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Living Stones Built Upon the Divine Cornerstone

By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005

Possibly the last homily he gave as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI warned against a coming dictatorship of relativism.

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

Coincidentally, The Rainbow Sash Movement has declared a silent protest in parish churches and in Cathedrals nationwide (USA) on Pentecost Sunday protesting Church teaching on homosexuality. This of course illustrates exactly what Benedict XVI referred to in that homily.


Warning about doctrines that root themselves in a belief that there are no absolute truths, he called Catholics to grow more mature in their faith and to be people who root themselves in Christ. Probably not coincidentally, he repeats St. Paul who makes the same warning in Romans 12 among other places:

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

He is calling us to come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be Catholic. I cannot possibly overemphasize how important that is, except to say how much I have seen Catholics who have a terribly immature faith. Those days have got to end. How do we grow in the faith? By first understanding exactly whom we are. Let's look at St. Peter's words in his first letter. He says:

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

This defines whom we are as Catholics. Peter then describes the people of the Church in terms of the bricks that construct a building of faith. This is a common image in many non-biblical writings from that time as well. If we believe in Christ and choose to follow him, we become part of that building, if one does not believe in Christ then that corner stone becomes an obstacle and the non-believer does not become part of the material that makes the building:


Let me give you an example. Many years ago, while a seminarian, I was at a Christmas party and a woman upon learning that I was a studying to be priest said the following to me: "I am not going to a Catholic Church until women are ordained." Translation:

"I will not choose to be one of the living stones that make up that building until it is built to my specifications. That is a condition, which is an obstacle. I refuse to be an active member of:

"The chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that declare praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light

"Until women are ordained."

In other words, I am going to seek Christ only on a conditional basis. Yet, Jesus makes it clear, there is no middle ground, we live in an all or nothing situation when it comes to our discipleship.

The same can be said about every other issue. When the words are I am not going to be part of:

The chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that declare praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Until these conditions are met. Then that cornerstone becomes:

A stone that makes people stumble and a rock that makes them fall.

Yet, that means that what we know, what we experience is beyond their understanding. Regardless of the conditions to our being part of this building where Jesus is the cornerstone, we chose to be part of this building

There are others who disagree with the church's stance on things like women's ordination, gay marriage, etc. Yet, they also see the cornerstone and choose to become part of the building anyway. They see their relationship to Christ as more important than their particular position on how the building should be built. Peter addresses such people, some of whom may be reading these words,in the rest of his first letter which I highly recommend to you.


The letter is important because it assists those who accept Christ unconditionally, even if they disagree with some teachings, to understand the reality of Christ to a deeper level. This is so that they may be truly members of that royal people. This enables them to eventually understand the real wisdom behind those teachings. Such people come to understand in the long run that these teachings are correct for they are built on a profound wisdom that is beyond mere human understanding.


All the Ph.D's in the United States who also reject our faith cannot comprehend the profound wisdom in our faith, even to the level of the most humble of believers. This is true, even if those believers be high school dropouts. May I add that I do not believe every teaching of the Church just because I am supposed to be ordained. No, I have wrestled with probably every major issue in the Church and discovered that the Church is correct for she speaks out of a profound wisdom that I did not comprehend when I disagreed with the teaching. I discovered that wisdom after I wrestled with each respective teaching.

Finally, there are those who come to be part of the building to undermine it. Those people are always there, and always have been, yet, two thousand years later, they damaged parts of the Church but have yet to bring the whole building down.

The cement that holds all of the building together is humility and the willingness to be obedient to God. It is mixed with daily prayer, daily bible study, weekly attendance at mass at the least, frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, praying the rosary and/or other devotions and being docile to the will of God in our lives. Then we discover a light leading us to understand a truth that is beyond those who see that cornerstone in terms of an obstacle.


Let me give you an example from a unique aspect of Christianity. Last year, I was in Brazil at a place called Cançăo Nova. It is a Charismatic Community that evangelizes all around the world. Being Charismatic people speak in tongues. I, at the time, did not speak in Portuguese, but I do speak in tongues. We were all adoring Christ in exposition of the Eucharist which they did everything morning. All of us praying in tongues. Despite the fact, we were all speaking a different language that even we did not necessarily know, we knew exactly what was going on. We had a deep profound understanding of the Eucharist as do most Catholics, charismatic or not and we all worshipped Christ together despite the fact that we did not necessarily speak the same language or come from the same culture.

Someone who rejects Christ, or puts conditions on their belief in Christ would not have any concept of what was going on there. They would not experience the profound levels of belief that all Catholics experience when they are participating in the exposition of the Eucharist, they would not have comprehended the significance of the different languages, even though they would have heard singing in those different languages in harmony despite being spontaneous. They would have been in darkness as to what was going on. They would be lost, unable to comprehend.

This is a dramatic example of the actual experience for whom Jesus is an obstacle. They do not have the wisdom that we have, they do not have the spiritual vision nor the understanding we have. They are in darkness and unable to comprehend what it is that Catholics really do. What is worse is that they do not know just how dark their darkness is because they do not have the light to contrast against this darkness. You and I choose to be living stones that are built upon the cornerstone. We experience a light that non-believers do not know. We have a mission that they do not understand and we have a vision that they do not enjoy.

During this time of the faith, as Benedict XVI has indicated, we need to more deeply understand our mission, vision and experience so that we may move forward as disciples of Christ testifying to this cornerstone of our life. This is so that those who are currently in darkness under the dictatorship of relativism may see the great light that we enjoy.


Catholicism Anew MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Parochial Vicar, 617 625-0029



Peter, women's ordination, dissent, obedience, humility, magisterium

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