Size Matters

Over at Pontifications there is an interesting thread about Anglicans converting to Catholicism.

It is easy to compare the two churches, thinking that they are pretty much the same, and forgetting that the Catholic Chuch is simply much, much larger than the Anglican Church.

Fr. Newman chucks out this statistic: there are more Catholics at Mass in the three largest parishes in Greenville, SC (hardly a hotbed of Catholicism) than there are Episcopalians at every Episcopal parish in South Carolina combined.

Add to this the cultural diversity of the Catholic Church. We have a huge Hispanic population, we try to juggle the needs of the various Eastern rite churches as well as the cultural pressures of the Irish, Poles, Italians etc. etc.

When Anglicans who are thinking about converting grumble that the Catholic Church is not as pretty as they wish it to be, or the liturgy is not as refined, or the preaching is inferior, or the stained glass is not as nice, or the organ is bad, they must remember that they are coming from a very small, tasteful sect that does the aesthetic thing very well. The Church, however, is far, far bigger than that.

Here’s a metaphor: the Anglican church is a petite little yacht, perfectly appointed and ship shape in appearance. It is populated with the elite who have gathered for a delightful cruise to the Bahamas. The Catholic Church is a great lumbering, antique cruise ship. She’s a bit leaky, the staterooms are sometimes shabby with wear, the once fine restaurants are decorated with plastic flowers, the lower decks are crowded with sweaty peasants, the cargo holds are full of rotten stuff and the engine room is smoky and dark. Nevertheless, this boat is called the Queen Mary, and Captain Peter is at the helm.

The little yacht may be headed for the Bahamas, but the Queen Mary is headed for the farthest West where the sea become sweet and shallow and eternity begins.

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  • Very good analogy, but the little yacht seems to have lost its rudder and the crew is a bit mutinous. In spite of what I say about the deformers, I find that a terrible tragedy. Can’t rejoice in it like some people I’ve seen, or find it funny.

  • Rob

    In some places, though, the faithful crew of the cruise ship have begun to sand and refinish the woodwork, shine the brass, and plug the holes caused by carelessness and neglect. Unlike in other cruise ships, the repairs often come in this ship through changes made in the most poverty stricken sectors. There is a very competent and understanding captain now, who knows well how to handle the ship.

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  • Yes, it is indeed the question of style or substance. In this case substance wins out. This is why I left the Episcopal Church during college.

  • Good analogy, but the ship is heading East to the Risen Christ, to rhe rising sun, the Dawn. The yatch is heading to the West, the place of darkness etc.Was it at Alexandria, in the baptismal rite, after renouncing Satan, the candidates spat towards the West, the abode of Satan?

  • Delightful post!

  • Hearing my husband’s very faithful Episcopal (soon to be disaffiliated with TEC) pastor talk about his increase in ASA (average Sunday attendance) from 50 to 80 over the several years of his pastorate, I think, but do not say, that I know a Catholic church about 10 miles away from his, which has more people every day at its two daily masses at 6:30 and 9am than his ASA. But why is this? Are we doing something right? Is it that Jesus is really and truly there at mass even if the setting is ugly, the music is bad and the sermons unmemorable? Or are we still reaping what was sowed by those generations of faithful Catholics who had large families? Susan Peterson

  • A good analogy indeed. Near here there is indeed an antique cruise ship called the Queen Mary, which was a little shabby last I saw despite it’s opulent design, and has recently started undergoing renovation.

  • Fr. Ray,In Tolkienesque speech, the West where the Valar dwell is the Blessed Land and in Fr. D’s “headed for the farthest West where the sea become sweet and shallow and eternity begins” I detect shades of Tolkien.It is the East, where Mordor lies, that is evil.

  • excellent post !

  • I was thinking not of Tolkien, but of Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I think in that story they sail to the farthest west where the sea is shallow and becomes sweet and they meet Aslan

  • I dunno why, but when I read this post the following popped into my head:Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,a tale of a fateful trip.That started from this tropic port,aboard this tiny ship.Well, you know the rest, I’m sure.

  • Fr. Dwight,I think you’re confusing your Lewis and Tolkein. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Caspian and his party sail East, where the sea indeed becomes shallow and sweet.In Tolkein, Mordor is in the East and the Valar in the West.But (with a little change in directions :-)) it’s still a solid image.Peace,–Peter

  • My ECUSA sibs like their churches because All The Right People (TM) go there. My brother had his kids in Catholic school for a year or two but took them out because it was too “ethnic” and “working class.” He thinks he is Minnesota progressive but his actions constantly show his anglophilia and snobbery.I love my church because it is the most humble assortment of the world’s people ever! It’s the People of God, not just the Rich White People of God. I live in a 99% white area, but at my church, there are Africans, Filipinos, Korean, European immigrants, Egyptian, and ordinary white Americans, mostly converts. It’s the most diverse organization I know of in my area.I have no time or money for a church of respectability or anglophilia (and my parents are English). Anglophilia includes too much classism and xenophobia. That goes against the Gospel. Very Un-Jesus.

  • Preach it sister! I fell for the Anglophilia snobbery totally and I now totally repent. As a penance I’m learning Spanish to minister to our beautiful Mexican brothers and sisters.

  • Great post, I’m a little late to the game, here. But I just wanted to comment that I’ve been a Catholic for 13 years (I’m 39) and in reference to the Gospel today, those nets didn’t break when St. Peter et al hauled my sorry butt in to that big ol’ boat. Pray I remain faithful to Christ and his church.