This article by Carl E. Olsen puts a lot of things into perspective.
There are so many people on both “sides” of the aisle who have abandoned the Church for one reason or another. Or they try to make the Church be something she is not. They deny everything before Vatican 2, or they deny everything including and after Vatican 2, or they take this teaching and leave the other one out, or they take one pope and leave another one out…
I think we all have this temptation sometimes.
Catherine of Siena is a wonderful example of someone who loved the Church despite it’s sinfulness and was faithful to Christ. And even toward her attitude toward the Church was humble and loving.
And people, she lived in WAY worse times than we do now:
Catherine lived during a time of pessimism and cynicism. Barbara Tuchman, in her historical narrative A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, described the period as “a time of turmoil, diminished expectations, loss of confidence in institutions, and feelings of helplessness at forces beyond human control.” The popes lived in exile in Avignon between 1309 and 1377, only returning to Rome after Catherine went personally to the papal court and pleaded with Gregory XI. Monasteries and convents in Europe were decimated by the Plague, and in order to re-populate them unsuitable candidates were often accepted. The secular literature at the time described clerical celibacy as a joke. By the time Catherine died in 1380, the Church was in schism with the election of an anti-pope, Clement VII. (“Lessons from St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor and Daughter of the Church”)
I have not read much of her writings (or, more accurately, dictations) but I’ve been convinced. I need to read her. I think she will help me be a better Christian:
Among various causes of the Church’s sinfulness, Catherine identifies one in particular: a love for the “outer rind” instead of the marrow, i.e., a preoccupation with surface instead of inner realities. Learned people, particularly the clergy, may know much about God, the Church, and Scripture, and yet not be in a love-union with God. The eternal Father tells her that such people “neither see nor understand anything but the outer crust, the letter of Scripture. They receive it without relish” and “approach this Bride [the Church] merely for her outer shell, that is, for her temporal substance, while she is quite empty of any who seek her marrow.” (Ibid)
Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us.
I think Flannery O’Connor is a kindred spirit of Catherine’s (and in my own private, unofficial and utterly ad cathedram opinion) also a saint. They are soul sisters:
“…the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. ” (Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being)