Sunday, August 24, 2008

Overture

I wrestled for a long time with the desire to write a blog and the conflicting notion that I don't say anything interesting or insightful enough to warrant one. Time will tell, I suppose. I've finally given in to this long-standing idea . I'm not quite sure why I chose today.

Ah, I've thought of reason.

It's been a little more than two months since I've moved away from all that I know and love in Madison to work in Waupaca. I absolutely do not regret that decision in any way, mainly because my job is wonderful and I'm excited about the potential next several years hold. But I still miss Madison, and especially my friends there. If I were still surrounded by close friends and a vibrant, young community, the thoughts that will inevitably end up posted here would have instead been discussed with friends at a coffeehouse, walking along the tree-lined streets of my beautiful former neighborhood, or over a pitcher of Spotted Cow at the Terrace. Since those opportunities will be sparse, I'm resorting instead to writing them out.

Here we go! I'm not sure how long I'll even keep this up or how regularly I'll write. But for now, I'm excited to let loose some of the thoughts that keep sloshing around in my head.

Quick note of substance (maybe):

Today is the twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. Often the readings and Gospel on ordinary Sundays can be quickly forgotten because they might not point to a great feast day or holiday or memorable miracle. That is definitely not the case today. Check them out here. I'll wait.

Even though today is an "ordinary" Sunday, these readings are a big deal. They point to one of the fundamental, crucial things about the Church: she is apostolic. Scott Hahn (to whom I'll refer a lot, since he's one of my intellectual heroes) explores the connection between the Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 passages especially well in two of his books, A Father Who Keeps His Promises and Rome Sweet Home. When I was deciding whether or not I should become a Catholic, it took a lot for me to swallow the whole "one holy apostolic church" business, since Protestants can be (in)famously pluralist. The difference between a church and The Church is a big one, but it took me a while to get there. However, these two passages help lay it out. Jesus was a king in the line of David; the perfect, long-hoped for Davidic messiah king who fulfilled all the prophecies. Davidic kings, as evidenced in Isaiah 22, had ministers to help them run things. Twelve ministers, in fact. Above the other eleven, one was appointed prime minister, like Eliakim in this case. To the prime minister were given the keys to the kingdom, and the ability to speak with the king's authority if he happened to be out of town.

Fast forward a few millennia.

Jesus selects twelve of his many followers to help him run things. Later, he appoints one of the Twelve to hold the keys to the kingdom. To speak with the king's authority if He happened to be out of town. His name? Simon bar-Jonah. But we know him as St. Peter, apostle, martyr, and first Pope. There are two really important things I draw from this reading & Gospel. The apostolic succession of the Church wasn't some power grab invented in the dark ages to manipulate people and acquire wealth. Rather, the Church was set up and guided by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations. Given that there were less than twenty people at the Last Supper and there are more than one billion Catholics today, I'd say she's succeeding. More work lies ahead, of course. But we toil on. Equally important, "the gates of the netherworld (hell) shall not prevail against it." (verse 18) This Church has another big job: fighting against the forces of evil that "prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls." By no means does this imply that bad things can't happen within the Church herself. There have been more than enough sketchy bishops and poor papal decisions to refute that. However, the funny thing is this: (note: I'm paraphrasing Dr. Hahn again, though I forget which book this point is from) The Church's history isn't pretty. Any other organization, company, or charity that had such a terrible legacy of violence, bigotry, abuse, and corruption would have a hard time surviving/ flourishing for over two thousand years. But Holy Mother Church prevails. Why? Because she is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Bride of Christ is protected by her Spouse, Jesus, who has proclaimed that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

It's a good time to be Catholic. You might take issue with that, protesting that the post-Vatican II Church is slipping into postmodernism. For some people, that might be true. Call it post-adolescent idealism or youthful optimism, but I see a springtime; a return to orthodoxy even as the world rages against it. But more importantly, it's always a "good time" to be a Catholic. It might have been easier in the 1950s, it might have been the cultural norm in the 1400s. But the Church is the Church. When I remember that, it's a little easier to swallow disturbing news about women's' "ordination" or pro-abortion "Catholic" vice presidential candidates. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. If Roman emperors couldn't get a few hundred first-century Christians to hush up by threatening lion-feedings and burnings-at-the stake, I'm not really too fussed about a few misguided women in Canada who want to be priests or a handful of prominent politicians who claim they can still be Catholic while denying inherent human rights and dignity to unborn children. Of course, I'm still upset about these things, but I'm not clutching my heart in fear that the Church will fall apart because of them. She won't. Especially with Papa B at the helm.

Curse you, loquaciousness! I set out to write a simple "Hello, this is me" sort of post, but here we are many paragraphs later... ah well.

On an entirely unrelated note, exactly five years ago today my parents, sisters, and I loaded up the minivan and drove to Madison to set up my new life as a college student. Whew, that does not seem like it was five years ago. Ridiculous. I have a feeling there will be more "n years ago..." sentiments coming. I give fair warning.

So, hello there. Welcome :-)

3 comments:

Tune said...

Welcome! Btw, one of my favorite conversion diary post: Looking for tow truck driver.

Maggie said...

Why thank you!

Michael said...

hi maggie! nice stuff!
-mike