Missing Communion

Mark Shea writes:

Catholics can be apt to pride themselves on their “deeper” sense of Communion in contrast to this, especially when engaged in apologetics wars on the Internet and such. But I think the counsel of Christ really needs to be heeded in the matter of motes and logs here. Yes, the Church has a rich theology of Communion. Yes, it’s true that Communion is a more than warm and fuzzy socializing. But does it follow that it should be less than that? I mean, honestly, where’s the beef in practice? What’s the use of boasting about a deep Catholic theology of Communion when (as many can attest) you can join a Catholic parish and spend years there while never forming a single relationship beyond passing acquaintance? The profound loneliness that many Catholics feel in their parishes is quite real. And the polemical excuses made for it (“We aren’t happy clappy Protestants whose focus is on shallow fellowship and church socials”) is just desperate excuse-making for our failure to live out our own theology. The marvel of the early pagans was “See how the Christians love one another!” The shame of our modern, socially inept Catholic suburban parish is that one of the principal reasons people leave the Church for Evangelicalism is that they felt welcomed and loved there, and quite desperately alone, friendless and neglected in the precincts of the Eucharist. Indeed, when they leave, they often hear “Good riddance to the shallow, emotional Protestant” from the polemicist eager to make excuses for our own failure to make them feel like they have a place and purpose in the family of God.

So American spiritual isolationism cuts more than one way. Whether in the Evangelical vision of Me ‘n Jesus or in the Catholic tendency to dismiss fellowship as happy clappy kumbaya Catholicism, it tends to think that the way to God is to get away from people (“far from the madding crowd”) and then hunker down and follow our solitary vision in communion with God and God alone. . . .

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