Carlo Carretto's Ode to the Church - Updated

Two years ago I quoted this ode on my blog.   Today I noticed that several other bloggers are publishing it because Cardinal Dolan quoted it during his recent Chrism Mass homily, and something about it resonated with them, as it did with me.  My original post follows in brown font.

I found this ode, written by an Italian spiritual writer in his old age.  It really states how I feel a lot of the time about the Catholic Church.  It's almost a love-hate relationship.  But on balance, it's love.
Ode to the Church by Carlo Carretto

How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you!

You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.  I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.

You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.  Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, and yet I have never touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful.

Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!   No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you.

Then to where would I go?  To build another church?

But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects.  And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ's church.  No, I am old enough.  I know better!
Source:  I found this ode embedded within an article on spirituality by Ron Rolheiser, omi.


As I reread the ode, I noticed that there are parts that I would be unlikely to say or even think.  Here is a list:
  • How much I criticize you....  I rarely, if ever, criticize the Church wholesale.  In fact, I seldom get angry with the Church; sad, yes; disappointed, yes; but not angry. 
  • I should like to see you destroyed....  No, I'd really hate to see that happen.  But I notice there are people who are hell-bent on seeing that happen.  I trust that they won't succeed.
  • Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false....  I simply don't see the Church that way.
On the other hand, there are phrases that do speak to my heart and describe my own thinking:
  • ... how much I love you!  Truly, I do love the Church.  I have received so much good in the Church and from others in the Church.  I'm very loyal to all of that.
  • ... I need your presence.  I don't need the feeling of God's presence, but I do need the faith that He is Emmanuel, God with us.
  • ... you alone have made me understand holiness.  Although I still don't completely understand holiness, I have the sense that the Church is holy, because it's the Body of Christ.  And because I am part of the body, I am holy insofar as I remain in Christ.
  • ... I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!  This is truly something for which I hope and pray daily.  I think of it especially when I pray, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."
  • ... I could not build [another church] without the same defects, for they are my defects.  Every time I hear about or read about another Church scandal or a Church leader who has fallen from grace, I think of my own sins.  I think of the adage, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."  I also remember the Jesus Prayer, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." 
Notice the last stanza, "No, I am old enough.  I know better!"  This past week I met an older woman who explained that she has returned to the Church after a long absence.  I don't know why she left nor why she returned.  But, could it be she is now old enough so that she knows better?  Maybe she searched and searched but found nothing better.  I don't know.

I also came across several articles about lapsed Catholics; that is, those who have left the Church.  The focus seems to be to determine the reasons people have left by actually asking them.  If you are interested, you can read here and here

What are your thoughts about this Ode to the Church?


  1. Hi Ruth Ann~ My Parish is reading Matthew Kelly's book Rediscover Catholicism-A spiritual guide to living wit passion and purpose. It's a extraordinary book! Very inspiring.

    Many question their faith and this book is a down to earth discussion about some of those important questions.


  2. Hello, Holly

    I have read that book and I also found it inspiring. A parishioner in our parish generously donated enough copies for everyone in our parish.


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