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I believe in holy church

We are going through the four marks of the church: one, holy, catholic, apostolic. In this post we are looking at the second mark: holy.

Being holy can sound saccharine, artificially sweet. Saints, holy people, can appear plaster-cast statues that have no resemblance to real people, stained glass windows that you wouldn’t really want to be friends with or invite to a party.

Yet real saints, real holiness in the ordinary world is nothing like that. The saints I have known and met are ordinary, down to earth, fun-to-be-with people.

The word “holy” and the associated word “saint” in the Bible gives the understanding of set apart. And we quickly think of set apart from the world, set apart from others. But I think it is not set apart from but set apart for. Being holy, being a saint means you are set apart for the world and people and the environment.

Being holy is like being salt – that’s an image that Jesus used. And salt improves the good taste that is there, it preserves, and it was also used as a disinfectant – to limit the bad.

You are called to be holy, a saint, salt. If there’s good things happening, fun things happening, you are called to enhance the good, to preserve the good, to make it better. And if there are bad things happening, you are called to limit it, to stop it if you can.

Let me conclude with a quote attributed to Pope Francis at World Youth day 2013, with more than 3 million young people at the Eucharist on Copacabana Beach:

We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with, a spirituality, appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change.

We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theatre. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane.

This is the twenty-seventh post in a series on the Creed.

The first is Apostles’ Creed.
The second is I believe in God.
The third is a source of the Apostles’ Creed.
The fourth is I believe in the Father.
The fifth is Handing over the Creed.
The sixth is I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
The seventh is Don’t use the creed in worship
They eighth is Truly God truly human
The ninth is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
The tenth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 2)
The eleventh is Born of the Virgin Mary
The twelfth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 3)
The thirteenth is Crucified under Pontius Pilate
The fourteenth is crucified
The fifteenth is Holy Saturday
This sixteenth is He descended to the dead
The seventeenth is on the third day he rose again
The eighteenth is Seated at the right hand of the Father
The nineteenth is Judge the living and the dead
The twentieth is I believe in the Holy Spirit
The twenty-first is But Wait, There’s More!
The twenty-second is And the Son
The twenty-third is Filioque
The twenty-fourth is Two hands of God
The twenty-fifth is Don’t believe in the Church
The twenty-sixth is I believe one Church

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13 thoughts on “I believe in holy church”

  1. I do t know if i agree with this or not? Saints as in the spiritual leaders such as pastors and preists need to be figureheads for all that the church stands for and that is a G-d of love and peace. A preist in jeans says “hi im just one of the guys” but un fortunatly…your not. You are a preist ordained by G-d, a spiritual leader or Father. The world does not need “one of the gang” it needs true spirit lead, Gospel educated leaders that work tiresly at keeping churches open as much as possible making services relevent to people whilst keeping traditions and the bible secure in an age where people are quickly turning towards new age and other alternatives. If the preist likes basketball, YES he should get involved in a basketball team and even go for a pint after a game BUT the team should know as salt and light he IS A PREIST and should be able to find him in a cassock at 8am the next day when they walk into his church. I hope the rambling makes sense! G-d bless!

    1. Thank you for your comment. With respect, George, I think you are reading something different here than what is intended. Certainly may those in cassocks and veils be saints – but this is a call for everyone to be saints. Including ordinary people, lay people, those not in cassocks and veils – people in “jeans and tennis shoes…” It is not a call for priests to abandon cassocks – which is what you are turning it into. That is another discussion. You seem to be doing the very thing this challenge is attempting to address: assuming that sanctity is about clergy and those in cassocks and veils. It is not. Blessings.

  2. Ahhh, that was my underlying thought. Im sorry i miss understood. The Anglican church recently adressed points simmilar to your post but aimed at scaling down the clergy in certain areas. Thank you for your reply, please keep the posts going they are a blessing!

    1. Yes, Jesse. I have to be honest with you – I knew this. And you, being the careful reader you are, I hope picked up that I knew this in the verb I chose 🙂 But next you may be saying that Paul did not write everything attributed to him, or that St Francis did not write the Prayer of St Francis… or worse – that Jesus… Blessings.

      1. Indeed, your “attributed” is what prompted me to check.

        That, and who’s listening to iPods any more? That’s so 2010.

    2. Pastor Steepek doesn’t exist. Francis+ does. Did Francis+ use the poem in his sermon? As far as I can tell he did, but now I am confused if he did or didn’t. So if he did, he and whomever may have helped craft the sermon thought that it illustrated the point. Which gives it his personal imprimatur.

      I don’t think it is like the Steepek story at all.

      1. It would seem to be beyond doubt that Francis didn’t use the poem in his address.

        I thought the two stories were alike because in both cases I was taken in by a “fake true story” that made me spend time thinking about a profound truth that I would probably have ignored if it had been differently packaged.

  3. I really like this poem. But any reference to ‘holy’ also makes me think of Isaiah 6, with its vision of the holiness of God. I wondering how the two ideas might fit together.

    I just checked Isaiah again and what it says is:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

    Do we spend too much time focusing on the first line of this message and miss the meaning of the second?

    I really noticed for the first time that it says the earth is full of his glory – not heaven. And the whole of the earth – not just the clean/pure parts.

    And we are called to go out and fill it with our holy lives. What a great calling!


    1. A lovely thought, David. F. D. Maurice somewhere gave a nice definition of “glory” as the revealing of God’s nature (his “Name”).

      For example, Moses says to God, “Show me your glory, I pray,” and God replies, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’.”

      So perhaps we would best understand the Isaiah passage as claiming the created order as revelatory of God’s nature. (Perhaps Romans 1:20 gets a look-in here?)

      And then, of course, there is the Johannine understanding of glory: Christ is glorified in his crucifixion. (So, as you point out, “not just the clean/pure parts”.)

      Maurice contends that the difference between Christianity and pagan philosophy is that the Christian has not only deduced the “Name” of God from nature and reason, but has beheld it directly as “Glory” through the revelation of Christ.

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