Daily Meditation: November 8, 2013

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The Communion of Saints

We often limit the Church to the organisation of people who identify themselves clearly as its members. But the Church as all people belonging to Christ, as that body of witnesses who reveal the living Christ, reaches far beyond the boundaries of any human institution. As Jesus himself said: The Spirit “blows where it pleases” (John 3:8). The Spirit of Jesus can touch hearts wherever it wants; it is not restrained by any human limits.

There is a communion of saints witnessing to the risen Christ that reaches to the far ends of the world and even farther. It embraces people from long ago and far away. It is that immense community of men and women who through words and deeds have proclaimed and are proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus.

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco. All Scripture from The Jerusalem Bible ©1966, 1967, and 1968 Darton, Longman & Todd and Doubleday & Co. Inc. Photo by V. Dobson.

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2 Responses to Daily Meditation: November 8, 2013

  1. Mary Jo Marceau-Hawthorne says:

    This is complete heresy.
    If you are indicating that the Church is not visible, that is typical protestant theology which is wrong. Many popes have stated that the Church is the visible body of Christ but just to quote one is the following from one of my favorite encyclicals:

    Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, Section 5 – “He took to Himself disciples, trained by Himself, and made them partakers of His own authority. And, when He had invoked upon them from heaven the Spirit of Truth, He bade them go through the whole world and faithfully preach to all nations, what He had taught and whet He had commanded,.. In this wise and on this principle the Church was begotten. If we consider the chief end of His Church and the proximal efficient causes of salvation, it is undoubtedly spiritual; but in regard to those who constitute it (Church members), and to the things which lead to these spiritual gifts, it is external and necessarily visible.

    Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, Section 7 – “For this reason the Church is so often called in holy writ a body, and even the body of Christ – “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27) and precisely because it is a body is the Church visible: and because it is the body of Christ is it living and energized.. because … Christ guards and sustains it..”

    Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, Section 8 – “From this it follows that those who arbitrarily conjure up and picture to themselves a hidden and invisible Church are in grievous and pernicious error: as also are those who regard the Church as a human institution … without perennial communication of the gifts of divine grace, and without all that which testifies by constant and undoubted signs to the existence of that life which is drawn from God.”

    Saint Augustine, In Ps. 70, n.8. – “..the Church of God – the true body of Christ on earth – will not disappear.”

    Saint Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy, page 19 – “ Our adversaries, clearly perceiving that by this touchstone their doctrine would e recognized as of base gold, try by all means to turn us from that invicible proof which we find in the marks of the true Church. And therefore they would maintain that the Church is invisible and unperceivable. I consider that this is the extreme of absurdity and that immediately beyond this abide frenzy and madness. I speak of the militant Church of which the Scripture has left us testimony, not of that which men put forward. Now, in all the Scripture it will never be found that the Church is taken for an invisible assembly. Here are the reasons:
    1) Our Lord and Master send us to the Church in our difficulties and variances (Math 18: 16-17).. St Paul teaches how we should behave in it (1 Tim. 3:15), he called together the ancients of the Church militant (Acts 20: 17)…
    2) What will be said about the Prophets, who represent the Church to us as not only visible, but quite distinct, illustrious, manifest, magnificent? They depict it as a queen in golden borders clothed round about with varieties, as a mountain, as a sun, as a full moon, as the rainbow, a faithful and certain witness of the favor of God toward men, …
    3) The Scripture everywhere testifies that she can be seen and known, yea, that she is known…”

    The Catholic Controversy by Saint Francis was written to the French Catholics that had been converted to protestantism. Saint Francis spent many years trying to win them back to the faith by showing them the errors of the protestant reformation. He won back many souls for Christ. I suggest this as important reading for anyone who believes that protestantism is Christianity.

    This is why we must as Catholics look to the authoritative teachings of the Church to guide us in interpreting Holy Scripture and not private opinions.
    Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, Section 30 – “The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium.”

    You may want to read the entire encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, since it is a great teaching tool and includes sections on “How Christ Made His Church”, “Christ the Head of the Church”, “Unity in Faith”, “The kind of Unity in Faith Demanded by Christ”, “The Magisterium”, “Every revealed Truth Without Exception Must be Accepted”, “The Church a Divine Society”, “The Supreme Authority Founded by Christ”, “The Universal Jurisdiction of Saint Peter”, “The Roman Pontiffs Supreme Power”, “The Bishops of the Church”.

    • Thanks Mary Jo, for your comment on the visibility of the Church. You have made a very strong point and supported it with multiple references.
      As I’ve often said before, Henri is not here to dialogue with you on this important reality, and I am loathe to make an explanation for him.
      You may very well be right and your references uphold your comment.

      What I know about Henri is, that as he aged with reading, prayer, and the encounters with countless people, his sense of Jesus, Who sometimes broke the traditions and teachings of the Jewish tradition – like healing on the Sabbath, – grew perhaps beyond some of the teachings you speak about. Was he right? We probably won’t know that until we meet on the other side. But his one saving grace was his all-embracing sense of the God Who loved each one of us with unconditional love.

      Thanks again for your faithful reading and for your comments for reflection and meditation.

      Sue Mosteller, C.S.J.
      for the Henri Nouwen Society

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