Relating Catholicism to the experience of a sailor

I retired from the US Navy, and this thread is about explaining the Catholic faith to a sailor by showing how it relates to the sailor’s life that he knows.

*]The ship the sailor lives and works on symbolizes the Church.

*]The Commanding Officer (CO) symbolizes Jesus.

*]The Command Duty Officer (CDO) symbolizes the Pope. The CDO takes over for the CO whenever the CO takes a leave of absence for any significant amount of time. The CO grants the CDO all of his authority in the CO’s absence. An offense against the CDO is the same as an offense against the CO himself. When the CO returns from his leave the CDO hands the ship and all of his responsibilities back over to the CO. This is like how the Pope will hand the keys of authority back over to Jesus when Jesus returns.

*]The ocean symbolizes life with its trials and tribulations and the hope that Christians have that things will get better no matter how bad things look. The ocean can at one time be dark, grey, violent, and ugly, and later it can be very beautiful, calm, and smooth as a satin sheet.

I’m retired Navy and currently in RCIA class. I guess your analogy is accurate, but I find the comparison disturbing.
Using your analogy God would be trying to blame the lowliest Christian warming the church pew for the typhoon in the Philippines. The Pope would be writing a tract denying that the flood ever happened. You would have to go to a safety course to prevent choking before you took communion. They would be tracking the number of black and Hispanic people in heaven to see that they are not underrepresented.

The OP was using the Navy as a parable, not an allegory. One-to-one correspondences in minor details apply only in allegories.

Though I couldn’t help but chuckle at the “underrepresented” bit. :smiley:

I think it’s a great analogy, maybe for non-Navy folks :wink:

I didn’t intend for it to be a perfect comparison. I’m only comparing the general principle of the positions in the Navy’s ship command hierarchy minus the details and personal flaws of the particular people who are in those offices. But to add another thing to the comparison, the position of the ship’s department heads in relation to the CDO is kind of like how, in Catholicism, there is the Pope, and then there are the other bishops. It’s just a way a sailor who isn’t a Catholic can begin to understand why Catholicism is reasonable and makes sense.

This analogy has already existed for hundreds, maybe more than 1,000 years.

You may have heard the Church referred to as the “Barque of Peter” at times. Well, a barque is a type of sailing vessel (the exact definition doesn’t matter here, but as a former merchant mariner I can tell you it’s a specific design).

I always figured this analogy was inspired through the ages from the time Our Lord calmed the storm in the Sea of Galilee.

Steve Ray, a former Baptist who became a Catholic, talked about this and I converted his talk into the following:

The Ship and the Rafts
A Catholic Convert Looks Back (transcribed from a talk)
By Steve Ray

Imagine a king who establishes a new country on the other side of the ocean. In order to populate his new land, he chooses the people that he wants to make citizens. Next, he builds a ship and prepares his chosen people for the long journey across the ocean.

The ship he provides is a large, beautiful ocean liner well-equipped with everything needed for the journey: food and water, showers with hot water, navigation charts, a crew and captain, and power to move the ship. The king puts everyone he has chosen aboard this ship and sends them on their way to their new home. Everything needed to reach the new country can be found aboard that ship.

Of course, the founder of this new country is God, the new country is heaven, and you and I are the ones he has chosen to journey there. The ship that He built is the Catholic Church, the captain is the pope, and the crew is the bishops, priests and deacons. The navigation charts are Scripture and Tradition. The showers are the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, and the food and water for the journey is the Eucharist. The power that moves the ship is the Holy Spirit. Everything we need to reach heaven can be found within the Catholic Church.

The journey goes smoothly until the ship is halfway across the ocean. Then, some of the passengers start to argue and protest. Like the Israelites who grumbled about the manna in the desert, they begin to complain about eating the same food all the time. They ask, “Who is this captain, and why should he be in charge? Who gave these crew members the right to tell us what to do?”

The protesters go down into the bottom of the ship where they find wood and rope, and they build rafts for themselves. They collect food and water, clothing and anything else they can find, and throw themselves and their rafts over the side of the ship. Now, they don’t have to listen to the captain and crew, or eat that same old food or even take those hot showers which made them uncomfortable. They are free!

The scene is amazing. Instead of a single ship sailing for its home port, there are now 33,000 or more small rafts in the water around the ship! (The Oxford University Encyclopedia of Christianity says there are 33,000 Protestant denominations today with more being added to this number each year.) Now this beautiful ship is surrounded by 33,000 rafts bobbing around it—each with its own captain giving conflicting and contradictory orders.

As the ship continues toward heaven, some of the rafts remain close by, but others drift off into the distance, and some are moving in the opposite direction and have lost their way completely. Those rafts that are close to the ship are sheltered from some of the wind and waves; those farther away are tossed about during the storms. The farther away they are, the less chance they have to make it to the other side.

Everything good on board the rafts came from the ship, but now they are cut off from that source. Eventually, the food runs out, and the people begin to eat something other than what the king provided. There are no showers available for the people to get clean again.

When I was a Protestant, I never realized that everything good that I had came from the Catholic Church. For example, the Bible was put together by Catholic bishops and copied and preserved by Catholic monks. Martin Luther even admitted that we wouldn’t have a Bible if it were not for “the papists.” My Protestant fellowship only had two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, while the Catholic Church has seven. Those who are still out on the rafts need to be reminded that everything they have, they got from the Mother ship.

One interesting point is that I did not jump off the ship; I was born on a raft. For a long time, I didn’t even know there was ship—it was nowhere in sight! I was born on a Baptist raft, and I could yell over to the Methodist raft, and they could yell over to the Episcopalian raft, and they could yell over to the Anglican raft, and so forth. We called that fellowship.

Then one day, I caught a glimpse of something large on the horizon, and I said, “Hey, what is that?” They answered, “We don’t want to talk about it.” “Why not?” I asked. “Because it’s bad.” “What is it?” “It’s the ship.” Out of ignorance, I accepted the idea that the ship was bad.

One day, however, it dawned on me that that the founder of the country I was trying to reach had created the ship to carry me home safely. “Of course,” I thought. “Why would God create 33,000 rafts competing to ferry His people home?” After reading and researching and praying, I got back on board the ship. I became a Catholic, and I’m amazed at what I have found onboard.

Cradle Catholics may take these things for granted, but we converts are in awe. You have seven sacraments, and they work! You have navigation charts: the Scriptures and the Tradition that helps you make sense of the maps. You have a crew that understands how to read the maps and charts without error, how to prepare the food, the Eucharist, properly, and how to operate the showers so that we can get cleaned up from all the foul-smelling sins we commit. You also have a captain, the Pope, who actually knows where he’s going!

Along that same line, if you have a ship sailing along, but if they are incorrect in their direction that they steer the ship, even by 1 degree, it can spell disaster. At first, it won’t look like you are off-course much at all. You will be running parallel with the correct course for quite a while. But the error builds slowly over time, and the ship sails further and further off-course. Eventually you lose sight of where you are going completely. You have lost track of the true course and are floating aimlessly in the ocean.

THAT is why we must stay in the Church. Christ promised that the Church would never fail, and would never lead us astray. The Church and her teachings are the true course.