Fr. Ronald Rolheiser is one of my favorite authors and I reproduce here an edited section of one of his reflections He also quotes from another Catholic priest Carlo Caretto who I am also a fan of.
The full article was to invite people who have left the Church to come back but a lot of what he says applies to those of us in the Catholic Faith who do go to Mass but don't always find it easy to reconcile our faith with the hierarchical Church. I have found it useful today as part of helping me to focus on my Catholic identity.
"Sometimes the church blocks God's love as much as it reveals it. It has been, and remains, a vehicle both of grace and sin. How do we get past its dark side?
Carlo Carretto, the renowned Italian spiritual writer, in his old age, wrote this Ode to the church:
How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you!
You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.
I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.
You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.
Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, and yet I have never touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful.
Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face-and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!
No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you.
Then too-where would I go?
To build another church?
But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ's church.
No, I am old enough. I know better!"
That's a mature description of the church, expressing both love and realism. It's an honest description too. The church has a long history, both of grace and of sin and we who make up the church on earth don't do God very well. Nobody does. We need to admit that.
Maybe this time you will find it in you to forgive the church for its faults, see those faults are your own faults, and see why Jesus picked such an imperfect vehicle to carry on his presence. Maybe this time you will be able to see in the church what Jesus saw in it - an imperfect body made up of men and women like you and me, full of sin, full of ourselves, petty, small-hearted, less-than- sincere, miserly, and tainted, but also full of grace, full of Christ, big-hearted, sincere, generous, and pure, a group of men and women worth dying for - and belonging to. Come be with us!
A fellow pilgrim and a flawed church member."