Section 2: The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic The Church
Part 1: The Church is One • The four marks, or essential characteristics, of the Church are: • One • Holy • Catholic • Apostolic • The Church is seen as one, diverse entity, much like how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit form one God.
Part 1: The Church is One • Unity does not mean uniformity; the Church is composed of people from different races and backgrounds, yet are united in their profession of faith, common worship, and Apostolic Succession. • Over the centuries, heresies, schisms, and other breaks have lead to numerous Christian Churches that broke away from the Catholic Church. • Ecumenism is the movement to unite all Christians together again and all the people of the world to heal such breaks in the Church’s history.
Part 1: The Church is One • The first mark of the Church is that the Church is One. • The New Testament makes it clear that there is only one Church, one Body of Christ, open for all people to be a part of. • Saint Paul spoke of how there is one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism since in these things diverse peoples enter into the one Church.
Part 1: The Church is One • Jesus prayed before He died that the Church would be in unity with one another as Jesus was with the Father; the gift of unity in the Church is essential. • The ultimate example of the Church’s unity is that of the three Divine Persons in the Trinity, creating one God together. • We are brought in to unity with the Trinity as part of the one Church.
Part 1: The Church is One • That unity with God was hurt by Adam and Eve’s sin, yet Jesus brought us all back into unity with Himself and the Trinity by His death, collecting us all into Himself and making the Church united. • The Church is also one because of the Holy Spirit, since the Spirit can be seen as the soul of the Church that lives within all the Church’s members, bringing them closer to one another and Christ in word and deed.
Part 1: The Church is One • Unity should not be confused with uniformity; as mentioned before, the Church is full of diverse people, all of whom are not expected to strive to be the same as a fellow Church member. • People are diverse and so are the gifts they receive, yet they receive such gifts all from the same unified one Holy Spirit. • We are a Church of many nations and people, yet we all possess a single citizenship: that of a citizenship in Heaven as a people of God.
Part 1: The Church is One • An example of this diversity can be seen that within dioceses, Masses can sometimes be said in 12 different languages on any given Sunday. • The essential elements of the Mass, such as the prayers and readings, all remain the same across the board wherever you go in the Catholic Church so as to maintain unity, but artwork, music, and even liturgical dance can be culturally adapted.
Part 1: The Church is One • Sin and its aftermath can greatly harm the unity of the Church. • When we wander far from the Church and from God, we wander from not just the community of believers, but also from ourselves as we try to find something to fill the gap in our life that only God and His Church can fill. • At the end of the day, we just strive to be “perfect like the Father is,” as Jesus said, so as to maintain unity in the Church and all be “one” together.
Part 1: The Church is One • With all this take about unity, how do Church members maintain that unity? • By both visible and invisible bonds • The greatest bond of unity is God’s love (in an invisible way). • Visible bonds in the Church are: • The profession of one faith • The common celebration of divine worship • The recognition of ordained leaders as successors of the Apostles.
Part 1: The Church is One • Catholics all over the world profess one faith by praying the Nicene Creed or the Apostle’s Creed. • A Creed is based from the Latin word “credo,” which means “I believe;” it is the official presentation of the faith, usually prepared and presented by a council of the Church and used in its liturgies. • The Apostle’s Creed came from the baptismal creed of the ancient Church of Rome; the Nicene Creed was formulated at the Church’s first two ecumenical councils at Nicaea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD).
Part 1: The Church is One • When we pray the Creed, we not only profess and say what we believe, but we also commit ourselves to those beliefs, much like a promise to God and the Church community. • The Creed summarizes the major beliefs of the Catholic faith including belief in God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. • However, it is important to remember our faith goes beyond what is professed in the Creed; think about the size of the Bible or Catechism…while the Creed professes essential elements of our faith, there are so many more important lessons and beliefs to be had from Mother Church.
Part 1: The Church is One • We are also visibly united in the one Church through the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. • The Eucharist is both a sign of the Church’s unity and a means to achieve such unity; the Eucharist is the summary and totality of our faith. • The celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church follows the same structure everywhere.
Part 1: The Church is One • We are visibly united in the one Church through recognizing the authority of the Church leaders, who are all the bishops in union with the Pope. • The bishops and the Pope have received their authority through Apostolic Succession, or the uninterrupted passing on of apostolic preaching and authority from the Apostles directly to all the bishops. • This passing on of authority is performed through the laying on of hands in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. • If the Pope is your “boss” when it comes to Church teachings, then we can be assured that we are part of the same faith that Jesus taught and handed on to His Apostles to spread 2,000 years ago.
Part 1: The Church is One • The Sacrament of the Eucharist is a prime example of what happens when a Christian community has no apostolic succession. • The Eucharist is a Sacrament of Unity between Catholics with the ability to transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ through apostolic succession. • If a person belongs to a Christian Church that does not carry apostolic succession, they were not in full unity with the Catholic Church and cannot receive the Eucharist because of their lack of communion and apostolic succession in their church community.
Part 1: The Church is One • While the Apostles preached to keep the unity they had received from Christ, we know throughout history division has occurred in the Church. • Heresy and schism were the principal causes of division in the Church. • Today, we live in a society where we appreciate diversity of opinions; however, diversity on key areas of theology have caused great confusion and division among Christians around the world.
Part 1: The Church is One • A Heresy occurs when a person consciously and deliberately rejects a dogma of the Church. • Heresies have lead to the establishment of opposing Church groups, especially in the first several centuries, including the establishment of groups such as the Gnostics. • A Schism, on the other hand, is a major break that causes division which occurs when there is a refusal to submit to the Pope or be in communion with other Church members.
Part 1: The Church is One • Other schisms occurred when communities refused to accept the teachings of a Council. • To understand schism in the Church, we must look at the history of the ancient Roman Empire. • The Roman Empire was so vast that it was divided into East (Byzantine Empire) and West (Roman).
Part 1: The Church is One • Constantine’s successors were the ones who ruled the Greek speaking East from Constantinople while the Latin speaking West was ruled from Rome by the emperor. • The Eastern section had the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church while Catholic Church was at the heart of Rome, forming a schism that lasts today, starting around 1054 AD.
Part 1: The Church is One • In 1054, Pope Leo IX sent a delegation from Rome to Constantinople to the Orthodox Patriarch Michael to try and repair the schism between the churches. • Disagreements arose and the Roman delegation decided to excommunicate, or a severe penalty for a grave sin against Church law that forbids the celebration of the Sacraments, the patriarch, who in turn excommunicated the delegation.
Part 1: The Church is One • In 1204 AD, Western crusaders destroyed Constantinople which, paired with the issues of excommunication, led to a complete break between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches. • Even so, the Catholic Church sees itself in almost full communion with the Orthodox Churches. • Jesus Christ established the Church, sometimes called the Church of Christ, and appointed Peter and the Apostles to lead Her.
Part 1: The Church is One • The Church of Christ, as professed in the Nicene Creed, is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic and only exists in the form of the Catholic Church. • Only the Catholic Church has kept the structure of leadership Christ set in place Himself. • The Kingdom of God exists in the Catholic Church then, waiting to be perfected at the end of time.
Part 1: The Church is One • Another great schism that is well known is the Protestant Reformation, which occurred in the early 16th century. • The term Protestants come from the word “protest” since conflicts arose in the Church that lead to formation of new church communities. • A key figure in the Protestant reform was Martin Luther, who was a German monk, scholar, and priest.
Part 1: The Church is One • Luther was extremely outspoken about the Church selling Indulgences, or the means by which the Church takes away punishment that a person would receive in Purgatory. • Luther did not want a split in the Church, but rather a discussion to occur about the issues he raised. • Luther presented his 95 Theses to the public by nailing them to a cathedral door, yet could not resolve his problems with the Church and was excommunicated; his followers became known as Lutherans. • However, there were much deeper theological issues at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.
Part 1: The Church is One • Two theological principles at the center of the Reformation that contradicted the truth of Catholic teaching were “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone) and “sola gratia” (Grace alone). • Sola scriptura was the idea that Church teaching should be based on Scripture alone, not Scripture AND Tradition. • Sola Gratia focused on how salvation comes from God’s grace alone rather than through any human effort.
Part 1: The Church is One • Sola Gratia is wrong because while it is true God’s grace is the ultimate source of our salvation, human beings can cooperate with God’s grace, or deny it, based on their actions in life. • After the Protestant Reformation, other churches began to pop up in Northern Europe. • In 1530 AD, King Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church so he could divorce his wife and remarry and formed the Church of England (Anglican Church) which he was the head of.
Part 1: The Church is One • In the early 16th century, other churches formed that broke away from the Catholic Church including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. • With all this division in the Church, the Catholic Church did try to fix the issues at the heart of these schisms through the Counter-Reformation, most notably at the Council of Trent. • In the end, as we can still see today, many different Christian Churches exist, yet do not bear all four marks that Catholic Church does, which allows us to say our church is the one that descends directly from Jesus Christ and the Apostles.
Part 1: The Church is One • Although all Christians are not unified, all those baptized in Christ and brought up in His faith are Christians, our brothers and sisters with the Church. • This is the essence of Ecumenism. • All Catholics are Christian but not all Christians are Catholic. • Many elements of shared with other Christian churches and the Catholic Church, such as the Bible, the life of grace, faith, hope, love, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Part 1: The Church is One • Christ can even use other Christian churches as a means of salvation, yet all depends on ultimately on the fullness of faith that Jesus entrusted to the Catholic Church and where differences occur between the Catholic and Christian Churches. • The Eastern Orthodox Church is close to the Catholic Church, primarily because it has maintained apostolic succession and true Sacraments.
Part 1: The Church is One • However, the dividing force between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox is that the Eastern Orthodox do not recognize the Pope as head over the whole Church. • Yet, since the Eastern Orthodox have valid Sacraments, they are in closer communion with us that other Christian communities since apostolic succession of bishops gives the fullness of salvation through the Sacraments. • I.E., in Baptism, all Christians who are baptized into Christ are imperfectly in communion with the Catholic Church; imperfectly because apostolic succession does not exist in all Christian churches and the fullness of the Sacrament is not there then.
Part 1: The Church is One • Ecumenism is the movement to restore unity amongst all Christians. • Two immediate goals of ecumenism are: • To achieve better mutual understanding • To cooperate in various fields, i.e. assisting the poor • The ultimate goal of ecumenism is to return all Christians to visible unity and full communion.
Part 1: The Church is One • An essential element of ecumenism’s success is the dialogue between officials of the Catholic Church and other Christian churches. • In 1965, for example, Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch of Constantinople agreed on a declaration that apologized to one another about the 1054 AD schism and all the events surrounding it, especially lifting the excommunications off of each other and regretting all the events that lead to the schism, before and after.
Part 1: The Church is One • We, as the Church’s body, also have essential elements to fulfill in ecumenism, including: • Growing in holiness through the Church • Conversion of heart • Pray for unity for and with other Christians • Gain a deeper knowledge of each other • Formation of ecumenical dialogue • Ecumenical dialogue amongst Theologians, or people who study God • The Catholic Church fully embraces and works for ecumenism in the hope all Christians will be united once again in Christ and in His One Church.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • The Church is unlike any other organizations because it is made up of both human and divine elements. • The divine can be seen with eyes of faith that tell us the Church is holy because God created Her and the Holy Spirit dwells in Her. • The Church is not perfectly holy because Her members cannot be perfectly holy in this life, only in the next.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • The Church depends on God’s free gift of grace completely to be holy. • The Church has the Holy Spirit active in Her existence, gaining for us holy people like the saints as examples of how we are to be holy, i.e. Mary was perfectly holy by God’s grace and is an example of how we are to be holy and respond to God’s calling for each of us.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • We can ask the question why is the Church holy when she is obviously a part of a sinful world? • We first must understand the actual elements that compose the Church to answer such a question. • The Church is one entity, yet made up of two elements: • Divine • Human
Part 2: The Church is Holy • We see the human element of the Church all around us in the people gathered in the physical building of the Church, the leaders of the Church, and such things as the Bible and religious icons. • But the Church is more than what just meets the eye; she is the bearer of the invisible divine life with God.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • The Holy Spirit helps us see with the eyes of faith the union of both human and divine elements by way of putting us in communication with the divine through what we see at Mass and in Church. • The earthly structure of the Church only exists for the sole purpose of sanctifying her members and making them holy so as to fulfill God’s will, even despite our failings.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • The Church is holy because God created her, Jesus loves and gave up His life for her, and the Holy Spirit dwells in her so she may have life. • The Church is also holy because God has made the Church an instrument of salvation, allowing her to sanctify through Holy Scripture, the Sacraments, models of holiness, and the leadership of the Apostles and their successors. • Even so, we must remember the holiness of the Church on Earth is real, yet imperfect.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • Perfect holiness can only be achieved in Heaven, yet we are called to strive for that holiness throughout our lives. • Love is at the heart of holiness and is the means by which the Church sanctifies her members. • We are all called to love, whether married, single, priest, religious, etc., in different ways through the example of God’s love found in Scripture and the Sacraments.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • Despite the holiness of the Church, we are a Church composed of sinners, no matter if you’re laity or the Pope. • However, the presence of sinners in the Church does not detract from her holiness since it is the Church’s mission to save sinners and bring them home to God, just as Christ did. • All people are composed of “weeds” and “wheat,” of sin and the Gospel, of death and new life in Christ.
Part 2: The Church is Holy • Even so, we still need to remember we must repent for our sins and have a conversion, or a change of heart by turning away from sin and moving toward God, to grow in holiness. • The Church calls all her members to two conversions: • The first time at Baptism when original sin is washed away and new life is given in Christ • The second time throughout the life of a Catholic, continually hearing God’s call to conversion and holiness
Part 2: The Church is Holy • All members of the Church are called to be holy and can do so by consciously responding to God in prayer, reading Scripture, receiving the Sacraments, etc. • But no matter how much we do, we can never completely earn holiness for ourselves since we are not perfect; we need God’s Grace, or the free and undeserved gift of God’s loving and active presence in our lives, restoring us to communion with Him which is lost through sin.