A person who has not fallen in love with the God who gives himself in the Church cannot understand the life of the Church.
He therefore tends to judge it according to norms which disregard its inner life. And this is true not only of nonmembers but also of those members who are not tied to it by love but only for external reasons.
Hence we find that one outside the inner sanctum of love in the Church may proclaim: "Unless you can show me that Catholics are better morally than anyone else — contributing more to society — why should I consider the Church to be even Christian?" Such a critic is usually nonplussed to find that although the ardent Catholic cannot prove his moral superiority, yet he feels no desire to abandon the Church.
For him, the Church is the place where he experiences God's self-giving love. This is like asking someone who has just fallen in love, "What social utility does all this passionate joy have? Has it helped you to become a reformer of men?" Doubtless, the lover, as the Catholic, would hope that being in love would ultimately make him a better person, and he would realize that his questioner did not understand that the experience of love was something so great in itself that it did not need to be justified by anything else. Good should flow from all genuine love, but love in itself is the highest good. Just as the lover does not visit his beloved as an impetus to further good deeds, so neither does the Catholic go to Mass solely in order to do a better job of being good for the rest of the day. Yet it is true that the more deeply a person opens himself to love for its own sake, the more likely it will be that he will be happier and less egotistic, and that ultimately he will be a vessel overflowing with love of neighbor.
Ronda Chervin. "Hearts That Cling to God." from Church of Love (Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1973).
Reprinted by permission of the author, Ronda Chervin. Church of Love is out of print.
This excerpt appeared in Magnificat.
Ronda Chervin teaches at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She converted to the Catholic Faith from a Jewish, though atheistic, background. She is the author of some sixty books including Healing of Rejection with the Help of the Lord: A Survivor's Guide, Avoiding Bitterness in Suffering: How Our Heroes in Faith Found Peace Amid Sorrow, Catholic Realism: A Framework for the Refutation of Atheism and the Evangelization of Atheists, What The Saints Said About Heaven: 101 Holy Insights On Everlasting Life, and Holding Hands with God: Catholic Women Share Their Stories of Courage.Copyright © 1973 Ronda Chervin
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