Our Stubbornly Resistant Church

The problem with writing post-sized posts is that I always have essay-sized new ideas while writing them, but I know I would be justly excommunicated from the Internet if I ever took up the habit of extrapolating upon every shiny bit of A.D.D that flutters into my temporal lobe. A Chesterton I’m not. So today my afterthought hearkens back to two days ago, back to Cathedrals.

One of the glories of a big, hulking, Gothic cathedral is that it’s a fantastic metaphor for the similarly hulking Catholic Church, whom I love so darn dearly - in all her hulk. I love this church, I love the Church. Now, there exists a plethora of parallels that can be drawn between the metaphor-church and the Church Herself; the beauty, the firm foundation, the encompassing shape and size, the ever-present swarm of papists, etc.

But the reason I’m falling in love with this Church-as-church concept is because of how one destroys a Cathedral. It’s not that the great basilicas and chapels of our faith our indestructible, as World War Two and the earthquake in Haiti proved…

…it’s that it takes bombs and earthquakes to destroy them.

I hold that the Holy Roman Catholic Church, like its cathedrals, is the only force in the world today to remarkably resist the irresistible power of entropy, that universal depressant that demands everything burn, and Eeyore’s house always fall. True, our cathedrals may crushed in a fit of passion, but they will never be crushed in an equally mad fit of apathy, and therein lies the beauty.

No big deal, it's just been being used for 1700 years.

The Catholic Church, since her very conception, has made the radical statement that life is good. “Can we enslave people and have gladiator fights?” Nope. “Can we be Gnostics and spend a lifetime viewing our bodies as evil?” Nope. “Can we kill ourselves?” Nope. “Can we use contraception and avoid the possibility of new life?” Nope. “But it’s really cool, and it-” No, dammit. “Can we get abortions?” Nope. “Can we kill old people who don’t want to live?” Wait, really? No! Goodness, what’s wrong with you guys?

The ever-decaying fads and fashions of today circle and flutter around the Church like blue-bottles around a cow, who – for her part – stoically bats them away, without blinking an eye. (Oh dear, I’ve moved on to cow similes. Let me get back to the point:)

See it's like the Catholic Church because it's multi-colored, really big, and fun to play with.

The Catholic Church does not decay. She does not succumb. When the entire world was screaming at her to accept artificial contraception, when virtually every single Christian denomination allowed its use, she alone stood straight, a marble cathedral on a hill, refusing to crumble. We were embarrassed of her boldness then, but we are unspeakably proud of it now, bearing unfortunate witness to the evil contraception has impregnated the world with.

Cathedrals resist entropy. The Catholic Church does the same. As our philosophies devolve slowly into relativism, she contradicts the world by claiming absolutes. As our world gets less and less beautiful, she calmly affirms beauty, in her art and in her teachings. When everything else crumbles she rebuilds. And that’s the other wonderful thing about Cathedrals; if they are poorly built and do begin to crumble and peel, we restore them. St. Francis, St. Dominic; the spirit of the Saints is the spirit of rebellious rebuilding. But it is vital to note that when a cathedral is rebuilt, it is always rebuilt as a cathedral, never as anything less. Likewise, when the Church goes through reform, it is always a reformation against entropy, pulling away the seductions of fashion and bringing the Church back to it’s goal of administering the sacraments and performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the monasteries back to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Church moves backwards to move forwards, while the world sprints forwards and then looks around, indignant, wondering how on earth they didn’t realize they were moving backwards.

But there is a point where the comparison fails, and it is this: The cathedral is passive. The Roman Catholic Church is not. The cathedral resists entropy. The Church destroys it. The Church defeats heresies, feeds the poor, speaks truth to power and strives to save the rotting world, by defeating those ideas “as killing as the canker to the rose”. The Catholic Church is the cathedral that lifts it’s grotesque, marble feet and, with creaking, entish monstrosity, stamps and obliterates its enemies. But, alas, some obscure writer already wrote about that.

Gotta love being Catholic; it’s all so massively small. Argh, see? I just thought up another post! I didn’t mean to, but now I want to explore the marvelous paradox of the cathedral, that it is simultaneously the most intimidating structure in the world and the most intimate, and how that relates to the teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church. No, no, no, I will resist. I have to study. Till next time!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1646845264 Elizabeth Anne Gill

    Hey Marc, love your blog. So much so that I very nearly favorited all of your posts…. (dangit you quote Chesterton all the time, so how could I not??) And apparently a friend of mine is your friend at FUS, which I found out by linking a bunch of your posts to Facebook and she commenting that she knows you. She says you swing dance with her on occasion (you any good?)

    Annnyways, besides commenting to inflate your ego (and making a ridiculous claim that I kinda sorta know you through someone), I have a bit of advice/something to tell you so I can stop wincing reading your blog. (yeah, yeah I know I just said I was inflating your ego. Whatever…)
    Please please please do not use contractions!!! I know it is hard to not do so, but #1 you are technically being more ‘professional’ (you *are* getting paid, right?) and #2 you stop making me wince. Also, the English majors who may read your blog will not get mad at you. Hopefully.


    • Marc Barnes


      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1646845264 Elizabeth Anne Gill


        • Penny Farthing1893

          I think they work better with the style…

          • Anonymous

            What English majors object to contractions? That’s like French majors objecting to liaison (“le oignon” becoming “l’oignon”). Contractions are a part of how English phonics works.

            Maybe prescriptivist English majors with no conception of their language’s natural function object to contractions, but if so, they better get on Shakespeare, he used ‘em all over the place.

        • Marc Barnes


          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1646845264 Elizabeth Anne Gill

            Ouch….Hey man, I *am* older than you. So hush.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Karen-Burch/545674683 Karen Burch

      Also, get a good proofreader. I love reading your blog but my inner editor starts shrieking in torment when I see phrases like “our indestructible” and “been being used.”

      • Chloe Austyn Holley

        Psst, commenters! Fellow English major speaking -psst!- these comments are more appropriately e-mailed, if one is truly wishing to provide fruitful criticism. Oh, wait. That’s just the defensive-sister-in-Christ coming out in me through the intersession of Uncle Chestnut realizing that someone reading this blog for the first time might miss the cathedrals for the contractions.

    • Dory Hammersley

      I’m an English major, and I have no problem with contractions. They add a lot to Marc’s voice, which is really important on something like a blog. If this were an academic paper, I might advise cutting out the contractions….but only because that’s the academic norm. I rather like them, myself, and I think it’s silly that they’re not the academic norm. They’re an accepted and embraced part of the English language, after all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Costello/892810373 Greg Costello

    “… the evil contraception has impregnated the world with.”

    I <3 this paradoxical use of words.

  • Jeni

    I would love to know what Cathedral is in the picture. It is breathtaking!

  • John

    You’re blog is freakin awesome! Keep up the great work!!

  • Nathaniel

    Can we screw children and then have it covered up by Church officials?

    Apparently, yes.

    And given the recently headlines, this is another issue where the church is resisting “entropy.”

    • Chloe Austyn Holley

      Seriously? That is not Church teaching. That is human fallenness, and personal grievous sin that NO ONE would justify.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrasco3 Carlos Carrasco

    “The Church is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.” — GK Chesterton.

    I would add more beautiful too!