Once upon a time on a sunny Saturday afternoon during the New Springtime following the Second Vatican Council, a well-meaning Catholic man worked up the courage to invite his Methodist neighbor to join him for Holy Mass.
After Mass the following morning, while enjoying coffee and donuts in the multi-purpose room (sponsored by the Knights of Columbus), the Methodist talked about how at home he felt and how comfortable the entire “service” was for him.
The Catholic wasted little time in seizing the opportunity to suggest that perhaps his neighbor might wish to avail himself of the unity for which Our Lord prayed by converting to the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
The Methodist, unfazed, wiped a dollop of Bavarian cream from his chin and replied, “Thanks for the offer, friend, but as you know, I am validly baptized. In other words, I received the Holy Spirit just as you did in your baptism, and it’s the Spirit that brings us into intimate union with Christ, so that He is the principle of the Church’s unity. Clearly I am not lacking in unity!”
Disarmed but not discouraged, the new evangelist laid hold of the big guns, firing back, “Yes, but the Catholic Church is the solitary means of salvation established by Christ.”
“Yes, I seem to recall seeing something to that effect on FaceBook one day,” the Methodist replied, “but surely the Spirit of Christ does not refrain from using the United Methodist Church, and other Christian communities, as a means of salvation.”
Taken aback by his interlocutor’s confidence, the Catholic party felt it wise to turn the conversation back to common ground, Sacred Scripture.
Quoting from the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, the would-be fisher of men attempted to articulate the uniqueness of the Lord’s presence in the Mass, and how apart from one’s full participation therein, one risks “having no life within themselves;” i.e., no salvation!
At this, the Methodist, meaning no disrespect, guffawed; nearly expelling the lukewarm coffee from his mouth.
“Well, whatever the Lord meant by this, one thing is certain, the liturgical actions carried out by brethren divided, such as in the United Methodist Church, must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.”
Exasperated by the raw cockiness of his Methodist neighbor, the Catholic abandoned all formality, and raising his voice, demanded of him, “Precisely by whose authority do you proclaim such preposterous things?”
Casually reaching for the last remaining French cruller, the Methodist wryly replied, “Why the Second Vatican Council, dear neighbor. Please forgive me, I shouldn’t have assumed you had read it.”
This New Springtime moment has been brought to you by Unitatis Redintegratio: Where dialogue and the search for unity lead to dialogue and the search for unity.