I am the Problem with the Church


This blog post contains the writings of Carlo Carretto

"The church is like a ship at sea, a calm in the woods, a shelter in the mountains. It always has something to offer even when old and a little musty. It breathes tradition, hidden beauty, culture and the lives of people."

Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I always found the church and mass hard to understand. I didn't understand why things were the way they were and I judged the music, the readers and everything about the liturgy. The church felt like a great, anonymous church where I knew no one, where relationships were collective rather than personal, and where it was very difficult to reconstruct unity and intimacy.  I struggled to find my place in it all.But I realized that if I want to have community I must be the one to foster community. I need to be a part of the solution instead of the problem.

I am acutely aware of the anguish of loneliness, I want a church made a friendship, of genuine contacts and mutual interchange. No one wants to switch churches if their own church offers what they seek and thirst for: truth, love, friendship, and personal relationship. This is why I, a lay parishioner, need to foster the feeling of warmth in my parish community. I need to build a community of brothers and sisters known to one another by name, who are traveling along the same road of faith and love. If I want to build these communities within the church, I need to slowly and patiently build up lines of communication leading to the unity of the whole. That means I need to work with others who might be different, or older or difficult to work with. I need to realize that it's not about me and it's about the glory of God. But this is so difficult - i judge and misinterpret others in the church all the time. 

This scripture verse cuts me to the heart: "do not judge and you will not be judged because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given" Matthew 7:1-2. I was torn in this struggle between rejecting and loving the church because I was stuck in this cyclical battle of judgment and condescension. If I so readily judge others, I must be just as ready to accuse myself of the infinite number of things for which I myself am responsible.

"How much I must criticize you, my church and yet how much I love you! How you have made me suffer and yet how much I owe you. How often I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face and how often I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms! I cannot be free from you for I am with you even though not completely you. I cannot build another church without the same defects for they are my own defects I bear within me and if I build another church it'll be my church and no longer Christ's Church. The church has the power to give me holiness, and it is composed entirely of sinners, each and every member of it. It has the all powerful, invincible faith to celebrate the Eucharistic mystery and yet it is composed of weak men and women groping in the dark and daily grappling with the temptation to lose faith. In vain do I look for anything else from the church, other than the mystery of infallibility and fallibility, of sanctity and sin, of weakness and courage, of credibility and non credibility."

In order to build these communities, we need to have a burning desire for communion, and  redistribute our charisms and tasks so that everybody's talents may be used and can spread through all the different churches and ministries. Community will restore the old structure with new vitality and strength. Every Christian should have the opportunity to and feel the attraction of getting involved in a group that is best equipped to draw this particular person out of their solitude (it could be music ministry, reading at church or hospitality to name a few). 

I realized that it is not bad to see the church's places of improvement when you love it and want to roll up your sleeves and advance it. But it isn't helpful to criticize it from the outside, as though I myself was pure. It's okay to criticize the sin and the ugly things we see but it's not okay to saddle others with sin while believing ourselves to be completely  innocent.

"I shall not leave this church,  founded on so frail a rock, because if I should found another church it will be founded on an even frailer rock: myself."

So this means that inside me, there is capacity for evil and the yearning for holiness, there is a corrupt nature and grace. In me, there is Adam and there is Jesus. The first thing I need to do is realize my humanness and then change my attitude. I must be careful not to be too hasty in climbing on to my soapbox and preaching to others and giving them my brilliant instructions. If sending holiness live in me and I cannot separate with the churches from what the world is, I need to be more humble in my attitude to words things going on around me. In the future I must not be so ready to judge others as vessels of the world's sin and feel myself to be innocent just because I belong to the church. I am NOT innocent of the world's sin!

"I have discovered that the church is not divided from the world. The church is the world's soul, the world's conscience and the world's heaven. Precisely because Jesus became Incarnate, I no longer have the right to divide the good from the bad, the innocent from the wicked, Zacchaeus from Peter, and the adultress from the apostles."

God's people are people of saints, prophets and priests and at the same time a people of sinners, adulterers and tax collectors. We are faced with the encounter between sin and holiness, the co existence in our congregation of Jesus with Magdalene, of Peter who commits an act of betrayal, with John who stands at the foot of the cross by Mary's side. It concerns the very mission of the church and its ability to communicate and reconcile like Jesus.We are all a single whole called the church and Jesus died for ALL of the church.

 Christ invites us to make all things new and to convert our hearts. There's a need for conversion in our church! The true revolution of the soul and the genuine ability to change course can only occur when I confess my sinfulness and address the root of it. "These are confessions that do good, that free consciences, that help people understand people, that bind us more closely to our churches and in the end help us discover what we seek: God himself. That is something I've never understood better than in the moment of reconciliation: who God is."