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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Father Christopher Smith: Refashioned or True Religion?

In New York, Virginia, New Jersey and South Carolina, I have been extraordinarily blessed in my pastors.  They could not be more different in their personalities, yet each one is an alter Christus, carrying out the Church's salvific mission, building the Kingdom and serving all that is good, true and beautiful.  The following is the weekly parish bulletin letter written by my current pastor, Father Christopher Smith, Ph.D, S.T.D.

Father Smith
As a young theology student, I once stated that the Church is divided, because there are so many different denominations.  Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the new Prefect of the Congregation for the New Evangelization, corrected me:  "The Church is one.  It is Christians who are divided."  Every Sunday we say, I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.  For Catholics, we know that means us, the Church founded by Jesus Christ.  But there are millions of other Christians who say the same Creed every Sunday, yet are not Catholic.  And there are countless more who say no Creed at all when they come to worship.

The Catholic Church has remained one, the original Christians since the beginning.  We "do" Church as it were together.  But from time to time individuals convince themselves that they can "do" it better.  So while there is 1 Catholic Church, there are over 33,000 different groups of Christians protesting our claim to hand on the apostolic faith.  And because the only thing they all agree on is that they are not Catholic, they divide on and on.  There used to be denominations, like the Anglicans or the Presbyterians or the Lutherans, but they too have split into all sorts of splinter groups.  And many Christians are just opting out entirely of denominations, opening shop in a coffee shop or a house or a warehouse.  Some of these grow into megachurches and others never go very far, and many of those megachurches implode and divide too.

I find it interesting that the vast majority of these sects are found in the USA or funded by American missionaries.  There is something about our culture which is very individualistic and entrepreneurial.  And here, the customer is always right.  I am always coming across people who say, "I haven't found  a Church home yet."  What they mean is they haven't found a Church that reflects their own image and likeness.  That consumerist mentality is not just something Protestant, though.  Once upon a time, people went to the Catholic parish closest to them.  Now, people shop around for what they think will fulfill them, for the image of the Church they like.  Parishes are pressured to market themselves to cater to what people like.

There is one place where all of this comes from: Pride.  And it created division among Christians.  It hampers our efforts at evangelization, apologetics and ecumenism.  The consumer mentality has a way of filling up churches for a little while, whose members then float away and cease to practice the faith when they don't get the high they have been expecting.

We have a motive for rejoicing today though on this Gaudete Sunday.  There are Catholic Christians who seek to serve God and His Truth and not themselves.  They resist the attempt to remake the Church and the Gospel in their own image and likeness.  Our task is to be faithful to the Church handed down from Jesus to the Apostles down to our own day.  It is time to repent from the pride which leads us to make up our own religions or refashion the true religion as we see fit.  GK Chesterton once asked, "Do you want a Church that is moved by the world, or a Church that moves the world?"  I know which one I've got, and I am blessed and highly favoured to have it right here in my Catholic Church and our Prince of Peace family.

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