Welcome back to the States, Micaela! And now that you're all settled in (yuk yuk) let's focus on that glorious Church that we love so much! Here are three aspects of the Catholic Church that I am deeply grateful for:
The Church stimulates her children to create glorious works. People want to beautify and adorn the things that they love. The argument has been made that the Church should sell all its valuable assets and give the money to the poor. Setting aside how that same argument was by Judas Iscariot, the thing to remember is that it is THE POOR who were (and still are) most enthusiastic about having a beautiful place to worship, with rich decorations and vestments. The church is their meeting place, the center of their social activities, the storehouse of all that matters to them. Poor people want to have lovely surroundings just as rich people do, but since they can't afford to do it in their individual homes they pool their resources and create church buildings that are as beautiful as they can make them. The Catholic Church recognizes the significance of beauty and its connection to love, and encourages her children to reach for beauty in their acts and in their works.
It make look busy to you, but to us in this humble town it's our beautiful church home.
The Church knows how to celebrate! Important events and people are not just remembered mentally, they are an excuse for a festival. In her book Walking on Water Madeleine L'Engle writes about a group of Congregational ministers who wanted to observe the Feast of the Transfiguration. They checked out all the Episcopal churches in their area and none of them were having a celebration that day. Too bad it would never have occurred to them to go to the nearest Catholic church. Here are some photos of the "peregrinacion" (march) held on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the nearby parish of that name, which our parish participated in (hey, when it's your birthday or name day and you have a party, you invite the whole family!) We brought the traveling statue of our Lady of the Pillar (our parish is named after her) to join in the march.
The Church is comfortable with sinners and the needy in her midst. Of course every Christian community says that they love sinners and the needy, but in my experience much of the time those who clearly do not "have it together" are not particularly welcome within the community. The needy are the outsiders to whom we minister, not part of the family who sits at the table with us. The Catholic Church reaches out and provides welcome and safety as part of the community to the homeless, the confused, the ignorant. She is patient with her children, loving them toward health rather than judging them for their lacks. The spirit of humility is thick within the walls of the church.
This photo is from a mass that our church had for a group of migrant farm workers who had never had the opportunity to partake in the Church's sacraments. During the mass there were 15 marriages, a lot of baptisms and confirmations (everyone you see here is being confirmed). If you want to read more about this wonderful event, read this post.
For more awesome aspects of the Catholic Church, go see Micaela at California to Korea and Back.