by Mary Speicher.
I love the Catholic Church. I love the Catholic Church, and every day I’m more and more grateful for my Catholic faith. It has given me my greatest treasure, which is Christ.
In a magazine article I read, Pope Francis is quoted as saying that it is the Church that brings Christ to us and us to Christ. So how has the Church brought me to Christ?
Through my parents who were practicing members of that Church.
My first memory, when I was three and a half, is of my father and Fr. Mac, our parish priest, consecrating our family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father gave us prints of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart, which my father framed. Those pictures hung in my parents’ bedroom for many years.
My parents were pillars of faith. They sent us kids to Catholic school; and among other things, they would invite the parish priest to supper. Once we even had a home Mass, to which they invited the Sisters who taught us.
My mother was good at incarnating the faith: We celebrated the feasts, and we followed various traditions and customs such as the Advent wreath.
One of my happiest memories was in May, the month of Our Lady. We would always set up a little table with a pretty doily and a statue of Our Lady as a May altar.
As a child, I would pick flowers for Our Lady for that altar. I remember picking lilies of the valley and violets, and my siblings picking tulips. We put our prettiest rosary on the table, and every evening we would pray the rosary together.
Pope John XXIII in his book, Essential Writings, described the Church as mother and teacher.
The Catholic Church has been my mother in some incredible way. She has nurtured me, nourished me, guided me, and given me counsel. The Catholic Church has held me in her arms, embraced me, and loved me into life.
She has also been my teacher. Christ said in John 14: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. She teaches the truth, and the truth has set me free to be who I am and who I am called to be.
So many people today don’t know who they are; they have lost their identity. But I have learned that through my baptism, I am a child of God, the daughter of a loving Father who cares for me and wants the best for me.
I have learned that as a human being I have dignity and great worth. No matter who I am, in the eyes of Christ and the Church, I have incredible value.
And I am made in the image and likeness of God. In Madonna House, on some of our mirrors are the words, "Image of God."
For many reasons, both because of our individual wounds and our culture, we have such a hard time believing all this. Catherine Doherty said: "The greatest work we have to do in this century, this civilization, is to accept ourselves as loveable." It is through the Church that I have learned that I am loveable.
Another way in which I understand the Church is through the doctrine, the image of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. When I came to Madonna House, people were talking about the Mystical Body, but I had never heard of this.
Trying to understand it, I went before the crucifix, a five-foot wooden crucifix in St. Mary’s chapel. I kept gazing at the crucifix and praying, and suddenly I got it.
I said to Christ, "We’re all members of the Mystical Body of Christ. I get it. You’re the head and we’re all members. We all belong; we’re all joined together. This puts me in relationship with everyone else."
So what does that mean? That means that I can love Christ by loving others. I can love Christ by loving the Church.
The Church has called me forth to be holy, to be a saint. She believes in each of us and sees our potential.
The Church wants us to know how much God loves us and how much we need him, and she wants to lead us to an incredible union with God.
We say, "Oh, my goodness, I can’t be a saint!"
But we are called to be little saints, not the big kind you read about in books. Who can be a saint? Anyone who loves God by loving others.
We say, "I don’t have what it takes to be a saint," but guess what? The Catholic Church does. The Catholic Church has all the goods. It can give us everything we need.
In our gift shop, we have medals that say, Without Me you can do nothing (Jn 15:5) on one side, and on the other side, I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13). We hand them out to people.
How does the Church give us what we need? Mainly through the sacraments.
You don’t hear this often in the world, but as human beings, we have bodies and souls, immortal souls. Just as I need to feed my physical body, I need to feed my soul. It is mainly through the sacraments that my soul is fed and given life.
The Church has also given us the Scriptures. Fr. Briere (a deceased Madonna House priest) in his book, I Believe, says, "The people most beneficial to the human race are those who listen to the Word of God and keep it in their hearts. These are the people who bring the most peace, the most joy, the most healing to the whole human race."
That’s quite a statement. Each of us, like Our Lady, is called to ponder the Word of God and take it into our hearts.
Through Scripture, I have experienced incredible healing and intimacy with Christ.
The Church also reminds us to pray. Prayer is the most important thing we do. Christ did not say if you pray, he said when you pray.
It is through prayer that I have discovered the love of the Father in some incredible way, and I now have a freedom I never had before.
The spiritual writer Leon Bloy, said, "The only tragedy is not to be a saint."
But this tragedy need not befall us, for the Catholic Church has everything we need to become saints.
All my life I’ve just wanted to be me. And that is what Christ has given me through the Church.
By living her teachings, by being obedient to God’s will, by receiving Christ in the sacraments, by praying, by reading the Scripture, I can be what I was created to be. I can have an intimacy with Christ, and some day, I hope to live with him in unimaginable joy for all eternity. What else could anyone want?
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