Whatever the failings of the Church’s members, whether clergy or laity, the Church is indeed the plan of God as the instrument of salvation for humanity collectively.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
7 March 2018
Dr. Taylor Marshall revealed in a March 6th video that he experienced a vision of the Church as mother of the faithful.
Dr. Marshall notes in the video that he has been disturbed, disappointed, and frustrated with the moral failures and scandal caused by some members of the Church. He confides in the video that he’s been prideful, judgmental, worried and concerned about the present state of the Church and the various public scandals of late, many of which have been openly perpetrated by members of the clergy.
After receiving the sacrament of Penance, Dr. Marshall said he was invloved in an examination of conscience the following evening when he experienced a vision in which he saw a beautiful, blond-haired woman who lay ill in bed.
“I immediately discerned that she was holy mother Church,” Dr. Marshall said.
In the video, he speaks about how this beautiful woman, breasts swollen with milk, looked poisoned. It appeared as if she, as mother Church, desired to feed her faithful and hungry children with the milk of truth and life, but could not do so because it would be harmful to them.
However, that is not the case. Dr. Marshall was misunderstanding the symbolism in the vision. Next, he tells us, “I heard a voice, God or angel, I don’t know.” It said to him, “No, the milk is still pure.”
“I realized that the sacramental graces, the dogma, the doctrine, the morality—all of that in the Church is pure,” said Dr. Marshall. “There is poison in the Church. The Church is hurting. There’s always been some poison in the Church…. The milk is pure. The sacramental graces of holy mother Church are pure…. Any corruption that enters the Church does not affect the milk flow.”
The Church as Mother of the Faithful
It’s important to understand the reality of the Church, her divine institution and guidance, her purpose and mission, and how the moral failings of her members, both clergy and laity alike, affect the Church and, in fact, the entire world without essentially corrupting the integrity and nature of the Church.
Dr. Taylor’s vision provides a glimpse into the reality of the Church. Although she is scarred externally, she remains interiorly pure; although she suffers illness in her members, the food she offers in the sacraments of life remains undefiled, healthy and life-giving; although sinners within her fold may misrepresent and obscure her message, her words nevertheless are always accessible, infallible and the true words of life.
The sins of the members of the Church, something we find present in her earliest days and narrated in scripture, do violence to her but cannot destroy her. Nor can they bring an end to her divinely constituted mission as Christ’s instrument of salvation in the world.
Christ promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church (see Mt 16:17 ff.). Regardless of the sins of her members, the Church remains the Bride of Christ and Mother of the Faithful, a fact which rests on the divine and certain promise of the incarnate Son of God. This means that the official teaching of the Church is true, trustworthy, reliable, and certain. It means also that the sacraments of the Church do indeed confer the treasury of God’s grace, truth and life to those who receive them in faith.
The Reality of the Church
The Church is a heavenly and earthly, invisible and visible, divine and human reality that is herself the body of Christ. In a real way, the Church is Christ. The members of the Church, by virtue of baptism and the other sacraments of initiation which confer the gift of the Holy Spirit, form the mystical and physical body of Christ as one community of faith. Therefore the faithful are made members of Christ’s body through the communication or infusion of the Spirit of God into their souls—this sublime event occurs initially through faith and the regenerative and re-creative sacrament of baptism.
The sacraments of the Church, then, bring the physical body of Christ into being. In this way, we can say that the Church is the mother of the faithful—it is through her celebration of the sacraments that men are made one with Christ’s body, configured to him, and made to share in his everlasting life, as the prayer during anointing with the oil of chrism in the rite of baptism teaches.
No children without a mother; no people without leaders; no acquired sanctity without a sanctifying power and a labor of sanctification; no effective union in divine life without a passing on of that life; no “communion of saints”—that is, of holy ones—without a communication of holy things. And similarly, no constituted assembly without a constitution, which includes a hierarchy. (Henri de Lubac, The Splendor of the Church)
As Vatican II noted, the Church is the “sacrament of salvation” (Gaudium et Spes 45). She is the visible instrument through whom is communicated God’s grace and truth to all people:
The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. The Church is at the same time:
– a society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;
– the visible society and the spiritual community;
– the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches. (CCC 771)
Additionally, the Church is the Spirit-guided institution preordained by God the Father and willed from eternity as an instrument of salvation for all. She is foreshadowed from the dawn of time and established by the incarnate Son of God as his kingdom in its seed and beginning:
Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.” God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things, and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels’ fall and man’s sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world:
Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called ‘the Church.” (CCC 760).
The Holy Spirit is the soul and life-principle of the Church, whose loving and divine impulses guide the Church in such a way so as to confer on her the essential charism of infallibility with regard to faith and morals. This means the Church’s teaching on faith and morals is free from error—a comforting, crucial principle that is an integral function of the reality of the Church. The Church’s gift of infallibility is perpetual, regardless of the behavior or failings of some of her members. It is true to say that, if it were not for the Church, the Christian religion would have by now become muddied, distorted and perhaps entirely corrupted.
The Church is a manifestation of the wise, perfectly good and loving plan of the Father in time. Her words of truth transmit the truth of Christ, who is himself absolute and perfect truth. God’s providence did not overlook nor dismiss the sins of humankind, but rather takes up that sin in Christ and, by virtue of his saving Paschal Mystery, brings healing and forgiveness. The Church is God’s plan for truth and grace and life, for restoration and the fullness of human life:
The eternal Father, by a free and hidden plan of His own wisdom and goodness, created the whole world. His plan was to raise men to a participation of the divine life. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature”. All the elect, before time began, the Father “foreknew and pre-destined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren”. He planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ. Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant. In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and “from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,” will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church. (Lumen Gentium 2)
Lumen Gentium speaks of the Church as a mystery because she comes from God. As God is mystery, so too is Christ’s Church. Part of this mystery is the dynamic between the Church’s sinful members and the reality of the Church as a pure, holy mother who directs her faithful children to life eternal—a compassionate mother who feeds her children with the words of truth and the sacraments of life.
Whatever the failings of the Church’s members, whether clergy or laity, the Church is indeed the plan of God as the instrument of salvation for humanity collectively. The Church is the new Jerusalem, the City of Truth, and the home of humanity through whom God divinizes men and raises them to a participation in his own divine life.
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Photo Credit: Alice Havers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.