The Magisterium: An Analogy

Frank - communion of saints


A non-Catholic friend had asked me for a simple explanation of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and the necessity of it. Having recently purchased our beloved VW, and wanting to answer him in a simplistic way I contemplated the comparison of a well working clutch. I chose this analogy because my father made sure all his kids knew exactly how to drive a manual car.

Our VW Bug

Growing up, one of the cars we owned was a VW Bug. A great little car in which we piled a family of 7 in to go to church. Dad, being a pilot, was a really good driver very smooth. His expectations of us were high when it came time to teach us the smooth use of the clutch. Dad would bring in a full cup of tea to ensure the shifting process went smoothly. Foot off the brake, easy pressure on the gas, now let out the clutch easy. Then, of course, came the inevitable quote, “Yer puttin’ white caps in ma tea.”

I was the youngest and had seen enough, so when it was time to teach me, I begged my sister to put me through the paces in place of Dad. Between the two of them, I learned to not abuse the clutch and the how it made the car run smoothly.

A few years ago, we purchased a 1974 bug together with our eldest son. The first drive we had in it I could hear Dad’s words again. I could hear him deep in my head saying ‘Shhhhhhift”. Now, unlike then, it was a pleasant experience. I was thankful he taught us the importance of the clutch. From simple experience, I don’t need to know the mechanics of the clutch to know its value.  It is there to serve and I surely don’t want to abuse it. Any vehicle in pristine condition will not budge with a broken clutch.

The Catholic Church is Like a Manual Car

The Church Christ instituted is in a sense just like a manual car. With all of Her sacraments, the Church brings us on our Heaven-bound journey. She has all the components to get us there but as with all vehicles, she is in need of maintenance, checks, and balances to ensure She functions smoothly. We, the body of Christ are charged with taking great care and bringing to the Divine Mechanic, the Holy Spirit, any warning signs of brokenness.

The Magisterium is the Clutch

The Magisterium, like the clutch, is there to serve. The bishops and College of Bishops with the Pope at their head is like an inverted pyramid, holding up and serving the entire Body of Christ. Rust and the moral decay of society have entered the very heart of some of these servants and we are in dire need of repair. Often times we bring a vehicle into a mechanic and the problem cannot be fixed unless it is clearly replicated for him.

We as a church have been riding a with a broken clutch for far too long. The damage from within the magisterium is far-reaching and the rough ride cannot be ignored any longer. For some, it may seem as if it is too late for complete repair and they are ready to get off at the next stop, but the vehicle God has intended for us is not the problem. We don’t need a trade-in, only a complete and total overhaul.

He will sit refining and purifying (silver) and He will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by (Malichi 3: 3-4).

Rather than trade in for a ‘new model’ or even an entirely new clutch, maybe it’s time for a rebuilt, refurbished clutch. There are still good men, of good metal to be refined. Cleared of all the infected debris, heated, drawn, purified by the fire and remade into a clutch which serves the Bride well. The Bride, in turn, should be praying diligently that the newly refined men who serve are engaged smoothly with all the support we can offer.

It is clear the path has been so very difficult and like Peter walking on the water to Jesus, we have taken our eyes off of the Lord and been overwhelmed by the white-caps. We are sinking, but our Lord, the Divine Mechanic is stretching out His had to us. It’s not too late. This beautiful, vintage vehicle is worth saving. The clutch is just long overdue for major repair.

May God grant us this grace.

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