Is the Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship?

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

Some years ago Fr. Patrick Smith, a friend of mine and a priest of this Archdiocese preached a sermon wherein he asked if the Church was a clubhouse or a lighthouse.

Many it would seem want the Church just to be a friendly place where people can gather. Many of these same people get angry when the Church shines the light of truth on something. They declare that the Church should just be open and inviting. They object when She is challenging and points to the demands of the Gospel.

But the Church has to be more than a clubhouse otherwise she is no different than a bowling league or the Moose Lodge. She is most certainly meant to be a lighthouse, warning of danger, giving light to those in darkness but also risking that some who are accustomed to the darkness,  will complain of the Light of Christ she reflects.

It was indeed a fine sermon and its message is essential and profound. I was mindful of that sermon when I ran across the video below from which asks if the Church is a Cruise ship or a Battleship.

Many it would seem surely think of the Church more like a cruise ship. One that exists for my pleasure and entertainment. “Peel me a grape!” seems to be the attitude that some bring to Church.  The video does a good job listing how people think of the Church as a cruise ship by listing the questions many ask of a luxury cruise liner:

  1. Do I like the music they play in the ballroom?
  2. Do I like the captain and his crew?
  3. Is the service good?
  4. Am I well fed?
  5. Are my needs met promptly?
  6. Is the cruise pleasant?
  7. Am I comfortable?
  8. Will I cruise with them again?

It is a true fact that our parishes ought to work very hard to make sure the faithful are effectively served and helped to find God. Good sermons, excellent and obedient liturgy to include good music, a beautiful Church and dedicated clergy and lay staff. God deserves the very best and so do his people. However it also follows that the world does not exist merely to please me. No parish we attend will ever be exactly the way we want it. No priest preaches perfectly every Sunday. The choir does not always sing my favorites.

Some people stay away from Church and call it boring or say they aren’t being fed. But in the end, it’s not about you! We go to Mass to worship God because God is worthy, because God deserves our praise and because he has commanded us to be there. God has something important to say to us whether we want to hear it or not. He directs us to eat his flesh and drink his blood whether we like it or not. We must eat or we will die. Holy Mass is about God and what he is saying and doing.

The video goes on to suggest a better image for the Church as a Battleship. I was less impressed with the criteria they gave comparing the Church and a battleship and so I have added my some of my own as well:

  1. Is the ship on a clear and noble mission?
  2. Is the ship able to endure storms at sea?
  3. Does the captain submit to a higher authority?
  4. Are the tactics and moves of the enemy well understood by bridge crew?
  5. Does the bridge crew have proper training and experience?
  6. Are the general crew members equipped to succeed? 
  7.  Is the general crew well trained in the available weaponry?
  8. Does the general crew cooperate with the captain?
  9. Are they taught to be disciplined and vigilant?
  10. Are they rooted in (naval) tradition yet well aware of current circumstances?
  11. Are they at their posts?
  12. Do they take the battle seriously?
  13. Does the ship have adequate first aid and medical help?
  14. Is the crew properly fed?

Some dislike any military imagery in reference to the faith. But pugna spiritalis(spiritual battle) is simply a fact. We are besieged by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are called to engage the battle and by God’s grace with through to victory.  Our weapons are the Word of God, the Teachings of the Church, the Sacraments, and prayer. We cannot win on our own but must work together under the authority of the Church which is herself under God’s care and authority. We are rooted in the wisdom of tradition and guided by the Pope and Bishops to apply that wisdom and our training to these current times. Peter’s Barque has endured many storms, yet has never sunk. She is a sure a steady ship on a clear and noble  mission.


3 Responses to Is the Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship?

  1. John says:

    I’ve many times gotten kids in my youth ministry classes who say how terrible it was that the church did not do anything during WW2. Then the kids say that the church shouldn’t be so involved in politics today. They pretty much quiet down when I point out that they just contradicted themselves.

    Either the church cares about the world and the people or it doesn’t. If we care about the world, then we are obligated to get involved. It is the church’s place to set a moral standard and speak out against those who oppose the said standard.

    This does not contradict acceptance and forgiveness. The church is wonderful when it comes to forgiving those who have sinned – but those who have sinned must reconcile for their sins and turn away from them. We read this over and over again in the Bible, so it really should be easier to understand.

  2. LoveGodandAsHeLoved says:

    This article was great!!! Thank you very much!
    I purchased Fr. John Hardon’s 12 audio-tape sets on 1.Catholic Sexuality, and, 2.Apostle’s Creed. I am starting to listen to the chastity tapes for the third time, and I listened once so far to the creed tapes. Fr. John Hardon is Battleship!

  3. Thanks for the fantastic work! Cool blog. You will find a number of opinions on this topic and this blog states the issue very great.

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