When someone asks you to describe the Catholic Church, what do you think of?
I mostly think about a heart, first – a beating thing, a live thing. A thing that pulses and moves and squirms when you touch it. This heart is a reactionary thing.
Then I go a bit deeper, and I think about how it reacts, and why, and to what. You know that saying – bleeding hearts, hearts that bleed for _____. What does this heart bleed for?
Sometimes I know. It bleeds for the poor. It bleeds for what keeps them poor. It bleeds for the oppressed. It bleeds for the innocent, for those who have no idea of what the world is, yet live anyway among those who will never understand them. It bleeds for those who suffer. It understands those who suffer.
What does this heart beat for? Does it beat with excitement? I think it does. It beats wildly with anticipation at Mass, just before Consecration, when everyone is kneeling and reverent. It beats with excitement when someone comes up with the idea to help someone else, to see their neighbor as they would see themselves. It beats with joy when someone exits the confessional, ready to begin again. It doesn’t remember what they did, but it is so excited about what they’re going to do.
This heart is a sensitive thing. It is a delicate thing – it is a bride – but it is a fierce bride. It responds to love. It has remained for thousands of years. It has birthed saints and sinners who became saints and sinners who pray to one day be saints, and saints who pray for sinners who will never see their faces on this earth.
It has withstood punishment. It has seen beatings and prejudices. Lies and lashes and confusion and burnings and hatred. Its children have been martyred. Its name has been disrespected. Its own children, the children of this heart, have been violent in her own name. So much confusion. So much hatred.
But it still lives, still beats. Still sees everyone, cares for everyone.
It is learning. It learns from her bridegroom, it learns from the earth. It flows. It changes. It ebbs.
It lives, it lives in secret. It lives underground. It lives in the eyes of the very poor, in the children who are sick and dying, in the unemployed and the disabled. It lives in the arms of hard workers who aren’t afraid – or who hide their fear so well – of their crosses. It lives in the hands of servants, many of whom have no idea of their impact, of the good that they do.
It is like a tree in winter. I know it looks dead, useless, sometimes. I know it looks like it means nothing to anyone.
But do you see that, just below the bark?
Do you see the green?
Photo courtesy: pilateslogic.com