On the 25 March in 1858 the twelve-year old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous felt drawn to the grotto where a beautiful lady had been appearing to her frequently since 11 February that year. Bernadette asked her who she was, and the lady in white said in the local dialect, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. (Acts 1:14)
At the beginning of his second book, Acts of the Apostles, Luke is particularly careful to set the scene for the birth in power of the Church at Pentecost.
Shared with the Church
Finally, we come to that dimension of the Church which is outreach. The Church has a mission to all, so that as Pope Paul VI could state that evangelization belongs to the very nature of the Church. Indeed, as we have already seen, we are sent forth at each Mass in love, service and evangelization. Here too Mary is our icon.
Celebrated in the Eucharist
Where is the heart of the Church? It is not in its institutions, however prestigious, even necessary. Vatican II teaches us that the “source and the summit” of the entire Christian life, and hence of the Church is the Eucharist (see Church 11). In the Eucharist we have all that is essential to the Church:
Manifested in the Paschal Mystery
In the Annunciation we have the revelation of God’s promise of an outpouring of Trinitarian love and Mary’s response. The implementation of this revelation and promise was the Paschal Mystery of the eternal Son of God. The term “Paschal Mystery” became common after Vatican II to speak about the redemption,
A very easy question to ask, but a difficult one to answer is, what is the Church? Even more difficult is, what is the Church for? Try answering the first one, by completing the sentence, “The Church is...” What did you come up with? It is relatively effortless to come up with a name for the Church, such as the People of God/the Body of Christ. It is much more difficult to come up with a statement that locks into the heart of the Church.
The Carmelite Mystics
In a discussion at the Carmelite general chapter in 1989, someone asked if the Church would have been much the poorer if the Carmelite Order never existed. My immediate instinct was to feel that of course the Carmelite Order, small as it is,
It has long been my conviction that the main crisis facing the Church is not a crisis of faith, but a crisis of religious experience. It is not that people do not believe, but they do not see the point of faith. And they drift away. Despite the enormous commitment of the Catholic Church to the renewal of liturgy, there has not been a renewed Church.