The inevitable internationalism of Catholicism

By Chris Sparks

There’s an inevitable internationalism in Catholicism. Just look at the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, for instance. The Congregation extends around the world, including members from Vietnam, Poland, Cameroon, the United States, India, Lithuania, and other countries. Indeed, we may hope and pray that someday, the Marian Fathers shall include members of every nation, of every race and people, all gathered beneath the mantle of Our Lady into this one Congregation, serving Christ and His Church in every nation, in every situation, wherever the need is greatest.

This universality of the Congregation would reflect the universality of our Catholic faith, united by our common foundation: Christ and His apostles, as well as their successors in communion with the Holy Father, the successor to St. Peter. The Church is Catholic, a word that means “universal.” The Church’s ancient Tradition holds that by taking on one instance of human nature, Jesus took on all human nature, redeeming and sanctifying all, if only we consent and cooperate with His grace.

The whole human family
All. The whole human family. All races, all times, all places, if only people are open to the grace of God persistently, humbly, hopefully. And so the Church has sent out evangelists and apostles to all nations. Tradition tells us that Thomas went as far as India. North African Christianity is among the oldest parts of the Christian communion in the world.

Our Church, our faith, is inevitably global, inescapably universal, for all peoples, races, and nations all across the world. What began as a Jewish faith through Christ and His apostles then reached out to encompass the entire world. The prophets had foretold this sort of universality.

Them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 56:7).

The popes have adamantly taught that common origin of the whole human family, tracing back to our first parents, Adam and Eve, from whom all common human nature (and the effects of original sin) have descended.

One set of first parents
Take just one pope. Consider the teaching of Pope Ven. Pius XII. He insisted in Humani Generis (Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine), 37, that the whole human race comes from one set of first parents, such that we are, however distantly, all brethren. In Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of Human Society), the first encyclical of his pontificate, promulgated to a world in the midst of the first actions of World War II, Pius XII wrote:

The Apostle of the Gentiles … makes himself the herald of this truth which associates men as brothers in one great family, when he proclaims to the Greek world that God “hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation, that they should seek God” (Acts xvii. 26, 27).

A marvelous vision, which makes us see the human race in the unity of one common origin in God “one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all” (Ephesians iv. 6); in the unity of nature which in every man is equally composed of material body and spiritual, immortal soul; in the unity of the immediate end and mission in the world; in the unity of dwelling place, the earth, of whose resources all men can by natural right avail themselves, to sustain and develop life; in the unity of the supernatural end, God Himself, to Whom all should tend; in the unity of means to secure that end.

It is the same Apostle who portrays for us mankind in the unity of its relations with the Son of God, image of the invisible God, in Whom all things have been created: “In Him were all things created” (Colossians i. 16); in the unity of its ransom, effected for all by Christ, Who, through His Holy and most bitter passion, restored the original friendship with God which had been broken, making Himself the Mediator between God and men: “For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy ii. 5) … (Summi Pontificatus, 37-39)

He goes on:

In the light of this unity of all mankind, which exists in law and in fact, individuals do not feel themselves isolated units, like grains of sand, but united by the very force of their nature and by their internal destiny, into an organic, harmonious mutual relationship which varies with the changing of times.

And the nations, despite a difference of development due to diverse conditions of life and of culture, are not destined to break the unity of the human race, but rather to enrich and embellish it by the sharing of their own peculiar gifts and by that reciprocal interchange of goods which can be possible and efficacious only when a mutual love and a lively sense of charity unite all the sons of the same Father and all those redeemed by the same Divine Blood.

The Church of Christ, the faithful depository of the teaching of Divine Wisdom, cannot and does not think of deprecating or disdaining the particular characteristics which each people, with jealous and intelligible pride, cherishes and retains as a precious heritage. Her aim is a supernatural union in all-embracing love, deeply felt and practiced, and not the unity which is exclusively external and superficial and by that very fact weak (Summi Pontificatus, 42-44).

The whole encyclical is well worth your time, as is the later encyclical Mystici Corporis (The Mystical Body), on the Church. As the human body by nature is one, so the Church by grace is one.

… although He had been constituted the Head of the whole human family in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, it is by the power of the Cross that our Savior exercises fully the office itself of Head of His Church. (Mystici Corporis, 30).

If we have really at heart the salvation of the whole human family, purchased by the precious Blood, we must offer every day to the Eternal Father our prayers, works and sufferings, for her safety and for her continued and ever more fruitful increase (Mystici Corporis, 109).

Supernatural society
Indeed, the Church is a supernatural society of all nations, all races, all peoples, destined to extend throughout the whole of time and space till the end of the world. We count among our brethren all human beings, either in Adam alone or in the New Adam as well; either by nature or by grace elevating and sanctifying nature. We are called by Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium to love our neighbor as ourselves because we are brothers and sisters; we are all members of the one human family.

The Church calls men brothers, and works to repair the broken relationships that get in the way of it being so.

Saint Faustina says all of creation originates from the mercy of God:

O Incomprehensible God, how great is Your mercy! It surpasses the combined understanding of all men and angels. All the angels and all humans have emerged from the very depths of Your tender mercy. Mercy is the flower of love. God is love, and mercy is His deed. In love it is conceived; in mercy it is revealed. Everything I look at speaks to me of God’s mercy. Even God’s very justice speaks to me about His fathomless mercy, because justice flows from love (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 651).

And in the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we beg the mercy of God “on us, and on the whole world.” Again, an internationalist’s prayer; a globalist’s prayer; something that sees the whole human community through the eyes of the Catholic faith and the lens of the mercy of God.

Legitimate Catholicity
There is, of course, an illegitimate secularism or an illegitimate globalism, one that attempts to evict God from human affairs, to insist on men as gods independent from the Creator — such is as false as it has ever been. And there is also a false globalism that violates the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity — a principle that recognizes the right of nations to govern their own affairs, within reasonable limits and in accord with the common good. But there is a legitimate Catholicity of the human race on both the natural and supernatural levels, a legitimate obedience to the teaching of Christ: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mk 12:17; see also Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 29). There is a legitimate embrace of divine adoption (see Heb 2:10-17), of divine sonship (see 1 Tim 3:15), of deification by the grace of God (see 2 Pet 1:4) through the Sacraments and the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant.

Let us be more Catholic, not less; more brethren to all, not less.

Pray for me that I may practice what I preach. I’ll pray for you.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

Photo by Hugues de BUYER-MIMEURE on Unsplash

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