The Catholic Thing
March On, Fellow Catholics Print E-mail
By Ashley McGuire   
Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Four years ago, early on Easter morning, I awoke from a dream in a cold sweat.

I had been walking in a crowd, unable to see anything beyond the people pressed closely around me. I could not see where we were going, but only knew we were walking around something in a massive circle. I suddenly stopped, and walked against the flow towards the center.

When I reached a clearing, I came face-to-face with an ancient man, sitting on a rock. He was all to be found at the center.

He greeted me by name, and he asked if I knew who he was. I said, “You’re a disciple of Christ. You’re Peter.” (At the time, I had no idea where I pulled that from.)

He replied, “Yes. And it is time for you to come with me.”

I awoke with a start. Hours later I found myself in the pews of a Protestant church, my mind drifting during the Easter sermon. I reached for a Bible and opened it to the words of Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”

Exactly one year later, I became a Catholic.

A few Sundays ago, as I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., walking into church, my blouse billowed around my belly, swollen with eager new life, my husband at my side.

Passersby had the tired, blank look of a night of excess. Trash skittered along the sidewalk. People and papers softly blew by the church, as if it weren’t there. Going nowhere in particular.

For the briefest of moments, I felt as though I were back in my dream, one foot suspended over the striped crosswalk, my hem slowly rising toward the doors. The wind pushed at my side but my eyes were fixed towards St. Peter and his Rock.

It was Laetare Sunday. It was the Filipino Mass, the priest was African, two women sang the hymns in sign language. The Universal Church. Packed in between Marvelous Market and Trader Joe’s. The readings were about one of seemingly countless destructions of this or that temple. The priest reminded us that each time we feel the pinch of our Lenten sacrifice, we take a small step towards Christ.

In this brief life, we do one of two things. We walk around the Church, or we walk towards it.

It’s just so simple. We are either walking behind Christ, wresting the demons off our shoulders, weighed down by sin’s hideous barnacles. Falling to the ground for one sweet taste of the Blood. One sweet graze with the Flesh. Or we are standing on the side, watching Him.

           St. Peter as Pope by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1611

Last weekend during the Triduum, Catholics in America took a pause from all the HHS chaos to stand at the foot of the Cross. We stood so silently that some of us could even hear the wood creaking in the wind.

In that space between Lent and the Easter octave in which we find ourselves now, time suspends itself on an ancient string and we cling to the Cross. We feel its splinters on our wet cheek. We sleep restlessly at night when Satan’s agents, with their truncated memories, think for a matter of hours that victory is theirs.

And then we bask in Easter and all her glory. The tomb is so empty and the world is so full. Life is sensual again. Our souls are brimming.

And then it’s Monday morning and Cardinal Dolan is back on TV defending the Church against the HHS mandate. Ross Douthat is reminding us of how polarized religion in America has become.

Our inbox is angry that we took the weekend to follow Christ on His way to the Cross, stand next to His Mother as he died, and rejoice with the women and their spices when He was gone Sunday morning.

But Easter ends and the world presses in once more. Satan picks up the weapon labeled “mundane.”

Whichever way this HHS mandate goes; let’s not forget that ours is a Church that has survived much more than bureaucratic overreach. She has survived centuries of war and persecution. She has seen her temples torn to the ground, rebuilt, and torn down once more. She has even survived the Smoke of Satan in her draperies.

She is currently surviving a period of great disbelief and hostility. In fact, she is mysteriously thriving.

So as we Catholics walk down the hill from Golgotha and pass back into ordinary time once more, we will once more encounter the ordinary evils that thread our path. Like the HHS mandate.

Don’t get me wrong. The HHS mandate is perhaps the gravest assault our Church has ever known in modern America. These times are not all that ordinary for American Catholics.

But ours is a Church built on the most eternal of rocks.

And the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her.

So march on, fellow Catholics.

Ashley E. McGuire is the editor-in-chief of AltCatholicah.

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Comments (16)Add Comment
written by Randall, April 11, 2012
This Easter was my "6th birthday" as a Catholic. One of the reasons I became Catholic is that I saw that the Catholic Church is truly the Church founded by Christ. If She wasn't then there is no way, absolutely no way, She would have survived all of the attacks and scandals of the past 2,000 years.

Great article Ashley McGuire!
written by DS, April 11, 2012
A wonderful Easter perspective. The author articulates true Christian hope amid the Church's current trials, not the pervasive "calamity and disaster" that Blessed John XXIII warned against in his opening address at Vatican II.
written by CS, April 11, 2012
Great article!
written by David H. Lukenbill, April 11, 2012
An absolutely beautiful column,reminding us of how simple it is to be Catholic, With Peter, to Christ, through Mary.

Ashley's column resonated with me, for Matthew 16:18 also played a major role in my conversion 8 years ago.
written by Joseph Goodwin, April 11, 2012
Marvellous article! Amen!
written by will manley, April 11, 2012
With all due respect, this is an insightful comment about Christ and His Church. I am growing weary however of efforts to turn our religion into a political action committee focused on the HHS mandate. Can't we keep our focus on the reason for the season without the distractions of Caesar's follies? I don't like the HHS mandate any more than you do but let us not politicize our Church. When we do that we take our eyes off God and turn them to Caesar and Obama and Sibelius are the ultimate winners.
written by Frank, April 12, 2012
A well written and marvelous article. I wish will manley would expand upon his point. If I remember correctly, the word politic is the union of two Greek words "poli" meaning people and "tic" meaning art. Thus politics is "the art of people,' and the operative word here is people. We can and should focus on the reason for the season as will manley contends but let us not forget that when one is up to their armpits in alligators, one comes to finally recall that the initial directive was to drain the swamp, but that recall comes too late. The battle, not of our choosing mind you has been joined and while we can and certainly should place the season first and always, let us not forget where our feet are planted for now and what is going on around us. We have John Paul II to show us how to engage and of course we have Christ, the head of the Church who will protect His Church against all evil. Prayer obviously but it is articles like Ashley McGuire's that clarify the challenge ahead. Christ and his Church will prevail. Obama and his ilk will lose this one and they will lose big. At what time will we see Obama's ruinous defeat over this one? I do not know but I do know that God's time is perfect and so Obama's downfall will come at a time of God's choosing according to His plan and His will. The battle is upon us and like the anonymous chaplain said during the attack on Pearl Harbor, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!" We cannot forget the season and we dare not lose sight of the battle we did not want but is now before us and unfortunately has engaged us. Retreat IS NOT and option.
written by Jeannine, April 12, 2012
Dear Mr. Manley, I understand your weariness, but the case is not that we want to politicize our church; rather, the state is attempting to remove our freedom to live according to our faith. A Catholic business owner will, if the mandate stands, be required by law to violate his conscience. Such an injustice must now be allowed to stand.
written by Louise, April 12, 2012
"And the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her."

I think that the future imperative tense is appropriate here: "And the gates of hell SHALL not prevail against Her."

It is sad that the same error has occurred in the new translation of the Creed: "He SHALL come again to judge the living and the dead."

Thank you for the reminder that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. It's too easy to lose sight of that hope in these darkening days.
written by will manley, April 12, 2012
Dear Jeannine...the issue can also be framed this way: A Catholic business owner will, if the mandate stands, be required by law to give his employees the choice to violate their consciences. No one is requiring anyone to engage in artificial contraception. The choice to do so devolves upon the individual. Instead of going all political, the Church should be focusing on a teaching and preaching mode that will give its members (and non members) clear reasons why artificial contraception is an inherent evil. We need more prayer and instruction and less politicizing. Give to God what is God's; give to Caesar what is Caesar's. True in 30 AD; true today. Let's get back to religion.
written by Achilles, April 12, 2012
I agree with Will Manley, he is making the distinction between the seeds and the fruit. We must be principled and not worry about calculation through political action. And though this is a beautiful article in general, the hint at multi-culturalism takes wieght away from an otherwise good essay.
written by Chris in Maryland, April 12, 2012
Not quite Will...

More to the point, a Catholic business owner will be required by law to pay for artificial contraception chosen by others, against his conscience, and against his 1st Amendment Right to Free Expression of his reilgion.
written by Achilles, April 13, 2012
If I find myself on the other end of an argument from Chris in Maryland it is a safe bet that I am in error, which I am sure I am. But I suspect the outrage over contraception perhaps should not have taken place even in this decade. If we are Catholics of true conscience and principle perhaps this should have been squared away just after HUMANAE VITAE came out. That many of our own bishops supported Obamacare in the beginning is a shame. I went to a congress at our diocese and the keynote speaker said contraception was a matter of personal conscience, this being said to all the teachers in my diocese. In my RCIA the leader told all the initiates the same thing.

I think we have made our bed and the tragic weakness of our leadership in the American Church puts a much heavier burden on us now to act as Christ would have us to act, which I doubt is political maneuvering, rallying or complaining. And though we should unite and speak out against this we should not act so surprised that this is taking place now and we should realize that even if we manage to avoid this fiasco, the roots of our problems have hardly been touched.
written by Jeannine, April 13, 2012
I think that Will Manley misunderstands the mandate: the Catholic business owner is required by law to pay for the employee's contraception. It is not a moral problem for the employer if the employee chooses to do that with a paycheck.
written by Al Giambrone , April 13, 2012
Yes, you're right, Will, the Church has a great opportunity to focus on its beautiful teaching on sexuality which shows why contraception is inherently evil. But, as Chris has aptly pointed out, it is not a matter of an employer being required by law to give his employes the choice to violate their consciences, but rather being required by law to pay for that violation. That comes under the heading of cooperation with evil which, by another teaching of the Church, is also evil. And so by opposing the mandate we are engaging in the preaching and teaching mode and the instruction that you are espousing.
written by Paula, April 15, 2012
Thank you Catholic Christian converts...I'm a middle-aged cradle Catholic who is tired of fighting the war sometimes and I get an injection of faith from you...keep it up...

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