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Storm-tossed Church

"In everything the Lord has done he is teaching us how to live here. There is no one in this world who is not a stranger, even if not all desire to return to their country. We suffer floods and storms on this journey, but at least we ought to be in the boat. If there are dangers in the boat, out of the boat there is certain doom. However strong the shoulders of someone swimming in the sea, eventually hes overcome by the power of the sea and sinks and drowns. We have to be in the boat, then, that is, be borne by wood so we can cross this sea. The wood that bears our weakness is the Lords cross, the cross with which we are marked, the cross by which we are kept from drowning in this world...."The ship bearing the disciples, that is, the Church, is being driven and shaken by the storms of temptations; the contrary wind, the devil, is not quiet and is trying to prevent the ship from reaching a quiet harbor. But the one who intercedes for us is greater. In the agitation in which we are laboring, he gives us confidence, coming to us and comforting us. Only let us not get so agitated in the boat that we fall into the sea. Even if the boat is being tossed about, its still a boat. Only the boat bears the disciples and receives Christ. Its in danger in the sea, yes, but without it theres sudden death. Stay in the boat, then, and pray to God. When all plans have failed, when even the rudder doesnt work and spreading the sails is more dangerous than helpful, when all human help and strength is lost, there remains only the sailors intention to cry out to the Lord in prayer. And will the One who brings sailors to harbor, abandon his Church and not bring it to its calm?" (Augustine, Sermon 75[76], 1, 4; PL 38, 475-76)

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.



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In boot camp, we were taught (and practiced) the *abandon ship* drill. Metaphorically speaking, I applied what I learned to my exit from the Barque of Peter. If the cardinals should select a skilled captain, I'll consider rejoining the people on board. (I use the word 'consider' because I'm wary of some of the barque's *cargo*.)

Okay, pray. But also, in a storm, head into the wind and row hard.Just extending the metaphor, St. A. You're welcome.

There is no one in this world who is not a stranger, even if not all desire to return to their country.Just yesterday I was chatting with the receptionist when picking up my mail at work: what's better, living in France or the US? In Cape Verde or the US; how hard it is to adjust even to one's country of birth after being away for many years; how we become mixtures of several nationalities, so that we are never fully at home anywhere. Then, I don't know what got into me, I remembered seeing her with ashes on her forehead one year on Ash Wednesday, and I said to her: "But, you know, my real home is in heaven. At this point no place on earth can be completely my home". She looked at me, double back, and then exclaimed: "You're right! That's how it is for us!"

"He who travels in the barque of Peter had better not look too closely into the engine room." Msgr. Ronald KnoxThis church has bee without a competent engineer for about the last 10 years. From what I have seen of the list of papabilie, it might be time to look outside for someone who knows what he should be doing. What we have now is 115 members of the ancien regime who are clones of the last 2 failed engineers.This church has been fooled twice already by those purporting to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If She has been involved, shame on Her!

There is something about Augustine's summary sentences. He can let go of a metaphor he has been developing relentlessly, and take us on to something bigger and better.In the passage we had the other day, his final advice--"If, then, you wish to live by the Holy Spirit, maintain charity, love the truth, desire unity, so that you may attain eternity"-- made his point far better than the painstaking spelling out of failure to live that way as a sort of ghastly self-mutilation. Here, leaving the boat is presented as meaning certain doom, death by drowning, but in the end it isn't the boat that saves the sailor--for the boat seems of little use-- but the greater one who intercedes for him, invited by the sailor's intention to cry out to the Lord in prayer.

Like Noah's Ark?? Were in it, it smells, it floats .. we await the end of the flood.

Did St. Augustine believe that the Devil is real?

Ann: I'm sure he did.

JAK --The reason I ask is because, unlike those who definitely believe, he doesn't seem particularly scared of him. I can't imagine believing that the devil fits the usual picture of malevolent demon and not being very afraid of him and treating him with great respect, as Milton does. Or maybe St. just believes that God holds him in check. It seems to me that a literal belief in Satan is one of the markers that distinguishes Protestants from Catholics (or it used to be), and given St. Augustine's influence on both groups I was wondering where he stood on the matter.

I'd be interested in knowing, Ann, why you think this is a distinguishing mark. Catholics also believe that the devil is real, but they also believe, as Augustine says above, that "the one who intercedes for us is greater." I would imagine that Protestants also believe that.

JAK --Not where I come from. Protestants here, at least the old ones like me, often had an acute awareness of the devil and his personal animosity towards them, and also his powers, particularly his guile. He was a living presence in their neighborhood. I don't think I've even known a Catholic who felt like that. Yes, we believe in the devil (more or less) but Satan doesn't have the imminence for us that he has or used to have for Protestants, some of them anyway. I don't know whether this is a matter of theology or just lived experiences, or perhaps lived expectations.Sometimes i think this laissez-faire culture could use some of the Protestant awareness of Satan. Of course, the belief in Satan itself can be used as an excuse for bad behavior ("The devil made me do it!")

There are times, Ann O., when I think that Lucifer was a perfectly nice little angel till he started hanging out with us.

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