When a group of “devout Catholics” start to demand from their civil legislators a law that will subvert the very Apostolic nature of their Church — either they hate the Church, or they’re very confused.
Lay trusteeism, democraticization, a spreading of responsibilities, the spirit of Vatican II, same-sex marriage retribution, financial scandal, whatever — whether motivated by genuine but misguided love for the Church or other reasons, Bill 1098’s proponents were wrong.
But while standing in front of a crowd of 5,000 Catholics — all upbeat and cheerful, overall, but still very clearly frustrated with this legal slap in the face — trying to envision Bill 1098’s proponent’s concept of the Body of Christ, I was struck by an ironic fact.
They want democracy in the Church.
But this is democracy, at it’s finest. Constituents come out in protest to lawmakers who threaten their liberty. The Church steps up and says, “Get out of our affairs and stop meddling with separation of Church and State.” The First Amendment is upheld. The people have spoken. The legislators hang their head in shame (not without claiming death threats, though. Ugh.) Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to work?
They champion “the laity” (which I guess means everyone who agrees with them and their utopian ideals of a Church) and say the hierarchy is out of touch, is keeping them down, is unappreciative of their gifts, talents and very presence in the pews.
But here is the laity: young, old, handicapped; business suit-clad, habited (okay, there were lots of religious, too), in matching plaid jumpers. They were prayerful, they were joyful, they were hopeful, they were angry. They ran the gamut of emotions, and the hierarchy, their shepherds, picked up on it all.
I love the picture of Bishop Lori above. Is that a bishop out of touch with his flock? He looks like he’s about to launch himself into them.
I stood there and thought, they — the bishops — get it. The people get it. And they certainly are in understanding with each other. While we might not all comprehend full-blown ecclesiology, we know the way things work is the way things have to stay before the Church ceases to be one, holy, apostolic and catholic. We know we’ve been seriously wronged by the government that’s supposed to keep us free.
I’m not really one for rallies and marches. But as I told someone else, it was kind of refreshing to be at something like this that didn’t have to do with abortion. No gory posters or fire and brimstone prophecies from a bullhorn. As bad as this may sound, it was nice to escape from the cliches of a Catholic protest and actually be noticed by lots of media for once.
Oh, and yes, I cried. Sort of. Don’t tell. It was more like the catch in the back of my throat — really. So I was standing on the capitol steps toward the front of this crowd and had a pretty good view of everyone behind me. Nuns. Old church ladies. Tough-looking workers. School children. Smiling priests, a familiar voice behind me (the director of my parish’s religious education program), a little Phillipino lady who — this is so pathetic, I know — I had to convince myself wasn’t my aunt.
They were all so different, yet clearly united in this cause — of wanting to offer whatever they could to defend their Church from those who would claim to know what’s best, or to even love Her more.
And then they started to sing. That’s what got me … “America the Beautiful.”
I love all the verses, but especially the latter, less-known ones:
Oh beautiful, for patriot dream/That sees beyond the years/Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears!
I noticed one voice in particular standing out in the crowd, and I turned around to notice a young man, maybe 30 years old, who probably had Down Syndrome a few feet behind me.
“America! America! God shed His grace on thee!” he warbled along.
This is my Church, I thought, turning back around to face the capitol with the sound of 5,000 voices rising behind me. And I’m so proud.
Image from www.kofc.org