St. Augustine on Good and the Evil in the Church

09-22-2021From the desk of Fr. Villa

The same [Church] is spoken of, when, in regard to the fewness of her numbers as compared with the multitude of the wicked, it is said: Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:14 And again, it is of the same Church that it is said with respect to the multitude of her members: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore. Genesis 22:14

For the same Church of holy and good believers is both small if compared with the number of the wicked, which is greater, and large if considered by itself; for the desolate has more sons than she which has an husband, and many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God. Matthew 8:11

God, moreover, presents unto Himself a numerous people, zealous of good works. And in the Apocalypse, many thousands which no man can number, from every tribe and tongue, are seen clothed in white robes, and with palms of victory. Revelation 7:9 It is the same Church which is occasionally obscured, and, as it were, beclouded by the multitude of offenses, when sinners bend the bow that they may shoot under the darkened moon at the upright in heart. But even at such a time the Church shines in those who are most firm in their attachment to her. (emphasis added)

And if, in the Divine promise above quoted, any distinct application of its two clauses should be made, it is perhaps not without reason that the seed of Abraham was compared both to the stars of heaven, and to the sand which is by the sea-shore: that by the stars may be understood those who, in number fewer, are more fixed and more brilliant; and that by the sand on the sea-shore may be understood that great multitude of weak and carnal persons within the Church, who at one time are seen at rest and free while the weather is calm, but are at another time covered and troubled under the waves of tribulation and temptation. St. Augustine Letter 93