I believe in the Holy Catholic Church          (E.J.Tyler)

1. The Church  

Let us now consider the Church, since the Church is the abode and instrument of the Blessed Trinity here on earth. The Church - or the body of Christ’s faithful - has her origins in the eternal mind and saving plan of God which was to establish his Kingdom in which he would be all in all. This Kingdom which is God’s rule over the heart of sinful man was begun and established on earth by the life and death and resurrection of our Lord. Christ founded the Church to proclaim this Kingdom to all peoples, and to be its seed and its beginning here on earth. It will reach its perfection in the glory of heaven. The Church is holy because of the indwelling within her of the Blessed Trinity. The Father is her origin, Christ is her head, and the Spirit her animating soul. Through the power of God Christ the priest, prophet and king continues to abide in her and work through her as her Head. Because of this the Church is holy, and because of this the Church is a mystery. That is, in her visible reality there is present and active a divine reality which can only be perceived with the eyes of faith. Christ is present to us here on earth in and through the Church. This means that access to him and to all the means of salvation coming from him is available through, and only through, the Catholic Church which he founded and which is governed, by Christ’s intention, by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. It is very important for our spiritual life that we appreciate the necessity of the Church in God’s plan, and her indispensable connection with Christ. The one Church founded by Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, even though many elements - and at times a great many elements - of sanctification and truth can be found in the churches and ecclesial communities that do not enjoy full union with the Catholic Church. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ even though they enjoy only an imperfect communion with us.  It is the desire of the Holy Spirit that we do all we can to assist the movement towards full unity so that the fruits of holiness may be brought to all, and so that the world may believe.

2. The Church in our spiritual life 

 For these reasons, just as the thought of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit ought have a profound ongoing effect on our spiritual life, so too the fact and thought of the Church ought have a decisive effect. We live in the light of the most holy Trinity, so too we must live in the light of the Church, which is Christ’s direct creation and the work of the Holy Spirit. The classic Protestant position tends not to put much store on the Church, because, it is said, all the focus ought be on Christ. For much the same reason it tends to put little store on Mary - again, in order to give full attention to Christ. But Catholic teaching gives real importance to the Church, as to Our Lady. Christ is found precisely in the Church, and he exercises his saving work in time precisely through the Church his body. And so, while the Church is the people of God, it is not simply a people and nothing more. It is the body of Christ who is her head and the temple of the Holy Spirit who is  her soul. As said earlier, for this reason the Church is holy - because the Church is Christ’s body and the Temple of the Spirit. God’s abiding presence constitutes a fountain of holiness for us who are the Church’s members. Thus it is that we are able to attain sanctity. The Church is catholic because all the Church’s members are in the same Christ, and the same Christ is in the Catholic Church everywhere. As St Paul wrote, for me life is Christ. Because we are all in the one same Christ we are immersed in the one, holy and catholic - which is to say universal - Church of the ages and fully sharing in her universal mission. Of course, all people in various ways are related to the Catholic people of God just as all people have a relationship with Christ, though the relationship varies. So the Church is one, holy, catholic, and she is apostolic because she is built directly on the Apostles and not on any other founding individual. Built on the Apostles, the Church has the structure that our Lord conferred on the Church of the Apostles, such as its hierarchy.

3. The Church a hierarchy 

 The Church, then, is the direct creation of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and both Head and Soul constantly sustain her and all of us who are her members. Therefore we ought have a profound reverence for all that Christ chose to set in place as essential components of his Church. This extends to the Church’s constitution, which by the decision of our Lord is hierarchical. One of the most cataclysmic events in the history of the Church was the Protestant Reformation which formally broke out nearly five hundred years ago. It had been quite some time coming. Nearly a century and a half earlier in England John Wycliffe (1329-1384) wrote opinions  which were popularized by the Lollards and the Bohemian heretic John Huss and his followers. These opinions were condemned by the Church in the Council of Constance (1415) Their heretical views resurfaced a century later in Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others. Now, one of the views common to them and which ignited as a fire was the rejection of a hierarchical Church. The characteristic position taken by the those linked to the Protestant reformation was that Christ’s faithful share in Christ’s priesthood - which is Catholic teaching - but that all the baptized shared in this priesthood only in the same sense, that is to say, only in the same common priesthood. Whereas the Catholic Church taught and teaches that there are essentially different kinds of sharing in the priesthood of Christ. In that sense the Church is a hierarchical Church. The ministerial priesthood of ordained priests is essentially different from the common priesthood of the lay faithful. 

4. The common and ministerial priesthood  

The vast majority of the Church are the lay faithful. Within the body of Christ’s faithful who share in the priesthood of Christ, our Lord calls certain ones to an altogether special share in his priesthood, one that serves the people of God by representing and making present Christ the Head. This is the ministerial priesthood, the word ministerial meaning a priesthood that serves Christ’s faithful. The ordained priest serves by sanctifying, guiding and teaching the body of the faithful in their life in Christ. The Pope, the bishops and priests act in the service of the body of the faithful, with the bishops acting in communion with and under the Pope, and each priest acting in communion with and under the bishop. Very importantly, we ought have a deep reverence and love for the person of the Pope and the Bishops who are in communion with him. He, the Pope, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the Church’s unity, the Vicar of Christ who is the invisible foundation of the Church’s unity. By Christ’s intention he has full authority over the Church. He and the Bishops in union with him teach the Catholic Faith in the name of Christ. So we ought be profoundly docile to this teaching and constantly intent on knowing it. Pope Pius X once said that you cannot be holy if you do not love the Pope. At the same time the laity share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, but in their own way which is in certain essential respects quite different from that of the ordained hierarchy. They are called to light up and shape the temporal dimension of life and the world in which they live according to the plan of God, and offer themselves and the world of their work to God as a holy sacrifice. It is through the holy Eucharist and the daily sacrifice of their lives that they exercise their priesthood. In the ordinary circumstances of their lives and their word and example they proclaim prophetically the word of God to the world, and by the kingly power of Christ they overcome sin and live in holiness.

5. The Church a Communion 

  But above all, the Church is the communion of Christ’s faithful, with hierarchy, religious and laity sharing their life in Christ in a great communion. The Church is a communion in Christ. This communion embraces those now journeying here on earth, those of the faithful being purified in purgatory, and those faithful enjoying the vision of God in heaven. The communion of the Church embraces them all, because the Church consists of all those in Christ. First and foremost among the communion of the faithful is the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Christ the Son of God and mother and model of the entire Church. She is the help of Christians, helping us with her prayers and her example, and we the faithful call on her as our advocate and helper in all things.

6. The Church bring us the forgiveness of sins

In thinking of the holy Catholic Church we also think of what the Church brings us, which is the forgiveness of sins.  Sin is a fact of mysterious and vast proportions. Man’s original rebellion caused a profound trauma not only in the human nature Adam and Eve enjoyed and handed on to their descendants, but this trauma mysteriously affected the world as a whole. Man rebelled against God, and man’s lower nature now rebels against his higher, and the world tends to rebel against man. This itself shows forth the gravity and evil of sin. Sin is the most evil thing in the world. As we think of the God who loves us and who gave us life, and the world to be our home, and our calling to know, love and serve him here on earth in order to see and enjoy him forever in heaven, let us at the same time also think of our own sin and our sinfulness. Sin is the greatest wound we suffer from. It is the root cause of the evils and sufferings of life. The one important thing is that our sins be forgiven and taken away. For this reason a fundamental element of our Catholic Faith is the forgiveness of sins. If we wish to be holy we must have a profound appreciation of this doctrine.

7.  Christ died for our sins  

In large measure God has revealed himself and his saving plan because of the sin of the world. In his mercy he revealed himself because of our predicament. As St John writes in his Gospel, God sent his Son not to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through him. He came to take away the sin of the world and to give us the gift of his grace. Our Lord died on the Cross because of our sins. St Paul writes that Christ loved me and delivered himself up for me. He tells us (1 Corinthians 15:3) that “in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures”. St Luke at the end of his gospel gives us the words of our Lord himself, “So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations” (Luke 24:46). If we have scarcely any sense of personal sin and of the power of sin and its destructiveness, we shall not appreciate what Christ has done. Nor will we appreciate Christ our redeemer.

8. Baptism and Penance 

Now, it is through the Church that Christ brings us the forgiveness of sins. The Church has the mission and the power to forgive sins because Christ himself has conferred this power upon her. On the very day he rose from the dead he appeared to his Apostles and breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). This forgiveness of sins is brought to us at first in our baptism when all sin, original and personal, is taken away and we are placed in God. For those sins committed after Baptism, our Lord instituted the sacrament of Penance through which a baptized person is again reconciled with God and with the Church. Sin is our problem and it is the massive problem of the world. Christ has brought the answer to sin and it comes through the Church and especially every time we go to Confession. Let us then confess often.

9.  The Last Things  

 If we die in unrepented mortal sin, we are lost forever in the fires of hell with all the damned. If we die in the love of God, but with the effects of sin still staining our soul - as is likely - then God in his mercy will purify us in the fires of purgatory where we have the consolation of the certainty of heaven to come. Let us then make life everlasting the hope of all our days, remembering constantly the last things that must come to each of us. Each of us must die, then go before the judgment of God. That judgment is entirely personal and it will be impossible to avoid responsibility for all that we have done, thought, word, or deed. This individual judgment anticipates the final judgment at the end of time when we shall all together be definitively assigned the eternal place we have merited by our deeds in this very short life. Life is short, and eternity long. We must make sure that we, and as many as possible whom we can influence, gain the prize of heaven.

(CCC 747-1065)