We Are The Church
Church grows from the inside to the outside, not in reverse order. She signifies, above all, an interior union with Christ; she forms herself in the life of prayer, in the life of the sacraments; on the fundamental dispositions of faith, hope, and love. Therefore, when someone asks: What must I do so that Church will come into existence and continue to grow? the answer must be: You must strive above all to ensure that there is faith, that hope and love are actively present. Prayer builds the Church and the community of the sacraments in which she raises her prayer for us. This summer I met a priest who told me that what struck him most forcibly when he accepted the post as pastor was that, for decades, his parish had produced no vocations to the priesthood. But what was he to do? No one can make vocations; only the Lord can give them. Does that mean, however, that we must fold our hands and do nothing? He made up his mind to make on foot each year for this intention the long and arduous pilgrimage to Our Lady’s shrine at Altötting and to invite all those who shared his intention to accompany him and pray with him. Every year more persons joined him on his pilgrimage and this year, to the immense joy of the whole village, they were able, for the first time in living memory, to celebrate a First Mass. The Church year grows from within—we say that in reference to the body of Christ, but it is true also in another respect: Christ formed a body for himself and I must incorporate myself into that body as a humble member—there is no other way of finding and holding him in his entirety, for I myself have become a member, an organ, of his body in this world and, therefore, for eternity. With this realization, the liberal notion that Jesus is interesting but that the Church is an unsuccessful undertaking automatically fades away. Christ exists only in his body, not just as an ideal; that means: with all those others—with the permanent, time-transcending community that is his body. The Church is not an idea, but a body, and the scandal of the Incarnation, on which many of Jesus’ contemporaries came to grief, continues in the vexations of the Church, but here, too, the saying is applicable: Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me. This communal character of the Church necessarily means, then, her we character: she is not just somewhere; we ourselves are the Church. Certainly, no one can say: “I am the Church”; each must and may say: We are the Church. And “we”—that is not just a group that isolates itself, but one that belongs to the whole community of all the living and deceased members of Christ. Thus a group can really say: We are the Church. The Church is here in this accessible we that removes boundaries—not just social and political boundaries, but also the boundary between heaven and earth. We are the Church—from this proceeds our co-responsibility, but also the privilege of being co-workers; from this comes our right to criticize, but we must always begin with self-criticism. For Church—we repeat—is not just somewhere, someone else; it is we who are the Church.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 14–15). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.