I was sitting looking around while at mass yesterday morning and the thought struck me, "Wow, this really IS the catholic church." The word catholic means "universal" and the Catholic Church certainly is that. I saw the universal church just in the seats around me. I saw diversity in my little suburban church. I saw people of all types of color, nationality and ethnic background. There were people of Asian backgrounds next to us, Hispanic background in front of us, African-Americans behind us. And in other parts of the sanctuary this diversity was more than just color-it was nationality--Mexican, Vietnamese, Nigerian. The diversity is across the political spectrum (left to right) as well as socio-economic status (rich and poor). All in this little suburban church, all worshiping together, all in communion.
We were all in mass together at Holy Family but the universality is more spread than that. Yesterday, in parishes throughout the world Catholics were celebrating the same mass, reading the same readings-truly together- in a spiritual sense. The universality of the church can be seen in her liturgies not only throughout the world but even in our own local communities. You can see masses with contemporary music, more traditional music or Gregorian chant. There are even Salsa masses and Polka masses. There are traditional looking churches, modern looking churches and in churches that look like the 1960's/70's threw up in the sanctuary. The universality can be seen in the languages. I know in Kansas City you can find masses in English, Spanish, Latin and probably others if you look.
Obvious issues arise of course when people start saying things that go against Catholic teaching, against the authority of bishops and the pope and, worse of all, conduct liturgical abuses that attack the sacredness of the mass. Because it is our faith, which is handed on to us through the teachings of the church and through the authority of the bishops and the pope and celebrated in the mass is WHO we are. We cannot be "cafeteria catholics" and pick and choose what we want to believe. We cannot make up our own catechism. It is, after all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church--not the "Catechism of Jamie" or of Bill or Ted or whomever.
Our diversity should be celebrated. We are whole. We are one. From Pope Benedict XVI to the Cardinals at the Vatican to the nuns taking care of the poor in third country nations to a simple cop sitting in the pews in Kansas City we are the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.