How many legions does the Pope have?
Such are the words of Josef Stalin, perhaps the most inhumane communist dictator of the Soviet Union. The words are quite ironic as Stalin is in his grave and the Catholic Church continues. There have been many before him and, now, after him who have made similar statements.
Why do I bring up such a topic this weekend? This weekend is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the Coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (and Our Lady) fifty days after Easter and ten days after the Ascension. Jesus had promised the Apostles He would send ‘the Spirit of Truth’. Pentecost is considered the ‘Birthday of the Church’ as the Apostles are given strength and wisdom to proclaim Our Lord’s truths to the world. After Pentecost, the Apostles convert thousands.
We often speak of two particular gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church: infallibility and indefectibility.
Infallibility is the truth that a pope (as well as all the bishops in union with the Pope at a Council of the Church) are protected from teaching in error on matters of faith and morals publicly, to the whole Church, ending all discussion (cf. Matthew 16: 18-20).
Indefectability is the truth that the Catholic Church will exist until the end of time (cf. Matthew 16: 18-20).
God is all-powerful. He established the Catholic Church as the Mystical Bride of Christ. He will not allow It ever to be destroyed from within or from without.
At times in history the Catholic Church has been persecuted and many people have suffered. Yes, look at the 20th century! It may seem that the Church has all but been destroyed in a country by totalitarians. Totalitarians always die. The Church never dies.
The Holy Spirit is always active in hearts, often unseen. How many children of pagan warlords, kings and emperors have become Catholic?! How many countries have returned to the Faith of Jesus Christ after decades of persecution? After the blot on history of communism in Europe and Asia (we still are dealing with), how many former atheistic communist countries have seen a blossoming of Catholicism! In countries where godless persons attempt to control and seize power, they will never be able to destroy the Catholic Church.
The question for you and me on this Pentecost Sunday is whether we will remain faithful to Jesus’ Mystical Bride, the Catholic Church – faithful in what I believe and faithful in how I live. For, Jesus and His Bride are One.