We have all heard it; “I believe in God but I don’t go in for religion” or “I don’t need church to have a relationship with Jesus” or “Who needs the Church anyway?”
We as Catholics have to respond to these statements and occasionally it seems difficult to come up with the reasons why we need the institution of the Church. It seems especially difficult when we have been confronted with a militant church lady, political pastor, an unorganized youth minister or decisions made by the church that affect us like closing or merging of our parish or dealing with the politics of the marriage amendment. It is at times like these that we may ask ourselves why we need the bureaucracy at all. I, myself, work for the Archdiocese Central Corporation and it can sometimes feel more like an institution than a community of people united to serve God and others.
I recently spent an evening with a few friends discussing our varying opinions on the stance of the church on different issues. We have all felt some frustration on some level with the bureaucracy and politics of the “Church” from the local parish all the way to the Vatican.
Then, we received a phone call about a member of our parish who was hurt in an accident. There was nothing we could do but pray. So there, amongst our wine glasses and appetizers we prayed together as a community of people united to serve God and others. It would seem that this was “church” not the building on the hill, not the Cathedral in St. Paul, not even the Vatican.
We are a faith of and/also not either/or.
Then it occurred to me that Yes, the church is this group of friends spontaneously praying for one another and/also the institution of the Church. Without the institution of the Church, capital “C”, the church of us praying together wouldn’t have happened. What brought us together as friends is our faith, what taught us how to pray is the Catechism, CCD classes and our Catholic schools, what taught us the value of prayer at all and the idea that prayer even means anything is the institution of the Church – capitol “C”. Without the bureaucracy, doctrine and dogma i.e.; without the institution – we wouldn’t have had our faith handed down to us for over 2000 years.
So, if you ever feel like the church is just an institution and you are tempted to leave, tempted to stay at home on Sunday morning, tempted to say “I believe in God, but not formalized religion,” or if you ever want to just give up on the dogma, doctrine and doo doo that we sometimes see as the Church– just remember who brought you to the dance.