Since the weekend’s big feast, Pentecost, is sometimes colloquially referred to as the birthday of the Church, I thought I’d offer a little birthday greeting. I couldn’t fit two thousand candles on a cake, so I came up with a top ten list instead. Maybe it’s not really my top ten, but here are ten things I love about the Church. (The New York Times doesn’t want you to know this, but, yes, it’s still okay to love being Catholic.)
10. Songs about Mary. Whether it’s Pavarotti belting out “Ave Maria” or tone-deaf Jesuits (like yours truly) humming their way through the “Salve,” the Blessed Mother brings out something sweet and beautiful even in the gruffest of us.
9. Relics. They may seem a little weird to contemporary American tastes, but think about all that relics say about the importance of the body, the embodied nature of our faith, and our hope, ultimately, in the resurrection of the body.
8. The Book of Tobit. Speaking of weird, there aren’t many stories in the annals of literature with plots that turn on, well, bird droppings. Fewer still which are also recognized as Sacred Scripture and include lessons in courage, dignity, perseverance, charity, and fidelity.
7. The Missionaries of Charity. One of the other contributors to this blog once accused me of having an “ecclesial crush” on Mother Teresa’s order. How could you not love them? They put the whole Gospel into practice without compromise. Plus, they’re always smiling.
6. Thomas Aquinas. Because unlike Richard Dawkins he can complete a syllogism.
5. Botticelli’s Annunciation.
And let’s include Michelangelo, El Greco, Brunelleschi’s dome, Ghiberti’s doors, Dante, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Brideshead Revisited… well, you get the picture.
4. St. Lawrence. “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” Proving that you can be a smart aleck and still be a saint. (And that you can be a martyr and still be a smart aleck.)
3. Incense. Because even what Mass smells like is important.
2. St. Peter’s in the Loop. Because this Chicago church has confession from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM every weekday. And while, I’m at it, let’s include confession here too—a sacrament for people like me.
1 ½. Heaven. Not there yet, but still trying.
1. Jesus. Didn’t think I’d forget him, did you?