There is Diversity in the Catholic Church!
Church Unity: The Desire of Our Lord’s Heart
By Denise Bossert
Church Unity: The Desire of Our Lord’s Heart On the night he was betrayed, Jesus Christ said a very important prayer. Many Christians don’t remember it. I didn’t anyway, and as the daughter of a Protestant minister and former wife of a United Methodist minister, it should have been a memorable part of my faith formation. But if someone had asked me what one thing Jesus prayed for on the night of the Last Supper, the night he was betrayed, and the night of his arrest, I would have had to answer, “I don’t know.” In the Gospel of John chapter 17, our Lord prays to the Heavenly Father, proclaiming that the hour has come, and He asks His Father to bring him glory, the same glory that they had at the beginning of the world. And then He prays for His fledgling Church, saying,
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them (John 17: 9-10).
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me (John 17: 20-23).
What did our Lord pray for on the night of his betrayal? He prayed that we would be one. That the people gathered in that room would be one, and that all who came after them would be one. When I reread this passage a couple of years ago, I found myself wondering what that kind of unity would look like? If we could fully understand our Lord’s deepest desires as He prayed this prayer, what would the fulfillment of the prayer be?
Is there even a possibility that our Lord would be content with the way things have turned out? I wondered. Could we read between the lines of His prayer and infer that He meant for His Church to be a loosely connected set of people who call themselves Christians – and that it in no way bothered Him that they had divided into more than 33,000 denominations (according to David B. Barett, World Christian Encyclopedia) and had reached a point where they couldn’t seem to agree on any set of spiritual truths?
Is there even a remote possibility that our Lord’s prayer for unity would resemble the state of the “union” as it appears today? I had my doubts.
And if that isn’t quite what He had in mind, I said to myself, what would it look like? By “one” did Jesus mean for all of us to be Methodist? Assembly of God? Congregational? Was it even possible for all the Protestant denominations to abandon their separate branches of the faith and settle on another reformed branch as the one, true Church? Or was there another possibility?
Was it possible that Jesus meant for us to be one Church, with one deposit of faith, and that we were to remain faithful to that Church because Jesus promised to remain faithful to Her? Could it be that the Church our Lord had prayed for still existed somewhere? Was it possible that there was a Church that had stood the test of time, one that could trace Her roots back to that room and to the Apostles and to Peter and his keys to the kingdom? Was there a firm foundation, a core Church, a place of refuge and source of unity for all Christendom?
For the first time in my life, it didn’t seem that much of a stretch. In fact, it was beginning to make sense that Yahweh would want His Church to be one. After all, this is the same Lord who proclaimed, Hear Oh Israel, the Lord your God is One God. The God who is One God would want nothing less than complete unity for His Church.
The beauty, strength, diversity, and historical significance of the Catholic Church called to me. I realized that the Catholic Church effectively and completely fulfills our Lord’s prayer for unity. This was the nagging truth that kept me exploring the Catholic Faith after spending the first forty years of my life in Protestant denominations. When I was ready to turn tail and run, this prayer haunted me, and I couldn’t abandon the call.
Somehow, I had to find out if my suspicions were true. I imagined a world that contained one unified Church, and I realized what kind of impact that would have on non-believers. How could anyone dismiss Christianity if we were truly one visible Church, I asked myself. When I imagined the world’s response at seeing all the churches come back together as one, it made me shiver with delight.
And I realized that Jesus had predicted this in that same prayer when He shared the reason He desired unity among believers: “that the world may know that you sent me.” That just breaks my heart. Our lack of unity has given the world a reason to dismiss Jesus Christ as the Messiah, God’s Son. How can any of us ignore the call to unity when we look at it that way?
I have come to realize that the Catholic Church alone is the full expression of Christian unity. In this, she is unique.
Her Ten Visible Signs of Unity:
Lives of the Saints and Early Church Fathers
Seat of St. Peter and Apostolic Succession
The Eucharist and the Holy Mass
Diversity without Division
Witness to the World
Access to the Family
Expression of Truth and Beauty in all Human Existence
Call to All People; Come Let Us Reason Together
"The Catholic Church is the only place where diverse worship styles and callings can find common ground. If you are Catholic, you might be charismatic. You might prefer traditional forms of prayer. You might be a quiet contemplative. You might be active in social justice. If you are Catholic, you might identify with the spiritual practice of St. Benedict (Benedictine) or St. Francis of Assisi (Franciscan) or St. Dominic (Dominican) or St. Francis de Sales (Salesian). Maybe you are a Jesuit and studying for a doctorate in microbiology. Or a Carmelite who prays two or three hours every day.
Or maybe you belong to a lay apostolate and are active in pro-life activities or evangelism or worship or ecumenism. Maybe you have a call to feed the poor and clothe the naked. So you work at the St. Vincent de Paul Center or give to Catholic Charities. Maybe your heart breaks for the victims of hurricanes or tsunamis or earthquakes or wars, and you are drawn to Catholic Relief Services where you can help victims rebuild their lives. Or maybe you are active in your local parish, where you give generously of your time, talent, and treasure. In the Catholic Church there is a dynamic youth program for your children. They can go to World Youth Day in another country or to a local diocesan retreat just for them.
Marriage enrichment retreats are available for couples. There are homes for unwed mothers. And monasteries that open their doors so that individuals can have a quiet retreat with the Lord. There is no other church that has so many opportunities to give, so many ways to serve, and so many styles of worship. There are countless ways the Catholic Church encourages and provides for unity in diversity. I’ve only begun to plumb the depths of this beautifully diverse, yet unified Church..." read more HERE.