One Ark, One Captain

Darren Aronofsky’s  Noah movie seems to be doing well in theaters, and with some Catholic critics, even if it didn’t get the papal thumbs-up they’d hoped for. To my knowledge, churchmen aren’t in the habit of making sponsorship deals–though I have seen some foreheads on Ash Wednesday that seemed to sport the Nike swoosh. (I guess that’s what you get if you’re in a hurry and tell father to “just do it”.)

Noah’s story has been retold often. It’s inspired books, movies, children’s toys.  It’s inspired religious education from the very beginning – even St. Peter made a comparison of baptism and the flood, of Christ’s church to Noah’s ark.  (1 Pet 3:19-22)

There’s spiritual and typological truth there, but there’s a very practical and almost too-simple reply to anyone who has difficulty accepting Church authority.

If the church is a ship, then she has a captain. She has a captain – literally, in Latin, a head. (cf Col 1:18)

If you don’t want to follow a captain’s rules, you don’t have to; you just don’t get on his ship. You find another ship with another captain whose policies you like. And if you come to dislike the policies or the people mid-voyage? No problem. There are many ports, and you will pull into one eventually. You can disembark and find a new ship with better rules or different people or prettier rooms.

But… what if it’s raining?

What if it’s been raining a lot lately.

What if it’s been raining, the water is rising, and there is but one ship? (CCC 845) What if there is but one ship and one captain (cf John 14:6, Acts 4:12) and no other ports on the horizon? What do you do?

In that case, what does it matter if you don’t personally like the captain? What does it matter if you don’t like the officer in charge of your part of the ship, or if you think the ship is outdated? What does it matter if you think the music they’re playing is boring or the coffee is bad? There is just one ship. To borrow a question from Bill Cosby’s Noah routine: “How long can you tread water?”

St. Peter tells us that this is the very situation we are in. He knows something about sinking into the waves, doesn’t he? (Mt 14:22-33)

The World is awash in sin. It’s flooded, and we’re barely treading water. As we look around, we find but one ship, one captain, one hand reaching out to us.  We take that hand, whether we like it or not, or we drown. We must look past the difficulties and see salvation, because when we look around anywhere else, we see nothing but water to every horizon.

With Peter, we ask, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”, and we get the same answer.

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Copyright 2014, Joe Wetterling

Joe Wetterling

Joe Wetterling

Joe Wetterling is a professional educator, homeschooling dad, and writer. He's appeared at national conferences, both secular and religious, speaking on education, technology, and philosophy. Joe writes online for New Evangelizers, as well as his own blogs. He's taught in the Holy Apostles MOOC program and currently teaches Natural Theology at the new Dominican Institute. He's a member of the Militia Immaculata and current President of the Catholic Writers Guild. Learn more about him at

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