The Eternal Church | Reflections from Rome 2022

August 1, 2022
  • Aqueducts

One afternoon, a few of us took the time to head over to the aqueducts of Rome, about 2 miles southeast of the city center. It was a great day for it — not only was I thankful for the chance to get out of the city for a little bit, I was also looking forward to seeing some ancient structures that have lasted for thousands of years.

It ended up being a great afternoon! We spent a couple of hours just walking around the aqueducts, admiring the work it must have taken to build these massive things so many years ago. Much of what was built so long ago is still there, although some parts of the larger aqueduct built by Claudio have definitely seen better days, with many parts of that structure having fallen in disrepair. It seemed peaceful and quiet in what is now a large city park where people run, walk their dogs, and let children play in the playgrounds scattered through the park. While we were wandering, admiring, and climbing on these few fallen structures, I remember remarking to my brothers who were with me that while all empires fall, Christ and His Church are eternal.

That phrase has stuck with me these past few days after our day trip. Reflecting on this, I couldn’t help but notice that even the beautiful basilicas in Rome have a lifespan, just like the aqueducts. We’re on our 2nd St. Peter’s Basilica and our 5th Lateran Basilica. But we still proudly claim here that Christ is most definitely eternal, and by extension the Church. Why? It might be because the Church is not simply an assembly of bricks organized in different ways to create beautiful structures, but truly and deeply the Mystical Body which takes its stand in and with Christ, who created time itself, and so is beyond time.

While in Rome, one of my goals was to fall in love more deeply with the Church. While I thought that would be in the form of admiring all these beautiful basilicas and other buildings while wandering the streets in Rome, I realize now that my love has been carried into a much more profound place. To fall in love with the Church means to fall in love with this Mystical Body of Christ, who is made up of many parts and spans all of time and space, and outside of it. To be in love with the Church means not to be in love with the things that it owns on Earth, but to love its particular members who do not simply live but have Christ living in them. This is greater than what any group, empire or otherwise, can build on this Earth.

Connor Schmidt
Archdiocese of Baltimore