Church of the living God, the
pillar and foundation of the truth.
(1 Timothy 3:15)
THE FOUR MARKS OF THE CHURCH
Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
- 866: The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord,
confesses on faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope
(cf Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome.
- 867: The Church is holy: the Most Holy God is her author: Christ, her bridegroom,
gave himself up to make her holy; the Spirit of holiness gives her life. Since she still includes sinners, she is "the
sinless one made up of sinners." Her holiness shines in the saints; in Mary - she is already all-holy.
- 868: The Church is catholic: she proclaims the
fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all
peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is "missionary of her very nature" (AG2).
- 869: The Church is apostolic. She is built on a
lasting foundation: "The twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:14). She is indestructible (cf Mt 16:18). She is
upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors,
the Pope and the college of bishops.
"The sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, . . . subsists
in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless,
many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines" (LG 8).
Four Marks of the Church
We can show how the Church of the apostles resembles in all essentials the Church of
today by showing how the early Church already bore the marks, or "notes," of the true Church of Christ which
are still professed today in the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed declares the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
Thus, the Church of the apostles was definitely one: "There is one body and one spirit," Paul wrote, "just
as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of
us all" (Eph. 4:4-5). Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church's common Eucharistic bread: "Because
there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread" (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised
at the outset that "there would be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16).
Similarly, the Church of
the apostles was holy. When we say that, we mean among other things that it had the all-holy God himself as author. We
do not mean that all of its members have ceased to be sinners and have themselves become all-holy. On the contrary,
the Church from the beginning, on her human side, has been composed of sinners: "Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). The Church was founded for no other reason than to continue Christ's redemptive and
sanctifying work with them in the world.
One of the things implicit in the appellation "holy" as
applied to the Church, then, is that the Church from the beginning has been endowed with the sacramental means to
help make holy the sinners who are found in her ranks. The Church has been given the sacraments along with the word precisely
in order to be able to help make sinners holy.
It was in this sense that Paul was able to write, "Christ
loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water
with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that
she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). The holiness of the Church, of which the creed properly speaks,
has always had reference to her divine Founder and to what the Church was founded by him with the power and authority
to do, not with the condition of her members.
The third great historic mark or note of the one true Church was
that this Church was Catholic. "Catholic" means "universal." It refers as much to the fullness of
the faith which it possesses as it does to the undeniable extension in both time and space which has characterized
it virtually from the beginning. At the very beginning, of course, it was no doubt difficult to see how the "little
flock" (Luke 12:32) of which the Church then consisted could by any stretch of the imagination qualify as "universal."
Still, just as the embryo contains in germ the whole human being, so the Church already contained the universality that
would quickly begin to manifest itself.
It is not without significance that the Holy Spirit came down upon
the Church at Pentecost at a time when "there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under
heaven" (Acts 2:5). It was to them that the Holy Spirit temporarily enabled the apostles to speak in the languages
of all these various nations--a powerful sign that the Church was destined for all men everywhere, represented at that
first Pentecost in Jerusalem by those of many nations who had come there from afar. Many accepted the faith then and
there and presumably began forthwith carrying "the Catholic Church" back to the four corners of the earth.
The Catholicity of the Church in any case resides as much in the fact that the Church is for everybody at all times
as it does in the fact that it was indeed destined to spread everywhere throughout the whole world. Within a few years
of the foundation of the Church, Paul was writing that "the word of truth . . . in the whole world . . . is bearing
fruit and growing" (Col. 1:5-6).
Finally, the Church that issued from the commission of Christ to the apostles
was necessarily apostolic. Christ founded the Church upon the apostles and in no other way: "Did I not choose
you, the twelve?" he asked them (John 6:70). The apostles of all people understood perfectly well that they did not
set themselves up in their own little community, as we sometimes today see "gospel churches" set up in store
fronts or in the suburbs. The New Testament teaches, "One does not take the honor upon himself" (Heb. 5:4).
Nothing is clearer, then, that the Church started out as "apostolic." The question is whether the apostles
had the power and authority to pass on to others what they had received from Christ. We have already seen that they very
definitely did have this power and authority; the New Testament evidence is clear about that. The subsequent historical
evidence is equally clear that they did pass it on to successors (the bishops). Indeed there are already references in
the New Testament itself to the appointment of bishops by the apostles, as well as to the appointment of further bishops
by them (Titus 1:5-9).
When we ask where, if anywhere, is to be found the same Church which the New Testament
tells us Christ founded, we have to reformulate the question to ask: What Church, if any, descends in an unbroken line
from the apostles of Jesus Christ (and also, not incidentally, possesses the other essential notes of the true Church
of which the creed speaks)?
Further, to introduce a point we have not dwelt upon at all up to now, What Church,
if any, is headed by a single recognized designated leader, just as the apostles of Jesus plainly functioned, on the
evidence of the New Testament, under the headship of Peter?
To ask these questions is to answer them: Any entity
or body claiming to be the Church of Christ would have to be able to demonstrate its apostolicity by demonstrating an
organic link with the original apostles on whom Christ manifestly established his Church. Nothing less than this could
qualify as the "apostolic" Church which Jesus founded.
As much for our instruction as for the assurance
he intended to give to the apostles to whom he was actually speaking, Jesus said, "He who hears you, hears me"
(Luke 10:16). Do we take these words seriously today? Do we listen to the teachings of the successors of the apostles
of Jesus, the bishops, in union with and under the successor of the apostle Peter, the pope, as if these teachings were
the words of Christ himself?
If we do, we are properly members of the Church which Jesus Christ founded on the
apostles and which has come down to us from them. If we do not, how can we pretend that we take anything seriously that
Christ said and taught?
He said nothing more solemnly and categorically than these words, in which he declared
that the apostles and their successors would speak for him in the serious business of gathering in and sanctifying his
people and leading them toward the salvation he offers. Jesus intended that the fullness of his grace should come to his
people in a Church that, from the beginning, was what the creed still calls it today: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
(Whitehead is a Catholic writer and translator living in Falls Church, Virginia.)
Church of the Apostles," in This Rock, March 1995.
(c) 1995 Catholic Answers, Inc.
|Dee Gray, OSB Oblate, Certified Catechist Trainer and Adult Faith Formation Leader
Seeking the face of God in
Prayer ~ Study ~ Community ~ Service
My name is DEE GRAY and I am honored that you are
visiting my website.
I am a very happy faith-filled Catholic, a mom and grandmother, an Oblate of Saint Benedict, Extraordinary Minister
of Holy Communion, Bible study and Adult Faith Formation Leader and Catechist Trainer in the Diocese of Phoenix. I
received my Certificate in Theological Studies and Pastoral Ministry Formation from Kino Institute, and was Commissioned
by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted on June 10, 2008. I am a graduate of JustFaith, and a student of Vatican II, and Blessed
John Paul II's Theology of the Body.
Come -- join me in a Eucharistic journey of faith, love and service!
Deo omnis gloria. ~
All glory to God.
“Once one chooses to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, Stewardship is not an option."
~Bishop John J. McRaith, U.S. Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc
Committee on Stewardship
STEWARDSHIP: A Disciples Response
United States Catholic Conference of Bishops
Drawing upon the teaching of seven Spiritual Doctors of the Church, Ralph Martin presents
an in-depth study of the journey to God. This book provides encouragement and direction for the pilgrim who desires to know,
love, and serve our Lord.
Ralph Martin has been a leader in renewal movements in the Church for many years, and the
author of many books, articles, and audio albums on contemporary issues in the life of the Church and the teachings of the
saints. He is currently Director of Graduate Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heat Major Seminary in the Archdiocese
of Detroit and Assistant Professor of Theology. He continues to lead the work of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted
to Catholic Renewal and Evangelization and hosts the weekly television program The Choices We Face. He and his wife Anne
are parents of six children and grandparents of five and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following
by Sherry A. Weddell
July 10, 2012, Our Sunday Visitor
Forming Intentional Disciples:
The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry Weddell is the most important book I've read this year. That is not exaggeration
or hyperbole, but a testament to the research, experience, and insight Weddell brings to the question of evangelization
and catechesis in the Church today. Weddell's book is a synthesis of every deep conversation about catechesis and evangelization
I've had with my local and national colleagues for the past four years.
Weddell begins with a review of the data
that should be familiar to all of us: decreasing Mass attendance, Catholics leaving the Church for Protestant communities,
and a general "disengagement" from the life of the parish by many of the faithful. But she doesn't just leave us
with cold, hard facts. Thanks to her work with parishes across the country Weddell is also able to weave compelling anecdotes
that put a human face on the crisis. Most surprising to me were the number of people who have left the Catholic Church not
because they were failing to moving closer to Christ but because, as they more fully embraced their call to discipleship,
they had no one in their parishes to support them or who understood the sudden fire that had been lit in them. That the Church
is losing both unengaged and highly motivated members -- leaking from both ends, as it were -- should alarm all of us.
Weddell's overarching question in reviewing the data and stories is this: How many of our parishioners are truly
disciples of Jesus Christ? How many are committed to living a life of faith in an intentional way? Her answer, based on
conversations with pastors and parish staff across the country, is that about 5% of Catholics can be described as "intentional
disciples." This is shockingly low. And unfortunately many of the leaders in our parishes are not included in that
figure. Some of the most heartbreaking stories in the book are the anonymous parish leaders -- presumably DREs, youth ministers,
and pastoral council members -- who describe themselves as having no active relationship with God.
Weddell doesn't tread old arguments by trying to place the blame for this crisis on any particular group within the Church.
Rather, she identifies as a major contributing factor the lack of a "normal" understanding of what it means to
be a disciple:
"As we listened to the spiritual experiences of tens of thousands of Catholics, we began
to grasp that many, if not a majority of, Catholics don't know what 'normal' Christianity looks like. I believe that one
reason for this is the selective silence about the call to discipleship that pervades many parishes. Catholics have come
to regard it as normal and deeply Catholic to not talk about the first journey - their relationship with God - except in
confession or spiritual direction. This attitude is so pervasive in Catholic communities that we have started to call it
the culture of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"
Weddell also decries the poor sacramental preparation received
by both children and candidates in the RCIA. Weddell delves into the Church's theology of grace to demonstrate that we are
not preparing people to fruitfully receive the sacraments. A tendency to focus on the validity of the sacraments has blinded
us to the need for the recipients to receive the grace and allow it to flourish in their lives. Quoting St. Thomas Aquinas
and the Catechism of the Catholic Church Weddell skillfully indictes catechists who operate with a "the sacrament will
take care of it" attitude towards the spiritual lives of those in their care.
Weddell goes on to offer a
framework for understanding the process by which a person becomes an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ. This was, for me,
the most important part of the book, since it is the pivot on which evangelization and catechesis turn. Through her work
with the Catherine of Siena Institute Weddell has identified these "thresholds" on the path to discipleship:
5. Intentional Discipleship
the foundational attitude the individual must have before they are able to progress through the stage. Of course, this framework
would be of little use without suggestions for how to guide individuals through this journey of faith. Fortunately, Weddell
gives us some very concrete ways that we can walk with people at these different stages. Weddell challenges Church leaders
to break the silence in our parishes concerning discipleship:
"Until discipleship and conversion become
a normative part of parish life, many [people] will walk in and out of our parishes untouched, and many Catholics who are
disciples will continue to feel that they need to hide or minimize their newly awakened personal faith in front of other
Catholics. The first thing that must be done is to deliberately and persistently break the code of silence if it is in place.
The Catholic norm of silence about a relationship with God, about Jesus Christ and his story, about our own stories of following
Christ, and about the need for everyone to decide whether or not he or she will follow as a disciple is stifling the emergence
of a culture of discipleship and all that flows from it. One of the most powerful ways to challenge the silence is by making
a safe place for others to talk about their own lived relationship with God."
Weddell offers similar advice
for each of the thresholds of discipleship; parish staffs would do well to read these chapters carefully and discuss how
the suggestions might be implemented in thir local communities.
Forming Intentional Disciples is a book that has
appeared at preciously the moment it is needed in the life of the Church. I am endebted to Sherry Weddell for her work in
writing it, and I believe every bishop, pastor, evangelist, and catechetical leader should have a copy and study it carefully.
Jonathan F. Sullivan
"My Life on the Rock", the dramatic conversion story of
Jeff Cavins (apologist and host of EWTN's "Life on the Rock"), is the true and bittersweet story of an emotional
and spiritual search for peace in a chaotic world.
Jeff was a "rebel - and then he became a rebel for Jesus. This
moving account of his journey, told in his own words, is sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, but never boring (just like
Jeff). You won't want to put this book down.
Jeff's story recounts his early Catholic upbringing, rejection of
the Faith, ordination as a Protestant minister, and finally his return home to the Catholic Church. It definitely was not
a smooth trip: he went toe-to-toe with his own father and three Bishops in his search for truth.
So, if you are
a Catholic searching for answers, or if you have a friend who has fallen away from the Church, read Jeff's book - he's been
CONSOLING THE HEART OF JESUS
by Fr. Michael Gaitley,
February 18, 2010, Marion
Michael Gaitley, MIC, has given us a very special gift in his thoughtful and prayerful
Do-It-Yourself Retreat. He brings together several spiritual traditions and blends them in the pattern of the Spiritual Exercises
of St. Ignatius. We will find inspiration in the quotations from the saints which he gathers carefully and in his deep, but
humble, understanding of the principles of holiness that they proclaim. This is a good way for a soul to begin the journey
in responding to the call to embrace the Divine Mercy of the Lord. --Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Gaitley, MIC's book is a form of a weekend retreat accessible to those at the beginning stages of a simple way to holiness.
While reading this book, I wished I could have had it in conversing with people of little or practically no faith who yet
had a longing for the faith that lies at the core of human existence. These hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, Lord
and this book guides them on a journey to resting in God. --Fr. Mitch Pacwa
This retreat, which is so
well fitted into the busy life of the layperson, nonetheless includes all the essential parts of a genuine retreat of the
Spiritual Exercises. Although focused on the Divine Mercy, it also includes the insights of Saints Ignatius Loyola and Louis
de Montfort. It is also influenced by the Venerable Father Lanteri, who brings his own intensity and devotion into the retreat.
All of this should make a devout person at home and yet push the person on to higher levels of devotion and spirituality.
--Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC
was ordained to priesthood Saturday, October 16, 2010. Father Michael holds a Masters Degree in Theology from St. John Seminary
in Massachusetts, and a Licentiate Degree in Spiritual Theology from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. After
8 years of working on his book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus it was released in February 2010 with
the creative campaign, Don't Give up Chocolate for Lent, Do This Retreat Instead. With some incredible endorsements
from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Danielle Bean of Faith and Family magazine, and many more, the book is
now in its 3rd printing. The uniqueness of this do-it-yourself retreat is that it combines the Spiritual Exercises of St.
Ignatius with the teachings of Saints Therese of Lisieux, Faustina Kowalska and Louis de Montfort. Fr. Michael is the director
of the Association of Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Mass holding the honorary title of Fr. Joseph.
by Fr. Michael Gaitley,
December 8, 2011, Marion Press
From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the bestselling book Consoling the Heart
comes an extraordinary 33-day journey to Marian consecration with four giants of Marian spirituality: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed
Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II. Fr. Michael masterfully summarizes their teaching, making it easy to grasp
and simple enough to put into practice. More specifically, he weaves their thought into a user-friendly, do-it-yourself
retreat that will blessss even the busiest of people. So, if you've been thinking about entrusting yourself to Mary
for the first time or if you're simply looking to deepen and renew your devotion to her, 33 Days to Morning Glory
is the right book to read and the perfect retreat to make.