The Holy Nation

The Virginia State Capitol, near VCU

Moses asked the people of Israel a question: “What great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”

When Moses asked this question, it was rhetorical. The Israelites knew the answer: “There is no such nation! The Lord has chosen us and made us a light to the Gentiles!”

Moses asked this rhetorical question some three and a half millennia ago. What would we say, if he posed the same question to us now?

What would we say if Moses asked us Catholics of Franklin County, Virginia, or the Catholics of whatever city or county: “What nation has so just a law as the Sacred Tradition entrusted to the Catholic Church?”

I guess we would say, “Well, we Catholics are proud, patriotic Americans. We thank God for the American rule of law, and we wouldn’t have things any other way.”

Fair answer. But: Is it enough for us Catholics just to blend in peacefully? Hasn’t the Lord given us something that no one else has–and aren’t we supposed to do something with it?

I don’t mean that we should be presumptuous. In many places, we are surrounded by good and gracious non-Catholic Christians who deserve our admiration. At Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, we are no holier a motley crew of sinners than any other church community in these hills.

But, at the same time, we cannot deny our spiritual birthright. Our church is not one ‘denomination’ among many. Our parishes form tiny little branches of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, founded by Christ, governed by the successor of St. Peter, and endowed with a unique inheritance.

Our Catholic inheritance of spiritual, moral, intellectual, and artistic riches outstrips the patrimony of any other group of people on the face of the earth.

Franklin County has its proud heritage. Virginia has its proud heritage. Our Protestant brethren have their proud heritages. But: You could put Ben Franklin himself, with Jubal Early and Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and Billy Graham—you could put them all together in the Virginia State House, or the front steps of Monticello, or in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, or in Westminster Abbey in London or Geneva or wherever—you could sit all those luminaries down in one grand room, and it would be a thoroughly impressive group.

But if St. Francis himself walked in, or St. Therese, or St. Thomas Aquinas, or Michelangelo, the whole group would be eclipsed. If St. Augustine walked in, or St. Paul, or St. Peter or John, or our Lady, all these luminaries would bow their heads in respect.

And then there is the Blessed Sacrament. Franklin County, Va., abounds with wonderful and beautiful things. But there is only one place between Roanoke and Martinsville where you can be in the same room as Jesus Christ Himself. There is only one tabernacle with a sanctuary lamp burning. Our non-Catholic neighbors, good as they are, would be better off if only they knew that Jesus is here with them in the Blessed Sacrament.

So…Are we Catholics humble sinners who presume to be no better than anyone else? Yes. But: If we take stock of all that the Lord has given to us, we have no choice but to shout out like the Israelites: “There is no nation on earth like ours!”

2 thoughts on “The Holy Nation

  1. Father Mark,

    Yes, but!

    As soon as we start thinking “we’ve got IT!”, we’ve lost it. That’s why verbal sells fall short in the Kingdom of God (which, by the way IS centered in Franklin County, Virginia). That is why it is only when we are humble servants, doing our Master’s will, that we evangelize, and then only with our love and service. “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, for the thought, not necessarily the words. None of which is intended to say our church is one ‘denomination’ among many.

    We do have something to offer the World; and it’s called the Good News of Salvation. If we follow the Master’s teaching, it will most often be peaceable; but there is a time for screaming in the halls; and we pray for Divine guidance as to when that moment is upon us. As an example, in trying to look up the St. Francis quote, I ran across a web site which attacked the church by a personal attack on the Pope’s appearance, his garb. What’s the appropriate response to that? I think ignore it, work among such people for a while (certainly not in their cause) in love and service, and you’ll win a few — not necessarily to Catholicism, but at least away from unreasoning hate. By all means, do not be afraid to ask: can I pray with you, what do you think about that, would you like to come to church with me? It all arises out of friendship, and listening, and love. If direct challenges arise, answer them forthrightly; but there is usually little benefit from engaging in theological argumentation. Usually, deflecting the attack, but continuting the conversation, brings better results.



  2. Mi-ster Doane! (hands on hips)

    Theological argumentation is about to be engaged. When was the last time the Evangelization team continued the conversation? For better results, I recommend lunch…

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