I am not sure what to write as I was just asked to write “something” – so I thought the ‘something’ might be a bit of a reflection on something I and maybe you, take for granted – being Catholic! When I think Catholic, I think big. The Catholic Church is a big Church: big numbers (over one billion members) spread all over the globe and big buildings – cathedrals and basilicas – and magnificent worship places like we have here in the Ipswich Catholic Community!

But before we get carried away with too much of this external bigness, it might be good to remember that the Church was Catholic already at the first Pentecost, before there were any big cathedrals, schools, hospitals, or a billion members. The Church was Catholic even when the disciples could all gather in one house. Catholic implies big or universal – not just on the outside but big on the inside.

Catholic is a mark of the inner nature of the Church. The Church is Catholic because it is all- embracing. The Catholic Church is the sacrament, the outward sign of a God who is Catholic, a God who is all-embracing and wants to share the one eternal banquet with people of every race, language, and way of life. The Church is Catholic because, like God, it is not limited to one country or culture. In ancient times it was able to move from its Aramaic/Palestinian origins and adopt the language and culture of Greece to preach God’s message. It then expressed itself in Syriac and spread to India and beyond. It expressed itself in Coptic and spread to Egypt and throughout Africa. It adopted Roman customs and Latin language into its rituals. It employed Greek philosophy to explain its beliefs. It used the Roman legal system to organise its hierarchical structure. The Church is Catholic because it can take whatever is good in disparate cultures and embrace it as its own.

The Catholic Church is not limited to one interpretation of what it means to be a disciple. When people, moved by the Holy Spirit, decide to live the gospel in a unique way, they don’t have to start a new Church. The Catholic Church has room for a Benedict of Nursia, a Francis of Assisi, a Mary MacKillop from Sydney, Radin from Samaoa, Isaac from Eastern Heights; Mary from Rosewood; Lachlan from North Ipswich; Margaret from Leichhardt; Hamish from Ipswich; Mia from Brassall to name a few. There are many ways to live the gospel within the Church. That’s what makes it Catholic and this is the potential of a faith community like the Ipswich Catholic Community!

But what happens when our Catholic Church embraces people we don’t like or don’t agree with? When this big, all-embracing Catholic Church welcomes people who don’t think like I do, and when I have to worship with people different from me, I sometimes wonder if it would be better to belong to a little Church where everyone is more alike.

Being Catholic isn’t always comfortable. It stretches me to think new, bigger thoughts. Our Church is not the place for narrow minds or one-issue religion. And this has been a problem from day one. Jesus himself was too Catholic for some of his contemporaries. He dined with the wrong people, cured the wrong people, and made friends with the wrong people. His Catholicity was a scandal because his embrace was so inclusive that he shed his blood for all. Being Catholic is not only a mark of pride; it is a challenge. Catholic is not only something that the church is. It is something the Church continually strives to become.

If you have any ideas about our Community and how we can become even more ‘inclusive’, I’d love to chat with you …

May you and I do all we can to help build and nurture the Ipswich Catholic Community.

Stephen ofm