The Universality of Catholicism
"Although the present-day concepts of literacy have much to do with the 15th century invention of the movable type printing press, it was not until the Industrial Revolution of the mid-19th century that paper and books became financially affordable to all classes of industrialized society. Until then, only a small percentage of the population were literate as only wealthy individuals and institutions could afford the prohibitively expensive materials. Even today[update], the dearth of cheap paper and books is a barrier to universal literacy in some less-industrialized nations." (cf wikipedia search on "history of literacy")
This got me thinking about the Catholic faith and how it is so, so.... universal. The word universal means "including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception; especially : available equitably to all members of a society. " One size fits all, if you will. Catholicism is literally universal because it is a faith that can fit any culture, with any rate of literacy or lack thereof. The ability of the Catholic Church to share the gospel has not been based (and is still not) on the availability of Bibles for individuals or a target audience that has acquired the skill to read and understand and interpret the scripture. As a matter of fact, 75% of the current time line of Christianity has already transpired without the availability of personal portable bibles (Printing press not being invented until the 1472)
Jesus is not willing that any should perish. His sacrifice on the cross and shedding of blood is way too precious to be reserved only for the literate or those of an average or above average intellect that could rationally understand all the tenets of salvation. Or even those who own a Bible*.
Therefore, it makes sense to me that God would start a religion that would be readily accessible to all regardless of intellect, culture, literacy etc or bible ownership. A "simpleton" can be washed clean of original sin through the sacrament of baptism, experience His grace through confession and the Eucharist and be received into heaven at the end of his/her life without ever actually cracking open a Bible. That is the way it was for almost 1500 years. Would God have waited 1500 years to unfold his manifold mysteries of salvation just to the generations that had ready access to the Bible and the ability to read and interpret it for themselves? No, He provided us a way back to the Father that was designed for all men, for all time, for every generation. Catholicism-truly a universal way.
*Does this mean that we should denigrate scripture and not study it? Far be it from me to imply that. St Jerome said in the 5th century, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. But Jesus gave us a Church in which the scripture would be an integral part of it. The Mass not only includes large portions of scripture read out loud, but the entire liturgy is like a fine tapestry woven together with Scripture.