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The Church: a body so diverse, so manifold, often
so divided, that one struggles to define her, to see
her face. “If I seek a glimpse of her, where will I find
her?” asks theologian Henri de Lubac, S.J.
In these reflections written at the end of Vatican
II, de Lubac—who played a key role at the Council
yet was leery of rapid reform—searches out the
wrinkled, mysterious beauty of the Church he loves
as his mother.
The Catholic Church is such a paradox, a unity of
opposites, that many are scandalized—a fact from
which de Lubac does not shrink: “I am told that she
is holy, yet I see her full of sinners.... I am assured
that she is universal, ... yet so often I note that her
members, as if by fate, huddle timidly together in
closed enclaves, just like human beings everywhere.” But her distinctive beauty, when he beholds
it, leaves him floored, “this beauty most rare, most
improbable, most disconcerting ... not the complete
achievement of human perfection, ... but a strange
and supernatural beauty opening unknown vistas to
These seven brief studies on the mystery of
Christ’s Church illuminate the documents of Vatican
II and offer nourishment and clarity to those confused by turbulence or hypocrisy among Christians.
De Lubac, who was made a Cardinal by Pope John
Paul II before his death in 1991, reflects deeply on
the nature of authentic holiness in the modern world
and argues that sainthood is not only possible but
already—through the work of the Holy Spirit—quite
alive amidst all the storms, whether in his time or in