In order to continue His work on earth and lead all peoples to eternal salvation, Jesus established one visible and hierarchical Church. It is very clear from the continual preparation of the Jewish people in the Old Testament and then with the precise act of Jesus in Cesarea Philippi, that God willed to found one Church as a visible, hierarchical, living, and continuing authority, to teach, govern, and sanctify in his name. It is no less clear that Jesus appointed the Apostle Simon the fisherman as the visible head of His Church. Even as He conferred the authority, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter; i.e., “rock.” The name “Peter” had never existed prior to this divine event in Cesarea Philippi.
Trials and tribulations will always be a part of the Church because it is not merely a human entity. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and Satan will continue to attack it until the Second Coming. Perhaps history will judge our age as presenting the most formidable challenges the Catholic Church has had to face, although it is true that there have been other dramatic moments in the history of the Church.
The Catholic Church is the only institution in human history that has continually survived its own problems and failures. As G.K. Chesterton once said, this is true, “because it has a God Who knew His way out of the grave.” Jesus assures us of His continual presence and protection: “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).
Rather than becoming discouraged, angry, or even rebellious during a difficult time of trial, we must stand fast through prayer and fidelity. We must always pray for our Church, and always trust that God will deliver us from all evil.
Unity in the Catholic Church is damaged when Catholics, be they clergy or lay people, deviate from the deposit of faith, either through an unhealthy attachment to the past or a detrimental deviation, in the name of progress, from authentic Church teaching and discipline. Both postures tear away at the garment of unity.
Every member of the Church is obligated to obey every teaching of the Church. Matters regarding faith, morals and discipline are not subject to personal interpretation.
We live in a moment of history when many openly defy the authority of the pope. We need to persevere, at times under very difficult circumstances, in the exciting adventure of fidelity. With God's help and the maternal protection of Mary, the Mother of the Church, at the end of our earthly existence we can repeat the sounding words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 3:7).
Many years ago when I was in high school and college, I too did a lot of discussing and debating. I too had many religious opinions, many of which were erroneous and unfounded. I debated other issues than the hot-button issues of today; nevertheless, I too struggled with obedience or disobedience to the pope. Thankfully, through the patient and loving guidance of a college professor who became a true life-long friend, I was able to openly search for the truth through deep prayer and sincere study, and I found it. I know that this truth is Jesus and all that His Catholic Church teaches. I love this truth very much and I will never leave it behind again, even if I have to stand alone with the pope, whoever he may be.
To leave behind the relativism that Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, and fully embrace truth and charity, has been the most exciting and liberating event of my entire life. So, I truly do understand all of the debate, all of the discussion, and even all of the anger. I have been there, and I have left all of that behind only to find profound joy, peace and freedom in the Church that I have given my entire life to.
The only solution for the problems that we face as a Church in America is to get back to basics and rediscover the same Jesus that Peter encountered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:17). We must begin again by truly living as disciples of the Lord and living the Gospels with renewed authenticity. True Christianity will set us free.
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Father James Farfaglia is Pastor of St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Originally from Ridgefield, CT, Father has founded and developed apostolates for the Catholic Church in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada and throughout the United States. He may be reached by email at Icthus@GoCCN.org.