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To one who misunderstands the Church Print E-mail
By Hilaire Belloc   
Thursday, 03 June 2010

I will content myself by concluding with this: that there wholly escapes you the character of the Catholic Church. You judge it by indications dead and valueless; you have not – for all your detestation of it – experienced its life, not known it for what it is. You are like one examining the windows of Chartres from within by candle-light, and marvelling how any man can find glory in them; but we have the sun shining through. . . . For what is the Catholic Church? It is that which replies, co-ordinates, establishes. It is that within which is right order; outside, the puerilities and the despairs. It is the possession of perspective in the survey of the world. It is a grasp upon reality. Here alone is promise, and here alone a foundation.

Those of us who boast so stable an endowment make no claim thereby to personal peace; we are not saved thereby alone. But we are of so glorious a company that we receive support, and have communion. The Mother of God is also ours. Our dead are with us. Even in these our earthly miseries we always hear the distant something of an eternal music, and smell a native air. There is a standard set for us whereto our whole selves respond, which is that of an inherited and endless life, quite full, in our own country.

You may say, “All this is rhetoric.” You would be wrong, for it is rather vision, recognition, and testimony. But take it for rhetoric. Have you any such? Be it but rhetoric, whence does that stream flow? Or what reserve is that which can fill even such a man as myself with fire? Can your opinion (or doubt, or gymnastics) do the same? I think not!

One thing in this world is different from all other. It has a personality and a force. It is recognised, and (when recognised) most violently loved or hated. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it, is the Night.
 

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