I love symbols. They are very important to me, and if utilized properly, should be important to everyone. Symbols frequently convey meaning far more graphically than endless words. As I am reflecting on symbols, I’m laughing remembering a scene in the city of Aachen, Germany, that took place nearly 30 years ago. I was with three priest friends, two of whom became bishops- Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, Bishop Vincent Rizzotto, and Fr. Bill Steele (aka. “Stainless”). Aachen was tremendously important historically, as the capital of Charlemagne. The cathedral was erected in 800 AD, and is, in fact, the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. As we entered this awesome church, we saw a bulletin board in the vestibule, and since Steele could speak a little German, he translated one of the announcements for this magnificent 1200 year old church. It read simply, “The parish council will meet at 7:30pm Tuesday night in the parish hall.” Once translated, all four of us broke out laughing about the SAMEness of the church’s day to day functioning. That doesn’t prove anything, it’s just a delightful fact that reflects the “Catholicity” of this church as it has spread across the world. Diversity, complexity-yes. But, a simple sameness that unites one billion, two hundred million people into what is actually an enormous religious family.
Catholics are happy to be able to count on that sameness, that universality no matter where they go, whether it be the Belgian congo, Tasmania, or New York City.
This is yet another factor that delights so many Roman Catholics as they celebrate their membership not just in their parish, but in the Church universal.