If we focus on our similarities instead of our differences, if we focus on loving God and our neighbors, maybe we can all once again be joined in Catholic unity.
There is a story about a master shipbuilder who built an enormous ship.
After building the ship, the master shipbuilder assigned a captain who would train a first mate and a crew. The master shipbuilder and the captain then gave the ship its destination and outfitted it with all that it needs to reach the destination, such as maps, compasses, and medicines for the journey.
On the day the ship is ready to sail, the master shipbuilder and the captain told the first mate, the crew, and its passengers that they would not be going on the journey with them. Instead, they would wait for them on the destination.
The ship sailed and started on its voyage — a voyage that would take hundreds and even thousands of years. In the journey, generation after generation of first mates, crew, and passengers would die and be replaced by a new generation.
Sometimes, the first mate was great. Sometimes, the first mate was okay. Sometimes, the first mate was terrible. The same with the crew and the passengers.
But, the ship always stayed on course.
Over the years, some crew and passengers became frustrated with the first mate and the other crew and passengers and wanted out of the ship.
But in the middle of the ocean, where could they get materials to build new ships? They got their materials from the ship that the master shipbuilder built. They got some wood from the ship and even some maps, compasses, food, and medicine for healing.
Once they have built smaller ships, they would put their ships on the ocean and jump onto them.
Some ships have maps, others have compasses, and some more have medicines.
Some smaller ships would sail to the same destination as the enormous ship while the others would not.
As Catholics, we believe that the Father is the master shipbuilder and Jesus is the captain of the ship. We believe that He founded the Catholic Church, the enormous ship, and trained Peter and the apostles as its first mate and crew.
However, as generations passed, the popes who would succeed Peter, the bishops and priests who would succeed the apostles, and even the laity who would succeed the first followers of Jesus, would sometimes be great, okay, or terrible.
But, the ship always stayed on course.
After some time, other people would revolt against the pope, the priests and the bishops, and the other faithful (sometimes, due to the actions of the pope, the priests and bishops, and the laity and, sometimes, due to their own fault) and build their own churches.
The smaller churches would also get some of the structure, the beliefs, and the practices from the Catholic Church that would help them in getting to the same destination. But, some would make tweaks to the practices and structure.
That’s why we, Catholics, also have the Scripture, the worship, and other good things you can find in other churches, just in different forms. If you are not Catholic, you will find that everything you love in your church, you can find in the Catholic church.
As Catholics, what can we get from this story?
First, it strengthens the belief that we confess every Sunday during Mass: We believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. We believe that the Catholic Church is the ship built by the master builder and founded by Jesus Christ Himself.
Second, we, Catholics, believe that other people became separated from the Church not only because of their own actions, but also because of our own. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
“… in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." — CCC 817
As Catholics, we are called to stand up for our faith. But at the same time, we are called to humility and to love and gather those separated from the Church.
Finally, as Catholics, we also believe that other churches and Christian denominations can lead their members (or passengers) to the same destination. Again, in the CCC:
"'Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth' are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: 'the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.' Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity." — CCC 819
As Catholics, we believe that we are all called to unity in the family of God.
We are not called to compromise our faith to achieve this unity. But if we focus on our similarities instead of our differences, if we focus on loving God and our neighbors, maybe we can all once again be joined in Catholic unity.
At least, that’s what I’m hoping and praying for.
The world already has so many problems. As Christians, I truly hope that we can all be united in moving the world with our faith.
As Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading:
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.” — Luke 11:17
United, the Church can truly move the world forward.
Hat tip: Fr. Mike Schmitz | I listen to Fr. Mike's podcast almost every day. I highly recommend it.