The same fragmented, multi form, kaleidoscope world confronts him wherever he turns. Philosophy? Choices everywhere. Art? Literature? Music? Sports? Science? Politics? Economics? So many to choose, how could anyone imagine that there could be a system of thought and belief that weaves them all together?
Impossible. Incredible. Inconceivable.
Therefore, when the typical modern American sees the Catholic Church he does not see a unified system of thought, belief, morality and lifestyle that has a global impact and has been established and growing dynamically for 2,000 years. He does not see an array of saints striding down the ages all unified in one church, one faith, one baptism, one Lord and Savior of us all.
He does not see the magnificent unity of thought, the clarity of expression, the depth of psychology the tenderness of human emotions, the soaring architecture, the splendid art, the exquisite music. He does not see the voluminous writings of Thomas Aquinas, the ancient thought of the Apostolic Fathers. He does not see the quiet intensity of the monastic life, the gritty hard work of the missionaries, nurses, teachers and preachers down the ages. He does not see the majesty and humility of the papal office or the unity between the clergy and the bishops and the people of God.
He sees just another church on the corner like umpteen other churches and wonders why Catholics think they’re so special.
What we must try to communicate in the present cultural crisis is that every part of Catholic belief, worship and practice is connected. Rules on marriage are connected with our anthropology, our social teaching, our pastoral care and our sacramental system and all these are connected with what we believe about God, heaven, hell and the soul’s salvation and all that is connected with what we believe about history, art, architecture, music, the sciences and all knowledge and all of it is connected with what we believe about the tragedy and triumph of the human race in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
It’s connected and the connectedness is not simply an intellectual equation, but it is also a mystical experience, for it is in our worship, prayer and contemplation that one can not only glimpse the cosmic unity of Catholicism, but be plunged into it as a baptism of ecstasy in which I not only know that unity, but am part of it.