We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
[Marianne Williamson]

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Come as you are

Of all the hymns ever composed, this has to be one of the most tender and comforting expressions of God's love I have ever heard.

Come as you are

Come as you are, that's how I want you.
Come as you are, feel quite at home.
Close to my heart, loved and forgiven;
come as you are, why stand alone?

No need to fear, love sets no limits.
No need to fear, love never ends.
Don't run away, shamed and disheartened.
Rest in my love, trust me again.

I came to call sinners, not just the virtuous.
I came to bring peace, not to condemn.
Each time you fail to live by my promise,
why do you think I'd love you the less?

Come as you are, that's how I love you.
Come as you are, trust me again.
Nothing can change the love that I bear you.
All will be well, just come as you are.

(composed by Deidre Browne)

When I first started posting these hymns, my sister asked why I didn't check out some of the other Christian churches in the area. It has taken me a long time to answer her because I felt it was a very important question, not least because she chose me to be godmother to her daughters. I have started writing any number of emails in response, but in the end I have decided to post my reasons here for all to read.

I won't go into all the historical reasons for the separation of all the other denominations from the Catholic church. If you are interested, I am told (by my favourite internet nun) that Protestantism for Dummies, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Church are good resources. Leaving all those bygones in the past, there are two main differences between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations today.

The first is The Real Presence. As Catholics, we believe that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine at the altar, they actually become the body and blood of Jesus, including his soul and his divinity, as he intended us to receive them at the Last Supper. Words can't express how special that is.

One of the things I love about being a Catholic, is that we don't try to rationalise and explain how this happens. We accept that it is a mystery - a miracle in which we personally can participate every time we go to Mass. Other churches don't seem to have the same belief in God's loving generosity and ability to perform the impossible. For them, the Eucharist is simply a symbolic recreation of the Last Supper. In other words, instead of a holy sacrament, communion becomes just a show put on by humans with no direct participation from God. I prefer the awesomeness of trying to contemplate Christ's physical presence on the altar and inside me!

The other big difference between the Catholic church and other Christian denominations is the primacy of the Pope. We believe there is an unbroken line of succession from Peter ("on this rock I build my church") to Pope Benedict. Other Christian churches tend to be run by committees. To quote one Anglican Bishop: "Unlike the Church of Rome, with its admirable clarity of decision-making, the Anglican churches are messy and often disagree with each other." Due to this authority structure, the Catholic church doesn't change quickly to meet modern ideas, and can seem out of touch and old fashioned. However, when it comes to choosing a solid place on which to stand while building a self and a family, the Catholic church offers a guaranteed stability.

Catholics are often accused of being hypocritical, or uncaring, or unfriendly or any number of other things and there is sometimes a lot of truth in that - but it is the people, not the church - I think you would find the same wherever you went and if anything it is our responsibility to change such perceptions through our own behaviour. One small pebble can create a landslide, after all. Priests are human and often have their problems, but I have found, even with the ones I can't really relate to, very often God surprises me by putting words in their mouths that I needed to hear.

I am by no means a perfect wife. I have my faults, my bad days and I know for a fact there are times when I am just plain unlovable. Despite this, my husband constantly forgives me and delights in our relationship. In the same way, the Catholic church is the bride of Christ. Would we really want Him to forsake her for a younger model?

Ok, I am stepping down from my soapbox now - but before I go... I couldn't find any music for this week's hymn, and since I was being brave and putting my heart out on my sleeve anyway, I decided to go one step further! I hope you like it :)

Come as you are - from our kitchen at 2:30am, with a little help from Munchkin.

Thanks to my sister, Steff, Sister Mary Martha and the mothers of the 4 Real Forum, for challenging me to put my faith into words. I appreciate it!


Steff said...

Not being a strong catholic (which isnt a suprise I know) I guess when i go to church i am after different things from a church and the things that you have outlined really don't bother me - I know bad catholic - I dont think god minds though.

Schelle said...

So, out of curiousity, what kind of different things are you after from a church? and can't we find a catholic church that pleases you?

you seem to travel in and around the city quite often and Melbourne has some beautiful cathedrals and hidden treasures - I wish I had the opportunity to go to St Pats more often - a big city church is often more welcoming and inclusive because it has to cater to so many people from so many different walks of life - I was so grateful to you for finding St Pats for me & feel very blessed to have been married and baptised my boys there lol... just wish we could find something similar for you!

I know the anglican etc churches may look attractive from the outside but if you were preparing a feast for the girls, you would give them honey-roasted leg ham carved from the bone, even though it was a bit more work. You wouldn't just give them Spam because it came in a pretty tin & had a good advertising campaign lol

I am being selfish here - I know I haven't done much in the godmothering way yet, but don't go pinching my god-daughters from me before I even get started :P

I always thought you chose me as godmother because, although you may not have strong catholic feelings, you wanted them to at least have the opportunity to develop a strong faith... though maybe I was wrong?

I have been busy testing out books with Wombat and had been intending to send them a combined 'godmother' present as well as the auntie/uncle/cousin presents for their birthday... I was also thinking of starting a tradition of sending them each something on their baptism day and other religious feastdays, if that is ok?

I don't know if you check back for further comments, so I will send this to you as an email as well :D