Philippa Martyr: The Church is a ‘She’ – not an ‘it’

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Women pray during a Holy Hour. Women in the Church will be looking to the results of the summit on abuse in Rome with more than passing interest. Photo: CNS, Gregory A. Shemitz

I had a lovely email recently from a reader who told me something of his sufferings in the Church. So I’ll say here more or less what I said to him.

God doesn’t miss a single thing that we do. We constantly underestimate His interest in our daily lives, and yet He’s right there the whole time. He sees every bit of it; every bit of hard work we did, and every humiliation we suffered.

There are people out there who are hanging on to the Church by a thread. All that’s keeping them there is the Holy Spirit. It’s a deep humiliation, like that experienced by St Therese in her desolate final illness.

I am so grateful for you, if you are one of these people. I am so glad you’re still here. I’m so glad you have chosen to stay with God, and on the side of the angels.

But if you’re drowning right now, let me throw you a lifeline. Ask God to remind you of the reality of the Church – to remember that She is a She, and not an It.

We tend to talk about the Church as an It, like a corporation, and especially when there’s corruption. But really, the Church is a She; She is a Person, the Bride of Christ, on her way to her wedding feast.

By the time she gets there, Jesus will have purified her of every spot and stain and wrinkle.

This is where the clean water I wrote about recently is flowing, all the time, and this is where you are drawing your strength and perseverance, even if you don’t realise it.

The Church is a She, and like most females, She can be pretty terrifying – terrible as an army with banners. The sight of Her in eternity strikes terror in the hearts of demons.

Beyond Horizons and Launch of the Lights of Christmas 2018 at St Mary’s Cathedral 5 December. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

She is also tender, sometimes angry, sometimes unbelievably tired, but possessed of a fierce maternal instinct that causes her to love Her children doggedly and to pursue her prodigals right until their deathbeds (and beyond).

The Church who we are naturally drawn to, who we love, is a She in the way a ship is also a She.

What we don’t love is the Church-as-It – the corrupt corporate barnacles that seems to have attached themselves to the bottom of the barque of Peter.

These barnacles have been forming on the hull ever since Judas Iscariot saw a unique investment opportunity for a progressive and forward-thinking disciple.

They can often grow to great size – but then the Ship has a close encounter with some rocks, and they tend to get scraped off, sometimes with a bit of the hull as well.

And the Ship then rights itself, we bail out the water and patch the hole, and the eternal voyage continues. As it turns out, the Ship can sail perfectly well without the corporate barnacles.

And so can you. Thank you for staying with us. Let’s pray for one another.

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