Sr. Mary Ann Walsh over at the USCCB blog takes a good long look at Bill Keller’s remarks about Catholicism last week.
The Catholic Church doesn’t totally give up anyone. Even if you’re excommunicated, it expects you to attend Mass each week, though not to participate in the sacraments. James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake defined the Catholic Church as “here comes everybody,” giving a blunt, yet poetic expression to a Church with room for all.
One also suspects this hold comes from something more. Is it based in the image of Mother Church, emphasis on “mother,” who loves her children and doesn’t give up on them even when they don’t deserve it or don’t merit the affection, except for the accident of birth or in the Church, of baptism?
Is it the lifelong impact of prayers and other rituals, such as guardian angels to protect you, the Blessed Virgin to care for you, the rosary to guide your prayer, the Eucharist to sustain you, the soaring cathedrals to amaze you? Is it rooted in emotion laden events such as First Communion Day celebrations of purity and innocence or the deep comfort in a funeral Mass imbued with the conviction that we’ll meet again in heaven? Is it a wish to connect to a parent’s or grandparent’s Catholicism that provided a moral compass in facing life’s many challenges?
Is it grace? Is it this inexplicable gift of God’s presence, recognized not enough to stop us daily in our tracks, but sensed on occasion to make us pause at God’s creation, the gift of human life, the message in Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”?
Whatever it is, this Catholicism, this grace, is real, and because of it Bill Keller and others, be they lapsed, collapsed, befuddled or bemused, are part of it. They are family, even if they no longer come by for dinner.