October 11, 2006

Newark, NJ

By Sean Gallagher

Newark airportIt has been said that the Catholic Church is “the great both-and”.  It is both human and divine.  It is found in both time and in eternity.  It is both perfect and in constant need of reform.

And it is both local and universal.

This last paradoxical characteristic of the Church has been in my mind as I have sat here in the C concourse of the sprawling Newark International Airport.

I am traveling in a group that is quite local.  By and large, it is made up of members of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which, while residing in 39 counties in central and southern Indiana in the Midwest region of the United States, is a vital part of the communion of the universal Church.

Although a part of the universal Church, the archdiocese has all the constituent parts of the Church: a bishop, priests, deacons, religious and laity.  As a matter of fact, all of these segments of our local Church except the diaconate are part of this pilgrimage.

This pilgrimage, then, is, in a sense, symbolic of the pilgrim nature of the Church.  It is a wayfarer through this world journeying to the world to come.  It is both of this world and of the next.

It is a pilgrimage of the local Church residing in Indianapolis to the Church of Rome, the symbolic heart of the universal Church, a living sign of that universality that will reach its fullness only at the end of history when Christ will return in glory.

That universality is often experienced in the diversity of the cultures from which the faithful come..  Paradoxically, one does not have to travel from one’s local Church to experience this nowadays.  As homogenous as Indiana might seem (and truly is in some ways), the archdiocese is nonetheless made up of an ever growing diversity of peoples hailing from many cultures from around the world.

The universality of the Church is also experienced geographically.  It is this aspect that will be one highlight of this pilgrimage.  We’re already many states and several hundred miles away from our home, waiting for a few hours in this airport, which is in the Archdiocese of Newark.

Soon we’ll be jetting across the Atlantic Ocean (and hopefully sleeping along the way…) and will land in Rome.  And if we were to continue traveling east through Europe, into Asia (or south into Africa), across the islands of Oceania, back to the west coast of the Americas, we would not come to the geographical end of the Church.

We would be mighty tired, but we would encounter the Church, even if it were only a tiny minority, in every place where we would land.

This bringing together of both the universality and localness of the Church is a special gift in this pilgrimage that would be good for all who are a part of it to nurture in our hearts long after it is complete and we find ourselves, God willing, back safe in our homes.

Posted by Sean Gallagher at 1:08 p.m. on Thursday, October 12, 2006


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