We Catholics are on every continent and represent every race on the planet. We represent an unbroken line that goes back all the way to the apostles, and to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We authored the New Testament and our monks preserved it for centuries, copying it by hand. We Catholics were here when pagan temples covered the world. We suffered lions in the arena for generations. We outlived the Roman Empire. We saw the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire rise and fall. We outlasted the Empires of Japan and China and we have outlived dynasties, kingdoms, and caliphates too numerous to name. We crowned the kings of England for a thousand years before the rise of Protestantism. We saw the nations that you know on a map come into being, and we established a great many of them.
Our nuns and monks took literacy and culture wherever they went. We were around before the modern languages you speak today were ever spoken, and we can still worship in languages that our Lord would have known and could have spoken. We have accumulated a lot of awesome music over the past 2000 years. We created the university system, and championed scientific enquiry. We coined the phrase “the Big Bang.” Our sisters grew healing herbs for medicines, and brought hospitals into existence. We established the calendar you live by, and we invented the mechanical clock so we could know when to pray. We outlived the ancient heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism. We were here centuries before Islam emerged out of the desert of Arabia. We predate the oldest Protestant denomination by 1500 years.
We’re survivors. We will admit that we have a stubborn side. We have had to offer Mass on rocks in fields and hidden away in houses when we were persecuted. Muslims and Protestants tolerated us and taxed us as a minority for centuries. Our children were forbidden to go to universities or enter into politics for generations. Our priests and sisters were sent to the gas chambers by the Nazis, and to the gulags by the Communists. Our bishops are still being arrested in China! When things get even worse, we have been known to seek refuge underground in catacombs and caves, or to find safety in deserts, on deserted islands, and even up in the uninhabited mountains. We can hide for generations if need be. We turn the other cheek a lot, but now and then we fight back, too.
Still, given half the chance, we prefer to let our religion spill out into the streets with pomp and processions. We can be very stylish and we have a dramatic flair. We really like to carry banners, cover the streets with flowers, and my, how we like to ring bells! Authentic Catholic culture is by its nature public and joyful. We love life – beautiful art and music, festivals, good food and wine, and great big families. Our monks brew beer, and we like to dance. We can also build awesome cathedrals with massive pipe organs and brilliant stained glass windows, gilded statues, colorful icons, and domes and vaulting that defy not only gravity but even imagination.
Still, there has always been a cross. It is a sign of our Lord’s victory, but it comes with suffering as well. And so we have died by the millions for our Faith over two millennia so that the world could know the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And those who were martyred we hail as heroic saints, and celebrate the days they gave witness to our Lord. Our saints are amazing figures in history, and you can get to know the best of us by getting to know them. But let us be clear – none of us (not even the saints) want the credit. Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. To Him be all the glory for ever and ever.