“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)
Most are familiar with the above promise to Saint Peter by Our Lord, recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel. In this day and age of ecclesial crises, ambiguous language, and emboldened modernists, many often find themselves quoting this verse of sacred scripture as a reassuring reminder from Christ that indeed, we do win in the end. However, it is vital that we understand what exactly Our Lord was promising, and what He wasn’t.
To that end I offer the following quote from Father Robert Southard. While I could write a lengthier post addressing this, I find that Father’s succinct statement sums it up quite effectively. While the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Catholic Church in the end, many souls could be lost between now and then. This we must never forget.
“The Catholic Church will survive on this planet til the end of time, believing, teaching and practising essentially what Christ wills of her. To guarantee this, He has promised us the abiding presence of the Father, the Holy Spirit and Himself. But we must understand this promise correctly. The Church in this or that particular place can be destroyed. There are no limits to Christ’s promise; It applies to the Church as a whole, not to every member or parish or diocese, not even to nations as a whole.”
Father Robert Southard, “Homiletic and Pastoral Review”, April 1974.