Thee Hand of God is seen in the Miracle of the Church's Durability
Is there any institution on the face of the earth that has inspired more people, survived so much persecution, had more people hate and utter every thing false against it, preached the Gospel to more people, and 2,000 years later remains the strongest and most influential organization on the planet?
Is there any other Christ-centered establishment that has brought so many millions of people to the Adoration of the Holy Trinity? Is there any other Church that dates back to the time of Christ? However, even the authors of the World Book Encyclopedia who have no Catholic persuasion will confess that the Catholic Church dates back to the first Century with an unbreakable chain of Bishops of Rome dating back to the Apostle Peter.
The durability of the Catholic Church is the marvel of her enemies. It is only the hand of God that could have brought her safely through such perils, which have proved fatal to merely human institutions. Often death seemed to have come upon her, but, sustained by her Divine vitality, she cast off disease as a garment, and rose from her bed of sickness. She is like the house or which Christ speaks in the gospel: "And the rain fell and the floods came, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock" (Matt. 7:25).
Often have her children heard the demons' exultant cry that, at last, she was overwhelmed in the wave of death. But the tempest passed, and day broke anew, and the eyes of men beheld her still firmly fixed as of old on the rock of Peter, triumphant amid the wreckage of her enemies."There is not," says the Protestant writer Macaulay (Essay on Ranke's 'History of the Popes'), "and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs.That line we trace back in unbroken series from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin, the dynasty extends. .
The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains . . . Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long domination is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all.
It is not strange that, in the year 1799, even sagacious observers should have thought that, at length, the hour of the Church of Rome was come? An infidel power ascendant, the Pope dying in captivity, the most illustrious prelates of France living in a foreign non Catholic country .... . But the end was not yet.Anarchy had had its day. A new order of things rose out of the confusion . . . and amidst them emerged the ancient religion.
The Arabs have a fable that the Great Pyramid was built by antediluvian kings, and alone, of all the works of men, bore the weight of the flood. Such as this was the fate of the Papacy.It had been buried under the great inundation; but its deep foundations had remained unshaken; and, when the waters abated, it appeared alone amidst the ruins of a world that had passed away. The Republic of Holland was gone, and the Empire of Germany, and . . . the House of Bourbon, and the parliaments and aristocracy of France.
Europe was full of young creations, a French empire, a kingdom of Italy, a Confederation of the Rhine. Nor had the late events affected only territorial limits and political institutions. The distribution of property, the composition and spirit of society had, through a great part of Catholic Europe, undergone a complete change. But the unchangeable Church was still there."We may summarize the argument as follows: (1) The Papacy, the Rock on which the Church is built, is the only institution which has survived all the vast social and political changes and revolutions in the life and government of Europe since the days of the Roman Emperors. (2) It has survived in spite of persecution, and political intrigue; in spite of heresy and schism among its subjects, in spite of the worldliness and the weakness or incompetency of some of the Popes. Such a survival is miraculous.
The Papacy and the Church over which it presides must, therefore, be the work of God many believe.
"The Ark of the Church may be swept by the waves, but it can never sink because Christ is there" (St. Anseim).