Saturday, June 18, 2016

Only one Church

In 1972 June 18 was a Sunday, a rather nice Sunday as I recall. I was only 11 so my memory has faded a bit.  It was sunny and hot as summer was in Danville. I got up that morning put on my suit and went with my family  to Sunday School and Church at the First Assmebly of God on Kemper Rd. But it was the afternoon that would change my life forever.

That afternoon we all gathered at the River. I wish I remembered the spot. This time I didn't have on my suit. I had on shorts and a T-shirt covered by a white robe. The minister led me out into the water and baptized me in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

It would be almost nine years later before I was confirmed and made my first communion but that day I also joined the Catholic Church. If you're now confused, keep reading. 

Jesus established only one Church. His final prayer was "that they may be one."(Jn 17:21) He established the sacrament of baptism as the way a person became part of the Church, commanding his apostles to"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt. 28:19)

The disunity we think of as normal today would come into being a millennium and a half after Jesus and was the work, not of God but of us, human beings. Was there a need for reform? Most certainly, and much of what the reformers called for would happen through various councils in the Church.  What the early reformers did not realize was that once they started to fracture the church, the fractures would spread like a crack in windshield. Can anyone even list the full number of so called denominations  and non-denominational churches we now have? In the words of the Second Vatican Council "Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature."

As St. Paul tells us, there is "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism."(Eph. 4:5) And it was a simple study of history, that led me home to the Catholic Church, which goes back to the time before we humans divided it up.

When I "became Catholic" I was not rebaptized, because we believe St. Paul.  I was brought into full communion with the Church by a profession of faith, and the reception of the two other sacraments of Initiation: Confirmation and Eucharist. We call it bringing into full communion because we believe that every validly baptized Chrisitian is to some degree already a part of the one Church established by Christ. Even though I did not know it at the time, 44 years ago today I was being incorporated by God's grace into something much larger than I could every imagine. And while I completed by initiation some 9 years later at Sacred Heart Church in Danville, it was merely initiation, the beginning. The journey of understanding continues today. My guess it that it will continue for the rest of my life. After all, can we ever fully comprehend what it means to be part of Christ, part of God?

Today I think of all the people who lead me on the journey, too many to name. Many have gone on to eternal life, and are in the company of the saints. Today in my prayers I will try to recall them all, beginning of course with my mother. I encourage everyone reading this today to pause prayer for all those who have led you along the way of faith.