by Pat Miron
Our Catholic “Church”
Exploring the meaning of: “Church” …
It is common these day’s to hear Catholics Laity referred to as “the church.” The Biblical reference for this is from: 1st. Peter 2: 5 “and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Some have taken this passage too literally; and have used this message-platform to usurp power and positions rightly reserved to the ordained Clergy. The Church, and therefore; “we“, are better served by understanding that we are “The Mystical Body;” [Spirit of the Church] and “The Church Militant.” [Defenders of the Church and our Faith.] We represent our Faith by our visible practice of it; and our visible Godly commitment; by knowing our Faith; living it and defending it in truth and charity, when called to do so. If a non-catholic or a non-Christian came into our church; would they even suspect that Christ is Present?…. In many, Not likely,…. No, we can’t do it “all;”…. but are we part of the problem; or part of the solution?
In truth; “we are the church” ONLY when we represent her holiness, Her Goodness and manifest Her charity. QUOTE: “The Church’s Eucharistic faith“: SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS; [Sacrament of Love] OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI …
6. “The mystery of faith!” With these words, spoken immediately after the words of consecration, the priest proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding. The Eucharist is a “mystery of faith” par excellence: “the sum and summary of our faith.” The Church’s faith is essentially a Eucharistic faith, and it is with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: “faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith.” For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church’s life: “thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!” The more lively the Eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church’s very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord’s Eucharistic presence among his people.” …. END QUOTE Precisely because of this reality; Catholics; similar to the Apostles are personally called by God; and are given a mission and the grace to fulfill it. “Seek and you shall find” it. Mark.4: 24-25 “And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
My comments will include a few quotes from This Months “Adoremus Bulletin” [March 2011]]; from an article entitled: “Sacred Architecture: Encountering the Beauty and Mystery of God:” By his Eminence, Cardinal Justin Rigali. Currently Archbishop of Philadelphia. In addition, he is a member of several Roman- Curia departments; including the “Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.” I will show his quotes in Bold Print.
I’d like to begin with a quote intended for “The Church Building,” but very much inline with our first category: “Church.” …“The mystery which we gather to reflect upon today is at once timely and timeless. Timely, as Aime’-Georges Martimort has noted, “In our day the faithful have greater difficulty in achieving prayerful recollection and a sense of God’s presence.” At the root of this difficulty is a crisis, a contemporary crisis that surrounds the sacred. …”
While the reference is specifically applied to “church buildings,” I think it is far more than just church architecture that is greatly influenced in the realm of all that touches us, and the practice of our Catholic Faith. “Secular – Humanism“, founded on Pride, [“I know more and or; I know better”] is manifested in many evil ways proving that Satan is real; is present; and is effective in turning a great many away from God. Even the Faithful are under constant attack. In the past fifty years; “Fallen away Catholics” have blossomed into the second largest “religious” group in America.
Lev.11: 44 …“For I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” … Mt. 5:48 “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect“.
In this one verse; we are taught the entire “Spiritual Message” of the entire bible. 1. ‘I AM God [there is no other: Exo. 34-14] 2. Dedicate yourself’ to Me 3. Be holy because I am Holy. This is impossible without confronting God, and also, permitting God to confront you!
Few if any of us have not heard about the necessity of having a “personal relationship with God.” But are you aware that God desires this far more than the most ardent believer? This fact is proven by our being a Creation of God; “in God‘s Image“ [Gen. 1:26]. To this possible end, God gives us [and only humanity] the attributes necessary to accomplish this. A Mind; a Intellect; a FREEWILL, and all these are intricately and permanently connected to our Souls. We are able to “love,” which no other creation of God can do. …Isaiah 43: 7-8 “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” “Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!” and … Isaiah 43:21” the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise“.
1844 “By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).”
2658 “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Prayer, formed by the liturgical life, draws everything into the love by which we are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he has loved us. Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. In the words of the Cure of Ars
“ I love you oh my God, and my only desire to love you with every breath of my life.
my infinitely lovable God I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you.
I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally …. God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.”
In an Absolute Sense each of us must confront God, both on His Terms; and in a manner suitable to who we are; what we are, and where we are. What this means is that as a first step, we must do a “self-inventory” on our spiritual status. Where am I now? What areas can I make improvement in? What do I need to do to grow closer to my God? The second step is to “write a plan of action.” Start small; when you have accomplished your goal; then set another one. ONE ATTAINABLE goal at a time. Take it seriously, and WORK at it. It would be a mistake to commit to something you can’t or would not do for a very long time. The key is to BE SUCCESSFUL and accomplish the goals you set for yourself. If you fail; ask God for more help and try again…. Small goals, build success; and success builds spiritual character …. Rom.5: 1-5 “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us“. Putting it in writing tends to cement the obligation..
Not only must we confront our God; but we must also confront ourselves. This self-evaluation MUST be candid, frank and sincere; if we are to benefit from the experience and Grow Closer to our God. SMALL steps will get us there much quicker than jumping around. Expect no improvement, no spiritual growth without prayer and without occasional personal sacrifices. When you hear of Catholics being referred to As “the church;” think about this as “what we ought to be perceived as being, by the way we live our life’s,” … we are to be the “light on the hillside for all to see.”
It is always best to “meet God; where God Is.”…. spend some time in adoration on a set basis. But God is also where “we-are;“ when we are in the state of Grace. A more regular use of the Sacraments would be a GREAT benefit to your Spiritual growth. Regular Confession, daily Mass if possible for you [even once a week], and Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. A disciplined prayer life is also critical. One of my favorite Saints: Saint Peter Julian Eymard has this to share about prayer: “PRAYER is the distinguishing characteristic of the Catholic Religion; it is the sign of the soul’s holiness; indeed it is its holiness. It both makes holy and is the first evidence of holiness. When you see someone living a life of prayer, you may say: “THERE GOES A SAINT”. “
One additional thing we all might be mindful of is: What kind and how much light is my personal living -witness giving to those who know that “I am a Catholic”, and those who might guess that we Love Jesus, by the way we live our life, and our faith?…..Matt.5: 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house…. Matt.6: 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light;
What and where we are currently is of far less important than where we choose to be and are willing to pay the price necessary to attain….. Ps.17: 13 “Arise, O LORD! confront them, overthrow them! Deliver my life from the wicked by thy sword,” [Grace.].
Go back now and reread that quote from 1st. Peter, above in the first paragraph, and take note of the fact that he speaks of a ‘”spiritual” house; not “Thee House / Thee church,” but a likeness of Her. Amen!
Our Catholic Church is Know and distinguished by “Four Marks,” four independent but related charactaristics.
1. She Is “One”, 2. She is “Holy” , 3. She is “Catholic” and 4. She is “Apostolic” What do these charisteristics actually mean?
865 The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,” already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him in love,” will be gathered together as the one People of God, the “Bride of the Lamb,” “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.” For “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
1. “One” Nowhere in the entire WORD of God, the Bible can we find a desire by Yahweh or Jesus Christ for belief in more than One God [Triune], One Faith [set of beliefs to be held and followed, and only One organization [Temple in the OT and “Church” in the NT]. … Mt. 16:18-19 “ And I [Jesus] tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, [SINGULAR] and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you [have now given you] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, [ALL access to heaven] and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [This is the power to make, enforce or void laws and commands, and Teach with Authority.]
2. “HOLY” we speak here of the Church “Herself” as a separate and living entity. The CHURCH CANNOT SIN, although her members can. She is the Bride of Christ, and like Christ is both Perfect* and Holy. “Perfect*” when ever she teaches on matters of Faith beliefs and or Morals. She [the Church is literally incapable of error in these TWO AREAS.] … John 14: 16-17 “ And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever,
even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” … John 17:15-19 “ I [Jesus] do not pray that thou should take them out of the world, but that thou should keep them from the evil one. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” Later Christ would use these identical words to Initiate the Founding of the CC. Note the transfer f Godly power and authority. Then Note that Christ literally gives HIMSELF as warranty for Her Truths. No other religion, faith or church is actually founded by God [Jesus Christ Himself] except for His Catholic Church. Nor has any other faith or church been promised the Holy Spirit as Guardian and protector of Her Truths. Only the Catholic Church.
3. “Catholic” The Church as we know it today was first termed “The Way.” …. How and why the name: ‘The Way” came into use… Matt.22: 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Hero’di-ans, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. Mark.1: 3 “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight — ” … John 14: 6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” …. Acts.24: 14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets,”
Next we were called “Christians” Acts.11: 26 “and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians” [around 80 to 90 A.D.], then in 110 AD the term ‘Catholic” was first used by Saint Ignatius of Antioch
The Word means “Universal.” And is necessary because of the mandate Jesus Gave to the Apostles. Matt. 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
4. She is “Apostolic” [from our catholic catechism]
857 “The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,” the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:
You are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son. . . .”