Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Kansas City's Jesuit Parish
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Sunday, Sep. 9th 2018

What is Church? – September 9, 2018

Institution, Herald, Servant, Sacrament, Mystical Communion, and Community of Disciples.  These are the “models” of church described by Jesuit priest and Cardinal of the Church Avery Dulles, SJ (1918-2008).  Here’s a way of imaging these models.

Institution is easy – a pyramid.  This might be the most common way people think of “the church.”  It’s an institution with teachings and rules – and a power structure.  A catechism of beliefs, a code of canon law, and more rules on liturgical matters and the moral life than you can imagine.    A pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious, and – at the bottom of the pyramid – the laity. 

Herald — a megaphone.   The Church announces the Good News of God’s love and mercy to all.

Servant — a kitchen apron, a broom and a hammer.  The Church does the hard work of feeding the hungry, cleaning up the messes of the world, and building the Kingdom of God.

Sacrament — a banana. Just as the peel of the banana reveals the ripeness of the fruit, the external actions of the church reveal the invisible presence of the grace of God. What’s on the outside tells you what is on the inside.

Mystical Communion – a bicycle wheel.  The spokes of the wheel converge at the hub and represent you and me and all God’s creation getting closer and closer to God.  And here’s the thing – the spokes don’t just get closer to the hub, they get closer and closer to one another.  We can’t grow closer to God without growing closer to one another (and to the plants and animals and the earth, water, sea and sky that are our Common Home). And God isn’t just the hub.  God is the rim that holds the spokes in place.  We’re safe in God. 

Finally Community of Disciples.  That is all of us who follow Jesus as “The Way.” 

One thing that has frustrated me in past weeks since the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the forced resignation of Cardinal McCarrick is people conflating “The Church” with “the Roman Catholic denomination.”  “The Church is in crisis!”  “What’s going to happen to the Church?” “Should I leave the Church?” But the Church of Jesus Christ is so much bigger than this institution.  We Catholics need to be reminded that we don’t have exclusive rights to Jesus.  We haven’t cornered the market on the grace of God. The Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church affirmed that our Protestant brothers and sisters are “separated ecclesial brethren,” NOT schismatics and heretics. 

There is no doubt about it – the Catholic denomination is in crisis.  But the Church is strong.  It can’t be anything else.  God is present and active.  I suspect God’s good Holy Spirit will call on some Catholics to leave this denomination.  God will call on others to stay and work for reform. I think we all need to pray for discernment and ask our Protestant brothers and sisters (as well as people of other faiths) to pray for us.

Our Marian Devotion group (a small but mighty group of men and women who meet monthly on the First Saturday and lead the rosary before our 4:00 Saturday and 8:00 Sunday Masses weekly) offer this prayer:
“Mary, we pray this holy rosary for the healing of the Catholic Church.
Take our church, its clericalism, and culture of secrecy into the light of Jesus’ Nonviolent and Boundless Love.
We pray for transparency in reform and the inclusion of laity, both men and women equally, in positions of true influence in this regenerative effort.”


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Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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