It Is Your Turn to Awaken the Sleeping Beauty

“All who truly love the bridal Church have the capacity, in their time, place, situation, to awaken the sleeping beauty with a kiss.”

“All who truly love the bridal Church have the capacity, in their time, place, situation, to awaken the sleeping beauty with a kiss,” Aidan Nichols writes on the last page of his just-published autobiography. The poignant plea of a faithful son of the Church, it comes at the end of his explanation of how he found himself—a well-respected and widely-published conservative theologian—ostracized for signing a letter asking for a correction of what seemed to be a heretical pontiff.

Regardless of whether you think he was justified in that action, the claim that all lovers of the bridal Church have the capability to awaken her poses serious questions for you and me. 

Do we really have this capacity? If so, what will the kiss look like in our own “time, place, situation?” And do we truly love this bridal Church?

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I do believe I love the Church. When I doubt that, I notice that I do in fact continue to walk across it, as if it were a bridge, implying by my actions that I do think it will hold. At the very least, I’m “acting as if it were true,” showcasing at least a little certainty.

I think that this rickety bridge of the Church is going somewhere that no other bridge quite claims to lead. Or if we prefer to think of it as a boat, I think it has sails, compasses, and sailors that other ships don’t have, despite its leaks.

The sea is undoubtedly rising. The sky is dark, and along with the smoke of factories, listless hedonism obscures the stars. Ideological sea serpents are devouring our men, women, and children, gutting them of identity, castrating natural desire, ravaging their knowledge of the good. 

Within the boat itself, officers and seamen are boring holes in the boat, raping its passengers, or sabotaging the navigational equipment. Given the situation, what can we do?

Firstly, we ought to discover (or remember) why there was a boat in the first place. If the Church exists, it is because there is a need for salvation. It is because God willed that there be concrete and objective ways we could avail ourselves of. The sacraments, and all the surrounding things needed to make them happen—from bishops and priests to architects and old ladies dusting churches—are there for a reason. This is the point of the Great Commission. 

The only reason we were supposed to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is because it was somehow necessary for us to be inserted into this Triune mystery. The reason we ought to teach them to observe “all that I [Jesus] commanded” was because those commandments were for our good. Essentially, we see the command as simultaneously one of truth and of life. Belief in various realities (doctrine) is implied in discipleship, as is a certain way of living in love (morality).

So, we need to remember that the ship exists for a reason; and if it didn’t, we’d be drowning in the dark ocean of unredeemed humanity. That should at least be a start to answering why we shouldn’t be drilling doctrinal and moral holes in our only transport.

Secondly, we need to care for the ship’s passengers. This ought to include acts of charity, such as introducing our friends to great works of art, music, and literature, as well as taking them to the adoration chapel. 

When the hierarchy not only fails to listen or teach but even to protect its innocent children from the schemes of wicked men, it is our duty to become not just learned but empathetic. The citizens of first-world countries need spiritual, intellectual, and psychological nourishment as much as the physically starving yet happy inhabitants of third-world locales.

Relearning navigational techniques is my last point. This includes both prayer and study—Lectio Divina and what I might call lectio naturae, or learning from many facets of reality. 

While backpacking in college, I remember trying to triangulate my group’s position on the side of a mountain in the Teton wilderness. My only tools were a traditional topographic map and magnetic compass. That time, I failed because I accidentally doubled the deviant of magnetic north to true north in my calculation.

Theological, philosophical, and moral navigation is much the same. How can we presume to triangulate our position in these areas if we are not drawing on multiple data points? This is what the dialogue of faith and reason means: faith seeking understanding, seeking to confirm our location on the mountain of the Lord. That is why we must learn from God’s first book, from the sciences, from the arts, from prayer, and especially from the Church’s tradition what course to take and where to pitch camp.

A Tanzanian priest recently wrote to thank me for my writing. He was emphatic that the laity would play a large role in continuing to defend the deposit of faith. He quoted Archbishop Fulton Sheen: 

Who’s going to save our Church? It’s not our bishops, it’s not our priests and it is not the religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that the priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and the religious act like religious.

Despite having mixed metaphors of boats and bridges and backpacking, my aim is simple. Whether we think of it–or her–as a bridge, a boat, a backpacker, or a sleeping beauty, we have not exhausted the possibilities for action on the Church’s behalf. You can pray and read and teach and listen. 

You are a human being with love in your heart and hands with which to work the frozen ropes. Keeping people from boring holes in the boat or even worse is not easy. It can feel like a discouraging and sometimes thankless task. Though, as the Tanzanian priest proved, it’s not completely thankless. “Please, never ever be discouraged by anyone and by anything,” he said.

With all that in mind then, it’s time for you to do something.

It’s your turn to kiss the sleeping beauty. She needs it.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]


  • Julian Kwasniewski

    Julian Kwasniewski is a musician specializing in renaissance Lute and vocal music, an artist and graphic designer, as well as marketing consultant for several Catholic companies. His writings have appeared in National Catholic Register, Latin Mass Magazine, OnePeterFive, and New Liturgical Movement. You can find some of his artwork on Etsy.

tagged as: Catholic Living Church

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