Because “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Makes Sense

As a relatively new convert to Catholicism (Class of 2008), friends have asked me the following question, “How could you join such a scandal-plagued institution?”

My answer has been something along the lines of what St. Peter said to Our Lord in the Gospel of John (6:67-69) when,

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are The Holy One of God.”

But the painting shown here speaks to me as well. It is entitled A Ship In Need In A Raging Storm and was painted by Willem Van de Velde II in 1707.

Throughout Her history, the Church has been depicted as a Ship. As a Marine, I have an affinity for all things nautical and love the jargon and the feel of all things naval. And I have written before that I read the entire Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien which, in a way, helped soften me up for Blaise Pascal’s assault on my personal beachhead.

The Ship as metaphor for the Church works to answer the question above easily for me. When your ship is damaged, due to weather or as a result of action against an enemy, the command is “man the pumps, clear spars, frother a sail over the hull, beach the ship for repairs,” etc.. The command is not “abandon ship.”

As for the members of the crew who commit acts of treachery, criminal conduct etc? Yes, they must be dealt with internally within the ship (using the Articles of War) and externally through the powers of the state. But again, and consider that I am just an able-bodied seaman (nothing more) writing this, when crises like these erupt, the alarm given is “man overboard!” and a life-line is thrown or a launch put down in the water in order to effect a rescue if at all possible. Sometimes, due to weather for example, this is not possible. But the order is certainly not “scuttle the ship.” Never.

Sometimes the orders and alarm occur simultaneously. And scandals will occur, as they always do. As Catholic Christians, we are called to man our battle stations and stay alert as members of the crew of His Majesty’s Ship. The command is “Don’t Give Up The Ship!”

Semper Fidelis

  • Webster Bull

    Great post, Frank! Or as you've taught me to say, Bravo Zulu! The Holy Spirit really knew what He was doing when He sent you to YIM Catholic! You bring a perspective that my experience just doesn't allow me.

  • Anonymous

    Warren Jewell, by . . .Firstly, "Well said, seaman. Now, return to your post."Secondly, what hath man wrought, even of but his practices within God's institutional gifts (e.g., family as well as Church), that he has NOT soiled? Sinful man is both perpetrator and victim of his scamdalous ways. That said, it is getting better and better known that long-term gatherings of men for apparently 'noble' purposes can generate a fertile bed in which perversions can grow: hence, among Protestant mnisters, Jewish rabbis, and, maybe worst by proportions, school teachers have as well perpetrated what has been worst of Church scandal, the homosexual assaults by priests on trusting young men. It is probable that even as not organized, atheists and agnostics are no better, and may be worse than the percentage of priests. Yet (of course!) they cannot be hypocrites for being essentially amoral; or, so I have been – umm – 'informed?'Thirdly, God help us and grant us mercy and salvation. I trust to His will that if necessary, the lifeboat will work as His Church. For, God is not limited; only our imaginings about God are so very humanly small. [Umm, what kind of entry slot is this that a Word-prepared doc cannot be copied into it? (Sigh!) Nor can I copy out of this space to put into Word to spell-check. (SIGH!) Nor do the directional keys work. (S-I-G-H!) And, believe you me, and for fat-fingered anons such are handicaps, eh? (Makes for grousing grouchy old phart . . .)]

  • pennyyak

    We've been scandalous since the beginning, starting with the words of Our Lord (you quoted the ending), "…if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever…many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him." I wrote once a post once, Trouble Brewing for 2000+ Years! And it's true.My most frequently asked question from my Protestant friends (on becoming a Catholic) was "How could you join a church that worships Mary?" Oh well.Wonderful illustration, Frank, your background is proving useful! If one greatly desires to follow the Master, what storm is sufficient to set us apart?"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."

  • Ruth Ann

    Architect Richard Meier took the Church as the barque of Peter quite literally when he designed the Jubilee Church in Rome. There are many images on Google. Here's one: Thanks for this post. I won't give up the ship.

  • Frank

    I thank all of you for your comments. I am humbled to think that in some small (infinitesimally small)way I am helping others understand and appreciate the Graces available to us all.I also thank Ruth Ann for the link to Richard Meirers' work! I have placed that link on the comment section to this article over on our Facebook page. What a cool building.And here is the link that explains the origin of the saying "Don't Give Up the Ship".

  • Anonymous
  • Frank

    And to all, the Articles of War were read to English seaman every Sunday back in the sailing ship days. In the American military, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the equivalent.