Fr. James' Letters

Faith in The Church

As I write this column, the Cardinals are getting ready to go into the Sistine Chapel to elect the new Pope. The Church awaits with bated breath, wondering who the next successor of Peter will be. Bookies around the world are hedging their bets while the secular media pretends to be genuinely interested in the Bishop of Rome. As the faithful, we need to imitate the Early Christians who prayed for Peter. It is possible that by the time this column is published we will know the name of the new Vicar of Christ. I would like to take this occasion to reflect with you on the need for faith in the Church.

Unfortunately in the present age some of our opinions and understanding of the Church are shaped by the so-called experts on the 24-hour news channels. What is Church for each one of us? What does she represent? Do we view the Church as any other organization whose members come together united by their commonly held philosophy or cherished political agenda? It is possible that some people think that the Church is similar to any other association whose members pay their dues and then vote on various issues. Our understanding of Church, our ecclesiology, is crucial because it determines our approach to our faith life more radically than we can imagine. In his seminal work, Models of the Church, a book that defined the discourse on the Church for several decades, Avery Dulles wrote:

If Christ is the Sacrament of God, the Church is for us the Sacrament of Christ: she represents Him, in the full and ancient meaning of the term. She really makes Him present. She not only carries on His work, but she is the very continuation in a sense far more real than that in which it can be said that any human institution is its founder’s continuation.

We need to really believe that the Church is the extension of Christ in time and space. It is through the Church that Christ extends His saving power to every person living in every age and place. This is the reason why the Church is called the Sacrament of Salvation. Through her God offers the gift of salvation won by Christ to everyone in the world. Also because the Church’s essential mission is the salvation of humanity, she will be protected from substantial error as she carries out that mission. Such a guarantee was given by Jesus Himself when He said to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

In other words, we need to hold on to the firm belief that God will not abandon His Church. In recent weeks, months and years many Catholics feel shaken by all the scandals and all the ensuing negative attention that the Church has gotten. As the Cardinals were preparing to enter into the conclave there were  allegations of conspiracy and intrigue within the administration of the Vatican. Those of us who are familiar with the history of the Church know that the Church has survived many a storm. And she will certainly survive this one. Some pundits are comparing the present crisis to the Reformation. Only time will tell whether they are right. However, one thing is certain. The Lord will continue to steer the Boat of Peter even through turbulent waters.

Let us hold on to our faith. Let us pray for the Church. Let us raise up in prayer the Cardinals gathered in Rome for the conclave. May they listen attentively to the voice of the Holy Spirit and follow His dictates! May they choose a shepherd who will be a person of holiness, integrity, courage and wisdom! Let us pray for ourselves that no matter who is chosen, we will render our unstinting obedience to the new Holy Father.

May Christ the Good Shepherd watch over the Church and raise up a Pope equal to the challenges facing us!

Who is Fr. James?

Father James Wallace grew up in Winnetka, Illinois and attended Sts. Faith Hope and Charity grammar school, New Trier High School, and then The George Washington University in Washington DC, where he earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science in 2007. He attended seminary at The Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained a priest in 2012 for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In addition to being the pastor of Saint Paul of the Cross Parish, he serves as a canon lawyer for the Archdiocese, a dean in Vicariate II, and a professor of canon law and spiritual director at Mundelein Seminary. He is also one of the featured Mercy Home Sunday Mass celebrants, airing Sundays at 9:30am on WGN.

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