The Smoking Priest

“ I don’t need organized religion to be a good person,” is the usual response that I get when I knock at random on the doors of the homes around my parish.

When I agree that they do not need organized religion to be a good person, people are taken aback.   Catholics are not called to be good people; we are called to be saints.  “I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.  The life I now live in this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake” (Galatians 2: 19-20).

We are called to be saints and we do need a church community in order to reach that goal.  We do need the Catholic Church in order to be a saint, not that everyone who is in the Catholic Church is a saint, but that the Catholic Church has what it takes to make us into a saint.

First of all, the Catholic Church gives us the Holy Bible, the Word of God.  Yes, it is true that all Christians love the Bible, but we have something that no one else has.  We have a body of Bishops with the Bishop of Rome as the head, who, by God’s design, serves the revealed Word of God with the task of giving an authentic interpretation to the Word.   The Magisterium is the sole interpreter of Scripture and this frees the Church from ambiguity and arbitrary decisions, and it provides doctrinal unity.

Secondly, the Catholic Church gives us the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.  “Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6: 54-55).  At every Catholic Mass, we receive Jesus, not symbolically or spiritually, but really.  Through the miracle of Transubstantiation, the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church gives us the Sacrament of Confession.  “Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20: 23).  Jesus acts or works through the Catholic priest and forgives us of our sins.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation provides profound peace, because it is through the sacrament that we know for sure that God has heard us and that God has forgiven us.

Fourthly, the Catholic Church gives us the Mother.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus is our mother.  “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’  Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ (John 19: 26-27).  The Catholic Church has always experienced her maternal love as the Church journeys along this earthly pilgrimage to eternal life in Heaven.

So, it is true that we do not need a church in order for us to be good. If we want to be a saint, we do need the Catholic Church.


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