I like large tents both when camping and in life. Now, while I’m Catholic because I think it true, I very much appreciate that it is a large tent. A very large tent, an order of magnitude larger than any other tent around, with nested tents within itself – far more intricate than any set of Russian dolls. This very ‘nesting’ of tents is essential to the Church, in my opinion, since different folks are different in their interactions: what would seem claustrophobic to some would seem like wide open spaces to others and so any organization (not that the Church is merely an organization) that would aim to be universal MUST have a nested organizational structure.
For any large organization to cohere, there needs to be both solidarity – we’re all in this together – and subsidiarity – there’s no substitute for being close. Keeping these together is difficult to discuss briefly; however, Robert Frost’s wonderful sonnet The Silken Tent does very well in describing the Church:
She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.