November 3, 2009
I recently read an interesting article on the rise of “online churches”. Many Evangelicals are building “churches” on the Internet, allowing people to come together for services very similar to Protestant church services. This has been a growing trend, and some Evangelicals are even replacing their participation in physical churches with online “churches”.
The article also mentions that Catholics and Orthodox are creating many online spaces for believers to “gather” together. However, neither of these two Churches will ever have an “online church”. Why? Because, simply put, “the Eucharist makes the Church”. With no Eucharist, you have no Church (and the reverse is true as well: without a Church you have no Eucharist). And since the Eucharist is, and always will be, a physical phenomenon, it is impossible to have a true “church” online.
The Church is not simply a gathering of like-minded believers, like the Elks club or the Rotary club. It is the Body of Christ and it is mystically united in the Eucharist, not simply in a common belief (in fact, our common belief is a fruit of the Eucharist). This great Sacrament is the sacrament of unity and it binds together diverse people into one physical body. As St. Paul wrote in today’s first reading, “We, though many, are one Body in Christ, and individually parts of one another.” (Romans 12:5). This unity is humanly impossible, but it is possible in the divine economy.
Catholics should have a presence in the online world and through that presence we can and should bring people closer to Christ. However, we are not a “church” online; our churches can only be found where there is the Eucharist.
One hundred years ago last Friday, an Anglican religious order (yes, the Anglicans do have religious orders) was received into the Catholic Church in its entirety. The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement was the first group to be received into the Church while maintaining “their original name, their original religious habit and their original mission”. For 100 years they have been praying for a deeper unity between the Catholic Church and the Anglican communion, and many see the pope’s recent announcement of a “fast-track” for other Anglican groups to join the Church as a fruit of that prayer.
Do not ever forget the power of prayer!
James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is stepping down from his radio show at the end of February after over 30 years of broadcasting.
I have always enjoyed listening to Dobson’s broadcasts. They are full of practical advice for strengthening families and fill a desperate need in our society. In the past decade or so, Dobson has been vilified by the media and lumped in with figures such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for his pro-life and pro-family beliefs. However, Dobson has never been primarily a political figure; he has always been a Christian psychologist trying to help families live a Christian life in the modern world.
As a Catholic, there are some things I disagree with in Dobson’s teachings and in some ways his advice is lacking (especially regarding the value of a sacramental life for strengthening a family), but all in all he has done much good over the years. Dobson himself always showed respect for Catholicism, and he once noted that though he has theological differences with Roman Catholicism, “when it comes to the family, there is far more agreement than disagreement, and with regard to moral issues from abortion to premarital sex, safe-sex ideology and homosexuality, I find more in common with Catholics than with some of my evangelical brothers and sisters.” (source).
Hopefully Focus on the Family will find someone to follow him who is just as helpful to families.
Today is the Feast of All Souls, in which we remember those who have died and are currently in purgatory. In honor of this feast day, I have posted a new article on my website in which I defend, using both Scripture and reason, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory:
Removing Our Sinful Natures: The Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory
Purgatory is one of those subjects, like economics, about which nearly everyone has an opinion but few have in-depth knowledge. Protestants point to it as an example of a pernicious “tradition of men” which Christ wisely condemned. Orthodox Christians, who accept the possibility of an interim state between this life and heaven, are uncomfortable with many traditional depictions of purgatory as well as associated doctrines such as indulgences. And many Catholics today treat purgatory like a persistent rash they cannot get rid of: it comes to their attention now and then, but is better left hidden from public view.
However, the doctrine of purgatory has a long and valued history within the Catholic Church and it would be unfaithful to our predecessors in the faith to ignore or minimize it. So our first necessity is a clear definition of what the Church teaches regarding purgatory. Given all the images and ideas among the faithful about this belief, it may be surprising that the Church’s teaching is actually very limited.
Read the whole thing here.