We once had a common saying in the Catholic Church.  It reflects the universal and transcendent reality of our faith.  The Church Triumphant, The Church Suffering, and The Church Militant. 

            The Church Triumphant represents the victorious Christian saints in Heaven worshipping before the Throne of God.  The Church Suffering represents those righteous Christians who having died with venial sins on their soul are now in a place called Purgatory anxiously awaiting the final purgation of these sins so that they may fully join the saints in Heaven.  Lastly, we have the Church Militant consisting of us earthly mortals fighting everyday in a fallen world against the wily snares of the devil and his minions as faithful Christian soldiers pursuing a life of holiness and grace. 

            Well, this is how it was explained to my parents and grandparents at least when they attended catechism classes before the Second Vatican Council.  It was only when attending seminary in the 1990’s that I learned this ancient yet novel way of expressing our participation in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. 

            I remember much to the chagrin of my seminary professors of expressing my approval of this simple way of explaining the universality of our Catholic Faith.  This truth remains today for the educated believer even though you will hardly find it in the polite non-offending catechism books used by the average 8th grade Catholic religious education teacher.  Today, we are the People of God.  People who happen to have been born to parents who happen to have been born to parents who were once long ago raised Catholic.  We are the People of God.  How nice.

            Tonight, on Saint Patrick’s Day, we heard from the President of the United States in his address to the American people on the eve of a potential war with Iraq.  How I wish we had bishops in the Church with the collective fortitude of this non-Catholic president.  

Just as Saint Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland and brought forth a land ruled by order and law, our President prepares to drive the snakes of Baghdad from their palace bunkers into the light that exposes the serpent’s sins.  The breastplate of our President is not only the strength of the American Army but the spirit of the American soldier who by his noble service embodies the glorious virtues that have brought generations of freedom loving people to our shores.

Why is it that our American president is more in tune with the practicing Catholic than the bishops of my Catholic faith?  How has it come to this that I find myself easily taking the position of supporting my President over the confused prelates who lead the people of God?   Why am I at a lost to explain this disconnect between the Successor to Saint Peter and the Successor to George Washington?  Why can’t my Church grant its imprimatur to our Christian President and this resolute cause to liberate the oppressed?  Why do I, a Catholic man whose forefathers escaped famine and religious bigotry, whose great-great-grandfather fought in a Civil War wearing Yankee blue to save the Union, feel so Un-American! 

            “They just don’t get it.”  These were the words I overheard from the non-Catholic businessman standing at the airline ticket counter as he read the front page of his USA Today about the sexual scandals engulfing the Catholic Church.  Being so thoroughly ashamed of my brother priests and acknowledging the weakness of Saint Peter who denied our Lord three times, I was wearing civilian clothes when I asked the man, “Who doesn’t get it.”  Pointing to the picture of Cardinal Law the man said, “They, the bishops.  They just don’t get it.”  Having straddled the delicate balance of the faithful priest-son since my ordination I already knew he was speaking of my fathers in faith.   

            I had hoped that after enduring our year of horrific shame, my fathers in faith would have gotten “it” but I was being very, very naïve.  The damage had already been done. 

            And so tonight as I watched my President fulfill the obligations of his oath my thoughts wandered back to that hot, summer day in Houston at the airline ticket counter and the words of the non-Catholic businessman. 

Here we stand at the brink of a New World Order and the never-ending quest of freedom-loving people to “liberate the oppressed.”  It is not by coincidence that this is the motto (DE OPPRESSO LIBER) of our Special Forces soldiers who most likely are deep within enemy territory putting words into practice. 

No doubt many of these Special Forces soldiers are faithful, practical Catholic men who will fulfill their duty placing their trust not only in their professional training but in their Catholic Faith. 

For these men and the millions of practicing Catholic-Americans praying for them and our President.  “They get it.” 


Written by “Sacerdote”