web analytics
Popes & Bishops

Be in the Church without being of the Church

Popes & Bishops

Often we hear the remark that we have to live in the world without being of the world. But it may be more difficult to be in the Church without being of the Church. Being of the Church means being so preoccupied by and involved in the many ecclesial affairs and clerical “ins and outs” that we are no longer focused on Jesus. The Church then blinds us from what we came to see and deafens us to what we came to hear. Still, it is in the Church that Christ dwells, invites us to his table, and speaks to us words of eternal love.

Being in the Church without being of it is a great spiritual challenge. (Henri J. M. Nouwen Bread For The Journey)

This quote is a wonderful reminder that the church is a means – not the goal. I regularly speak and write about our confusing means and goal (end). God is our goal, our purpose, our end.

St Ignatius Loyola is very clear in helping us distinguish the end and the means.
What happens when we confuse means and end?
Here is a collect reflection making a similar point.

If you appreciated this post, don’t forget to click “like” on the Facebook Liturgy Page, (there is also an RSS feed).

Thanks to the e-friend who pointed to this quote recently.
image source

Similar Posts:

8 thoughts on “Be in the Church without being of the Church”

  1. Jonathan Streeter

    I’m a member of a delightful little church with a very active congregation (probably around 100 people or so). I have meaningful relationships with many of these people and have been involved in social justice outreach, Education for Ministry, taize, book groups, etc. Very frequently on Sundays I’m in the altar party (as an acolyte). I love all of this and and am grateful for it.

    But about a year ago I began attending mass on Sunday evenings at the Episcopal cathedral as a separate activity. It’s a self-described quiet, contemplative service that’s held in the round and has a very centering quality to it. When I’m there, I get to be anonymous and I don’t have any duties to perform. And other than passing the peace, I don’t even have to be nice or make friends!!

    This might not be what you mean about the difference between being “of” or “in” the church. But for me, I discovered that I want BOTH experiences — active participant and silent congregant — rather than just one or the other.

    1. Thanks, Peter. I don’t think anyone used the word “merely”. I think you will need to expand on your assertion somewhat to help us understand your point. Why do you say the Church is not a means? And then you go on to say “…the province etc” – which seems to be the Church – you appear to conclude with “The Church may be the the means”. Blessings.

  2. The Church is the Bride of Christ; the province is an arrangement for our convenience (with the dual purpose of saving individual humans and, ideally, facilitating the unity of the Church).

    Or to use a different Pauline metaphor, it’s hardly reasonable that Christ’s head be important, but that His arms and legs and torso be merely means to an end.

    1. It’s a separation that doesn’t resonate for me, Peter. You don’t use the word “church” for “the parish or the diocese or the province &c”. I do. And I would think most do. Blessings.

  3. I do use “church” for the other meanings too, but generally with a qualifier, either explicit or implicit. If I say, unqualified, “Church”, then I mean the Bride of Christ. How do you refer to Her?

    1. Thanks for the clarification, Peter. As I indicated, I don’t think I separate church as Bride of Christ and church as diocese – but, as always, I’m willing to rethink that. Blessings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.