregations). The Pope would also say that the Catholic Church doesn't have everything that Jesus really wanted to give his people, and for that "shame on us", so to speak. If Catholics really realized that, in the Eucharist, Jesus is genuinely (sacramentally) present, and if we encountered him as fully as he wants us to, we would be way more transformed into His likeness than we are.

Update: The KC Catholic says it so much better than I do. (HT Amy)

2 comments:

Therese Z said...

Fora. I've been fighting those battles/discussing those issues/soothing those irritated feelings left and right. I have to check those fora out and see what you bring forth from your discussions.

The internet is SO helpful in issues like these. I can't even remember what I would do in the old days, sit at the library and page through books, I guess.

Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for the thoughtful explanation Roz. Therese and I had an interesting dialog a few weeks ago that surfaced some of my RC issues from when my wife and I married and attended a RC church 12 years ago.

In retrospect I am glad that I had that dialog and feel pretty good about the whole Catholic vs Protestant thing. I discussed it on my blog and nobody seemed too intersted in the discussion - there or at the FTM blog where Therese and I dialoged.

Maybe that is when I realized that this is something that is just not that important. Despite all the rhetoric from our leaders, this is not and issue of right and wrong ... we simply just have two different points of view about apostolic succession and the sacraments.

Fortunately we don't have disparate views about our Lord Jesus and in that I rejoice :)

Blessings, Bob

 

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