!> The Catholic Church (Dang, spoiler syntax doesn’t work on the blog.)
Well, anyway it’s the Catholic Church. Since this month’s Eschewmenical topic is “What is the Church”, I figured it would be prudent to answer the question as directly as possible. Different denominations seem to have different marks, but as a Catholic catechist, one of the rote knowledge sort of things I attempt to drill into my students are the four marks of the church. From the Nicene Creed, codified at the council of Constantinople, they are (and tell me if you’ve heard this one before): the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
99% of the following is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 813-933. However, as always, I must warn you that my only credentials are my Bronze Catholicism badge so take what I write with a grain of blessed salt.
- Atomic – Oneness
The Catholic Church is a cohesive body. She is unified in her liturgy, in her sacraments and in her Traditions. The unity associated with the Church is modeled on unity of the Holy Trinity, but how many ‘unities’ does the Trinity have? One. How many unities do the United States and Canada have? I count seven.
We have one founder in Jesus Christ. The Church wasn’t invented by a plurality of minds. We don’t have framers, founders and papers to go off of. People can go back and say: “What was St. Paul thinking when he preached on marriage? What was St. Peter thinking when he preached on forgiveness?”, but they can’t go back and say, “What was St. Paul thinking when he instituted the Sacrament of marriage? What was St. Peter thinking when he instituted the Sacrament of reconciliation?” because these things were instituted by our Founder, Jesus Christ.
The Church has one soul, because only one soul can animate one body. It’s the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in those who make up its body that animates the Church. Jesus (and Lincoln to a lesser extent) said, a house divided cannot stand. He was talking about a wicked house but the logic (that a house split in two will fall to the ground) is true regardless if the house is a den of iniquity or the cenacle.
- Aloof – Holiness
The Church is the spotless Bride of Christ. Spotless, pure, virginal, sacred, holy; these are all good words for what the Church is. Not necessarily the individuals within the Church. But for all we know, the Church could go on existing without a single member; so strong is the promise that the gates of Hell will not prevail over it. Because of that, we can confidently call the Church holy.Holiness shares a lot of letters with hoity toity-ness. But it need not be a synonym for it. To make something holy is to have it set apart. It may be set apart for battle like Excalibur or your grandpa’s Winchesters. It may be set aside for a party, like my wife’s 2002 Chardonnay we never bothered to drink. But it’s not set apart like Jek Porkins in the package never to be played with or played with only by special people. The Church is to be opened and played with by all.
- Ubiquitous – Catholic (universal)
Catholic means universal, as in applies to all. It’s easy to get confused by this word, but I’ll bet most Protestants who recite the Nicene Creed understand the meaning of the word catholic better than most Catholics. To a non-Christian however, it probably seems strange that with a few exceptions we name our denominations based on a portion of our teaching. There’s nothing magic about the name Catholic and there’s no reason to think that it’s better to stress universality than to stress baptism (Baptists) or teaching (Presbyterians/Orthodox) or the Gospel (Evangelicals) or churchiness (Congregationalists/Episcopalians).
The magic, however, is in the truth of the word, catholic. Because we hold that everyone is more or less in the Catholic Church, even those who inevitably write in the comments section of blogs such as these that they don’t want anything to do with my misogynistic, homophobic church run by women and gay priests. Everyone living or dead is pray-for-able. The Church does not damn anyone to Hell; she acknowledges that there are special folks in Heaven who intercede on our behalf and considers both them and us the living to be saints. Furthermore, she holds the dignity of the human person as the very most important thing and always and in what ever way seek to end human suffering.
- Smells of Fish – Apostolic
The Catholic Church is brought to you today
The twelve apostles, ordained by Jesus, sealed with the Holy Spirit were sent forth to be fishers of men, making disciples of all nations; baptizing, casting out demons, forgiving sins, healing mind, spirit and body. They were the first to go out and do all that Jesus had taught them to do. In so doing, they chose men to act as preachers and sent them out (Romans 10:14-15) and they also chose men to aid in the preaching (1 Tim 3:8-10). They themselves were the first Bishops and those whom they chose to ordain were the next Bishops right down to our present day. Other denominations can’t really make that claim.
Founders of Christian Denominations Name Year Founder Origin Catholic 33 Jesus Christ Jerusalem Lutheran 1524 Martin Luther Germany Episcopalian 1534 Henry VIII England Presbyterian 1560 John Knox Scotland Baptist 1600 John Smyth Amsterdam Congregational 1600 Robert Brown England Methodist 1739 John and Charles Wesley England United Brethren 1800 Philip Otterbein & Martin Boehm Maryland, USA Disciples of Christ 1827 Thomas & Alexander Campbell Kentucky, USA Mormon 1830 Joseph Smith New York, USA Salvation Army 1865 William Booth London Christian Science 1879 Mary Baker Eddy Boston, Massachusetts USA Four-Square Gospel 1917 Aimee-Semple McPherson Los Angeles, California USA
The Catholic Church was paid forand readers like you, thank you!