Christ in the Church

Delivery of the Keys to St Peter by Pietro Perugino

Father Benson turns to the presence of Christ in His Church. He observes: “Impulses and desires rise within the soul, which seem to bear every mark of a Divine origin; it is only when they are obeyed or gratified that we discover that often, after all, they have risen from self—from association, or memory, or education, or even from hidden pride and self-interest—and lead to spiritual disaster. It needs a very pure intention as well as great spiritual discernment always to recognize the Divine Voice.”

“The result is that appalling shipwrecks occasionally occur—or at least lamentable mistakes are made. . . . There is no obstinacy like religious obstinacy; for the spiritual man encourages himself in his wrong course, by a conviction that he is following Divine guidance. He is not, to his own knowledge, wilful or perverse: on the contrary, he is persuaded that he is an obedient follower of a Divine interior monitor.”

“Catholics are told that they have substituted a System for a Person; that they are too exterior, too formal, too official. ‘I possess Jesus Christ in my heart,’ says such a critic. ‘What more do I need? I have God within me.'”

Father Benson replies: “Those Christians who most strongly insist on the sacrosanctity of the inner life, and its sufficiency as a guide, are those who are least able to agree on religious matters. Every new sect that comes into existence in these latter days takes its stand always upon this claim—a claim that has been made incessantly ever since the sixteenth century—yet has never been justified by that unity amongst its supporters which ought, if it were true, to be the result. If Jesus Christ intended to found Christianity upon His own Presence in the heart as a sufficient guide to truth—then Jesus Christ has failed in His Mission.”

Defending the efficacy of the Catholic Church, he adds: “That very system which is denounced as usurping Christ’s Prerogative is a great deal more than a system—that it is in fact, in one sense, actually Jesus Christ Himself, doing that work exteriorly and authoritatively which cannot be done with any certain success in the interior life—subject as that is to a thousand delusions and misunderstandings and complications for which there is no other remedy.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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