Fr. Wade Menezes delivered a memorable catechetical instruction disguised as an entertaining talk on Saturday during EWTN’s Family Celebration. And the disguise succeeded. The crowd was certainly entertained and we came away from the concert hall with words of wisdom and light on walking the Catholic path. For all those who think that we have no part to play in our salvation, I’d like to share one of my favorite lines from his talk. Fr. Wade is fond of white water rafting and he quoted his rafting leader as saying:
“If you fall out of the raft, it is imperative that you participate in your rescue.”
And, of course, the corollary:
“It doesn’t matter if you fall out to the left or to the right; either way, you’re out of the raft and in the water.”
Given the issues and events facing us now, this warning was timely and apropos. I wish more people could have heard this. I wish more people understood how important faithfulness is. How rich and marvelous are the teachings of Christ. How precious and wonderful is our Mother the Church, who safeguards those teachings and hands them on to her children. I am so thankful to my friend for introducing me to Catholic Christianity. Which brings me to another point of Fr. Wade’s presentation.
The Three-Legged Stool
The three-legged stool of the Catholic Church consists of: Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium. Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture together make up the Deposit of Faith, handed down by the Apostles to their successors, continuing down the ages to our own day. The Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church which guards, defends and interprets the Deposit of Faith. The removal of even one of the three causes the collapse of the stool, with the resultant fall of anyone trying to sit on said stool.
(Looking around at the world today, one can see many people trying to sit on stools with two legs, one leg and, increasingly, no legs at all. This would be fairly amusing if it weren’t so troublesome and tragic.)
The Four Questions
Fr. Wade also mentioned an article written by Fr. John Hardon, S. J., called “Seeking Truth”. Fr. Hardon gives us four questions to ask ourselves when considering any issue or cause (such as, legislation, perhaps).
1. What has the Church always taught about it?
2. What does the Church teach now?
3. What kind of person or group is advancing this issue or cause?
4. What are the consequences?
These are excellent things to think on as the much-touted and ill-named health care “reform” looms on the horizon. Personally, I think it would be better named health care “deform”. At least, that would be more honest. Not that honesty has been noticeable in much Washington policy in many a year. But it would be more truthful. Which leads me to the next point.
We are obligated to seek the truth
Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2467 (scroll down the page to view).
And consider this from Dignitatis Humanae, Declaration on Religious Freedom, from the much-maligned Second Vatican Council:
On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.
Imagine what the world would be like if people would really do this, if they would live up to this lofty vision of the dignity of man.
Why the Church is called Catholic
And finally, Fr. Wade referred to St. Cyril of Jerusalem and his famous work, the Jerusalem Catechesis, on why the Church is called Catholic:
The Church is called Catholic or universal because it has spread throughout the entire world, from one end of the earth to the other. Again, it is called Catholic because it teaches fully and unfailingly all the doctrines which ought to be brought to men’s knowledge, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with the realities of heaven or the things of earth. Another reason for the name Catholic is that the Church brings under religious obedience all classes of men, rulers and subjects, learned and unlettered. Finally, it deserves the title Catholic because it heals and cures unrestrictedly every type of sin that can be committed in soul or in body, and because it possesses within itself every kind of virtue that can be named, whether exercised in actions or in words or in some kind of spiritual charism.
It is most aptly called a church, which means an “assembly of those called out,” because it “calls out” all men and gathers them together, just as the Lord says in Leviticus: Assemble all the congregation at the door of the tent of meeting. It is worth noting also that the word “assemble” is used for the first time in the Scriptures at this moment when the Lord appoints Aaron high priest. &mdash St. Cyril of Alexandria, the Jerusalem Catechesis. (More about St. Cyril and other Fathers of the Church at The Crossroads Initiative).
At a time when some people are forging ahead in their plans to create a brave new world wherein the elimination of suffering means eliminating the suffering (as in, the suffering people), and rocks are persons and humans are not, insanity is the new sanity and immorality is the new morality, Fr. Menezes’ message is one of truth, wisdom and hope; the truth, wisdom and hope the Church has always offered and continues to offer to the world, representing faithfully and fully as she does the teaching she received from her Lord two thousand years ago. What should we do? Stay in the raft; don’t fall out either to the right or the left. Stay firmly and faithfully in the raft, the Bark of Peter, the ark that carried the Saints to that Other Shore, the ark that carries us now, and will continue to safely carry those who remain in her until the end of the ages when her Lord returns.
Until then, rejoice. Rejoice in hope. And don’t fall out of the raft!
(Of related interest: Fr. Wade’s series of 10 talks on The Gospel of Life vs. The Culture of Death.)