Jesus, our Bridegroom, went all in out of love for us, to bring us all into his Church where his kingdom “already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full…manifestation” (CCC, 865). Yes, Pat Gohn is fluent in the Catechism and encyclicals and uses their authority when necessary to solidify the soundness of her spiritual guidance in her new book, All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters.
Some Catholics, including members of Pat’s family who were victimized by bad Catholics and unholy priests, have cause to reject the Church and view it as splattered with the mud of scandal. Pat’s imagery of the Catholic Church, as the “mud-splashed Bride” of Christ, is brilliant!
Some quickly adopt that misguided view and write off the mud-splashed Bride rather than explore her hidden beauty. Pat reminds us that the holy marriage between Jesus the Bridegroom, and his Bride, the Church, to date have never divorced, and never will.
God’s love made visible
God created marriage as a sacrament, to make his love visible on earth. That’s a huge gift for us and a huge risk for God to take! Pat learned that this gift of God’s love being made visible in her marriage is a microcosm of something much more vast and cosmic. The invisible God is all about making his love visible.
His plan of sheer goodness holds a secret remedy. “The most powerful gift of God’s love made visible was in the coming of his very self to redeem us. The gift of God’s love made visible is another way of describing the Incarnation,” she writes.
The Incarnation is the antidote for what Pat calls the “mud-splashed-Bride syndrome.” Jesus is the gift of God’s love made visible. His love poured into the Church makes her a radiant Bride, resplendent with graces.
Pat writes about the identity crises we experience whenever we separate ourselves from the reality that God gives himself personally to us in the sacraments. God baptizes us, making us his beloved children, giving us our greatest sense of identity. He nourishes us in the Eucharist. Jesus enters into us, his True Presence hidden in the bread and wine. God’s life is alive in us through the sacraments.
When we disassociate from our baptism or when we fail to live the promises of our baptism, we step away from the family of God, the Church:
“We divide ourselves from our true identity as beloved ones. We have identity crises, and often lose a sense of our dignity.”
Pat reminds us that we can choose to mature in the spiritual life as we do in our natural life. To have an adult faith, we must grow up in our union with Christ,
“while being ever mindful of the gift of our spiritual childhood. To be a child of God is to learn to live with ongoing conversion, ongoing renewal. We are not going backward, we are being ever renewed.”
We make adult decisions about following Church teachings while keeping our child-like faith. We keep our faith fresh and alive so that we develop an intimate friendship with God.
Her personal story of maturing spiritually from a cradle Catholic of the John Paul II generation runs through All In. As a teen, she committed her life to Jesus at a retreat. She was nourished in her faith in ongoing ways “through God’s voice in the Bible, the graces I received in the sacraments, and through the people in our parish faith community that surrounded me. But, for me, God used my marriage to profoundly shape my understanding of his love. God’ s love became visible to me.”
Desperately needing to be a more nurturing and gracious mother, Pat turned to Mary, “to coach me, to mentor me, to allow her good influence to find a home in me.”
Pat’s faith, tested by cancer and other surgeries, brought moments of heart knowledge, not head knowledge of Jesus more closely. She writes,
“My life with Jesus was a slow burn, a friendship that grew over time. His divine friendship called me to participate in the community of my local church. He wanted me to form relationships with members of his Body, and to have Mother Church to nurture me and school me in her wisdom.”
Good friends with Jesus
The result? “Today, I know Jesus not only as my friend, but as my healer, my redeemer, and my deliverer. He has accompanied me through some scary times and through the best of times.” Pat writes that Jesus works in her life as a good friend, always wanting what’s best, even when he needs to confront her to change.
“His love that I receive, especially in the Eucharist, gives me the confidence to change. . . .With Jesus as the Bridegroom, I am all in!“
What God has joined together, let us not separate – and Pat applies this to God’s family, the Church, which shares a common Father and Mother.
“We have a Beloved Brother in Jesus, whose blood we share as we hold to a common creed, sacraments, and worship. The Church as Mother was part of the Father’ s will for us, to nurture the divine life in us. We never outgrow our need for our Mother Church, the Mater Ecclesia, until we reach heaven.”
God’s plan is to unite his family into the Church with the dignity he gives us at our baptism. Pat writes, “I’m all in when it comes to the Catholic Church, not just because it preaches heaven, but because it holds sacred all human persons.”
I have long known Pat Gohn as a solid writer who inspires and challenges me. As expected, with All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters (Ave Maria Press 2017), she delivers solid food to nourish our souls and give us confidence in our Catholic faith.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, retreat leader, conference speaker, catechist and author of All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters and the award-winning book Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. She is the host of the Among Women podcast and editor of Catechist magazine. Gohn lives in North Andover, Massachusetts.
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Copyright 2017 Nancy HC Ward