Our Global Church – Raised Catholic 128

The following is a transcript of a

Raised Catholic Podcast episode.

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Today is episode 128: Our Global Church

Hi friends. Today we’ll continue our summer series all about the spiritual epiphanies I experienced on a recent trip to Rome with an episode all about our global church.  As you might remember from a previous episode, I had felt sort of an inkling from the Holy Spirit that God would have something specifically for me on this pilgrimage to Rome, and I would say that the fresh discovery of our church as global was one of the biggest, most moving takeaways for me. It seems sort of silly for me as a lifelong Catholic to re-remember that the Catholic Church is global, I know. Obviously, the Church’s origins were with Jesus and the early disciples in the Middle East, and then spread to places like Rome, but if you were born and raised Catholic in America, especially these days, it could be easy to think of the American Church as the center of it all. 

Long before so many American clergy began focusing on a so-called ‘culture war’, long before EWTN started selling ‘American’ rosary beads, with Jesus on an American flag cross stamped with the phrase, “One Nation Under God”, a concerned Mary’s face stamped over a cut out of the U.S., and each ‘Hail Mary’ bead sporting the abbreviation of a different state (oh friend, I wish I were kidding, but I’ll link it for you in the show notes so you can see for yourself). But long before the odd paintings of Jesus wrapping His arms around a certain American political figure, long before the dangerous mixing of political and religious rhetoric, online and even from some pulpits, there was the idea of the City on a Hill.

Drawn from the Sermon on the Mount, the scripture was used at the end of a lecture from Puritan preacher John Winthrop in March of 1630. He was entreating his community of Massachusetts Bay colonists to act uprightly because “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” Winthrop’s speech was forgotten for almost two hundred years until it was published by the Mass Historical Society in 1838, and it continued in obscurity for almost another hundred years, until the Cold War. At that time, historians and political leaders alike mis-interpreted that text as the foundation of the idea of American Exceptionalism. Now, it’s always the job of a good leader to unite people in common cause and to elevate our goals and actions for the common good. Lincoln did this when he appealed to the “better angels of our nature,” but in truth, there was no grand design on the part of the early Puritans, no concept then about America being chosen and created by God as a “New Jerusalem”. Winthrop, in his speech, was doing what a good leader does, simply leading his community to live out their personal and communal covenant with God well, just as you and I try to do today. Still, from the Cold War forward, the idea of America as the City on a Hill, chosen and favored by God, has taken root in the American imagination, and the phrase has been used by presidents and politicians from JFK to Reagan to Obama and many, many, more. 

So, it’s no wonder, I guess, that we would see a mixing of faith and patriotism over time, leading to ideas like manifest destiny, Christian dominionism, American civil religion, and in the current time, a scary rise in Christian nationalism. And I’ll link to some resources on all of those terms in case you’d want to study them for yourself, but I guess I’ll say that for me and for so many of us in the American Catholic and Protestant Church, this mixing has been cause for real concern.

Maybe we steel ourselves in the pews to get ready for what we think might be a political homily, and maybe we shake our heads at the idea of American flags in the sanctuary, patriotic songs at mass, and the overlap of faith and politics in the life of a parish. Maybe we know it’s wrong when we hear a member of the clergy tell a community how to vote, or when we see a divisive or incendiary political post on social media from a clergy member. Maybe we see our friends and families leave the Church altogether as a result of that tension, and maybe we’ve left, too, in ways that feel too painful and personal to talk about.

The whole ‘us versus them’, culture war language is the opposite of pastoral, and it can leave us feeling kind of depleted, burned out, unmoored, and honestly wondering how the Church in America will survive the kind of politicization that seems so much a matter of course these days. 

And so maybe that is why, as we settled in for mass at St. Francis Basilica with a middle-aged Italian priest on the altar, two young African priests concelebrating, one older nun preparing the altar, and our Northeastern American college choir providing the music – maybe that’s why witnessing this kind of diverse blend of God’s people in worship really brought tears to my eyes, and not for the last time on this trip. Maybe that’s why, later, at the Vatican on the Feast of Pentecost, and then during our audience with Pope Francis, when we shared that holy space with Catholics from every part of the world, every race and language and age, and we were witness to joyful sisters and priests and brothers from every order of Catholic religious, even when we couldn’t understand the words that were spoken, it was so incredibly moving. It sure felt to me like we were just a part of something so much bigger than the issues that the American Church is facing today. As I looked up at the statues of the disciples and the 140 saints and martyrs that ring the tops of the buildings on St. Peter’s Square and I pondered the many, many more saints that cheer us on from literally everywhere in the world, from every generation, I felt a new clarity about state of the Church, that the Church is global and that it is made of all of us, and that it belongs to God who has no political party or country or race or gender, whose love is big and diverse and whose story is history itself, weaving us together in time and space and who is always at work making all things new. And, friend, what a relief. What a much-needed zoom-out on our shared faith and on our global church for me at this time in my life. God is so kind.

The readings on Pentecost were a perfect context for that experience for all of us gathered there, and for every Catholic who read or heard those very words proclaimed on that wonderful feast day, in so many different languages, and I’ll talk more about Pope Francis’s amazing homily in a later episode this summer, but there was a line from the first reading that, when I read the English translation later that day, I recognized as a key thread from the great plan of God, of the tapestry that He is making of all of us in time.

From Acts, chapter 2, we hear:

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

Well, the understanding that would come as a gift of the Holy Spirit only came when the time of Pentecost was fulfilled, and friend, don’t miss the reality that that time came when they were all in one place together. It was then that the Spirit of God moved to connect them all in a way that they could not be connected before, and it is evident that our connection as the Body of Christ, and as a human family, from every place on Earth, is the Holy intention of God. Jesus’s prayer for our unity was one of the last things He prayed before His crucifixion. He said, 

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Representation from countries all around the world all gathered together in one place is not something that happens in many spots on the globe, but the Vatican is one of those places. Being there helped to elevate my eyes to see the family that we are and the vision that God has for His people, and to re-remember that His plan for our global Church is not to batten down the hatches, or to preach to the choir, or to defend something that already exists, no. Rather, it is to go out to all the world and then, to tell the Good News to each other. When it comes to this trip to Rome, I am so glad I did.

Thanks so much for being with me today, friend. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend.  That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

God, in your kindness, help us to see each other as the sisters and brothers that we are in your family. Let the unity that you prayed for so long ago become our reality so that we can witness to a world that really needs you. In the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of our mother, Mary, we pray, amen.

Thanks so much for listening today, friend, and I’ll see you next time.

Show Notes

This week continues a summer series on a bunch of spiritual takeaways and epiphanies I experienced while on pilgrimage in Rome. I hope this one about our global Church is a meaningful one for you. 

If you’d like to connect with me, ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠find me on Instagram⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ or ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠at my website⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠.  If you’d like to ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠help support this podcast financially⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠on my page at buymeacoffee.com⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!

Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.

Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:

1. Wikipedia basics on:

⁠Manifest Destiny⁠

⁠Christian Dominionism⁠

⁠American Civil Religion⁠

⁠Christian Nationalism⁠

2. Podcast/transcript: Raised Catholic ep. 25, ⁠Christian Nationalism⁠

3. Show Notes from Raised Catholic ep. 25, Christian Nationalism

Today we’re exploring the challenging topic of Christian nationalism; learning about what it is, the danger of it in the future of our church, and how to discern when this political philosophy is taking the place of our theology.

 ⁠⁠Christians Against Christian Nationalism⁠⁠

 ⁠⁠Where Peter Is⁠⁠, a group of Catholic writers working to re-center our faith back to our authentic teachings

 ⁠⁠From Here Media⁠⁠, a Catholic faith endeavor which seeks to honor our human stories grounded in authentic faith teaching

 ⁠⁠Common Horizon⁠⁠, a print publication dedicated to the exploration of the seven Catholic Social Teachings

 ⁠⁠The Dangers of Christian Nationalism in the United States:⁠⁠ A Policy Statement from the National Council of Churches

 ⁠⁠Upside Down Podcast⁠⁠: Unscripted Conversations on Spirituality, Culture and God’s Upside Down Kingdom

 ⁠⁠The Way of Jesus⁠⁠, a talk by Rachel Held Evans

Podcast: T⁠⁠hat Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs and Francis Chan⁠

4. Song: ⁠We Are God’s People⁠, psalm 100

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