The Church Is Holy

Ever so often you come across a great book that speaks powerfully and succinctly and challenges you in your spiritual life. For me one such book is Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed. The book was selected for our monthly book club. We are actually reading it across two months.

This morning I was reading a chapter entitled “The Visible Church.” In this chapter Sheed takes the four marks of the Church that we find in the Nicene Creed that we recite every Sunday: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Allow me to share with you what Sheed says about the fact that the Church is holy.

“Three characteristics of the mark of Holiness are, as has been said, the teaching, the means, the saints. It may have been noticed that, in treating the first two, the teaching and the means, we brought in the saints; it may be wondered what is left to say of them in the third. But in all three characteristics they are used differently. In the teaching we saw them as the unchanging standard the Church sets; in the means, we saw them as witness to the our weakness that holiness is possible even to us.

“Now, at last, we come to them as evidence to the whole world that the teaching is true teaching and the means are effective means. For the saints are the people who have accepted wholeheartedly all that Christ, through His Church, offers them.

“In other words, it is by the saints, and not by the mediocre, still less by the great sinners, that the Church is to be judged. It may seem a loading of the dice to demand that any institution be judged solely by its best members, but in this instance it is not. A medicine must be judged not by those who buy it but by those who actually take it. A Church must be judged by those who hear and obey, not by those who half-hear and disobey when obedience is difficult.

“No Catholic is compelled—not by the Church, not by Christ—to be holy. His will is solicited, aided, not forced.

“Every man must make his own response. The saints have responded totally, the rest of us respond partially, timorously (afraid to lose some sin in which we especially delight), or not at all. The saints in their thousands upon thousands stand as proof that, in the Church, holiness is to be had for the willing. Every saint is certain evidence that, if you and I are not saints, the choice is wholly our own.

The Church Is Holy

Begin now what you will be hereafter

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Each day can be seen as a new beginning, a fresh start. With every sunrise we have the opportunity to commend the new day to God and amend our ways. St. Jerome, whose feast day is today once wrote, “Begin now what you will be hereafter.”

St. Jerome is an unlikely saint, you might say. We could even call him a “prickly” saint. Before his conversion, in spite of his Christian upbringing, he led life as he wished and was not concerned about what others thought concerning his actions and practices. As a young man he lived in Rome where he continued his wild ways. “To alleviate the feelings of guilt he often felt afterwards, Jerome would visit the crypts … and imagine himself in hell. He did so every Sunday, even though he was not a Christian. Jerome succeeded in frightening himself, but not in changing his ways.” (Catholic Online)

Eventually, at the age of 24 he converted and was baptized by Pope Liberius. Jerome spent much of his life writing and translating. He is best known as the translator of the entire Bible into Latin, what is called the Latin Vulgate Bible, still the official Latin translation of Sacred Scriptures. He also wrote commentaries, established a religious community, and spent a great deal of his life in Bethlehem where he died on September 30, 420.

But he was a “prickly” saint. He struggled in his relationships with other Christians. He even exchanged heated words with St. Augustine. Eventually they repaired their relationship and were able to correspond as friends and colleagues. St. Jerome should give us hope as we aspire to be saints.  I feel “prickly” even this morning as I read the critique of a coworker on email, or as I try to keep my mouth shut about things going on in our world, especially when opening it causes more harm. Confession: I scuttled the first blog I had written for today for that very reason.

“Begin now what you will be hereafter.” — St. Jerome

I am encouraged by Jerome and some of his pithy quotes can help us to begin fresh today:

  • Instead of speaking saintly words we must act them.
  • Be ever engaged, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied.
  • If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next.
  • We must love Christ and always seek Christ’s embraces. Then everything difficult will seem easy.
  • There are things in life that are bigger than ourselves. Life is short, live it well.
  • The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever reaching the bottom.
  • Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

O God, who gave the Priest Saint Jerome a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture, grant that your people may be ever more fruitfully nourished by your Word and find in it the fount of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Begin now what you will be hereafter

I’ll take “Quotable Quotes” for $100

I am a fan of the TV show Jeopardy, although I don’t see it as often as I used to. One of the categories that has stood the test of time is “Quotable Quotes.” It’s probably right up there with “Potent Potables.”

Whenever I come across a meaningful quote that speaks to me in my spiritual journey I write it down in my journal or put it in the Notes app on my phone. Allow me to share some of these quotes with you and I trust they will be an encouragement to you.

  • Holiness is not the privilege of the few: it is the simply duty of each of us. — St. Teresa of Calcutta
  • He who has himself as spiritual director has an idiot for a disciple. — St. John of the Cross
  • Commitment is doing what you said you would do, after the feeling you said it in has passed. — St. Camillus
  • Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them, every day begin the task anew. — St. Francis de Sales
  • Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength. — St. Philip Neri
  • For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. — St. Therese of Lisieux
  • Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious. — St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. — St. Catherine of Siena
  • While the world changes, the cross stands firm. — St. Bruno
  • Our task is not one of producing persuasive propaganda; Christianity shows its greatness when it is hated by the world. — St. Ignatius of Antioch
  • All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. — St. Francis of Assisi
  • Let us never forget that if we wish to die like the saints we must live like them. — St. Théodore Guérin
  • All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way’. — St. Catherine of Siena

It’s hard to stop, but I must. Another reason why I love the Catholic Church and her saints!

I’ll take “Quotable Quotes” for $100