Matthew Sewell is the author of the popular “Popes in a Year” daily email series, and hosts The Popecast, a podcast about papal history. Matthew writes about intriguing stories from Church history, the messiness of the Christian life, and (occasionally) insights into Catholicism through Denver Broncos football. By day, he works at Flocknote to help parishes and dioceses build a more connected Church. Matthew, his wife, and their unborn child make their home in Spokane, Washington.
Notice I didn’t ask if your life is messy. Of course it is. Whose isn’t?
The kicker is whether or not we let our lives be the mess that they are. Do we try to hide our own brokenness, hide our desire for true healing and true happiness? Even more, do we then also hide our need for the love of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the indwelling of the Spirit?
It wasn’t long ago that I could answer “yes to all” with those questions. Heck, it’s still a daily struggle with many (who am I kidding, all) of those things in my own life, and I’d be willing to bet it’s the same for you, too.
No stranger to an imperfect life, St. Augustine was the first to coin the now-famous phrase Felix culpa — literally “O happy fault” — to praise our very brokenness and utter need of a Savior. So it goes, that every Easter Vigil we hear: “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer!”
Wouldn’t you know, it was only after he’d been willing to be humble and to let his own faults be seen and redeemed — out of the depths of saying things like, “Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but just not yet” — that Augustine was able to offer his full self to the Lord. And what a difference the Church has been because of that surrender.
It’s a tired thought that saints were nothing but impossibly holy do-gooders, to such a degree that no real person could aspire to it. In reality, the saints are no different than you or I. An athlete, a computer programmer, a lawyer, a mountain climber, a jokester, a mom, a dad.
That God allows such a wide range of people to be raised up as models of the Christian life should tell us something: The Church needs, and the Lord wants, every single one of us to be holy, mess and all. We can’t do it without you.
And so, that’s what I hope to accomplish in this space here at the Register. The Church, fittingly, is like a ship, complete with sheer power and majesty, spots in need of a facelift, and new nooks and crannies to be discovered the farther in one looks.
At the end of Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton wrote perhaps the most succinct and intriguing description of that great gift, the Church:
It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.
Let’s explore together. Join me?