My husband and I have been doing a Bible study with a friend of ours over the past few months. It has been such a great experience to sit down together, break open and discuss the chapter we have been reading, have dinner, and even play a few board games after if time allows. The fun and fellowship has been an amazing way to build relationship with one another, but most importantly, with Our Lord.
I have been realizing through this journey that we have had so far, how my relationship with the Lord has deepened and how and continues to grow. Through doing this Bible study, the reality really hit me that if I do not take measures for my faith to grow, it will instead gradually die. It is extremely disheartening that I have seen this all too much within my own family and friends, but also within myself at times. When I am not spending time with the Lord and taking measures to grow in my faith, my faith is weaker, but it grows stronger the more time I spend with Him and learn. I have seen the same in my own family and friends. I have seen too many family members and friends go from just regular Sunday churchgoers, to occasional ones, to not at all. I have also seen family and friends pick and choose over time what they believe “as a Catholic” based on their personal feeling and opinion, rather than seeking to come to know, understand, and embrace what the Church teaches and why. Slowly, they become increasingly lukewarm and give up any semblance of living the Faith.
I can recall personally wrestling with different tenants of my faith, everything from the Eucharist, to Sacramental marriage between one man and one woman, to not condoning abortion, etc, however I came to trust our Lord, and the Church He established, knowing He left His Church with the fullness of truth. This is key, for how can we seek the truth in the Church if we do not even believe that Jesus left us with the truth? From there, I sought to understand why He taught what He did. We are not to accept faith blindly, and so with faith coupled with reason, I researched, and read, and prayed, and came to the knowledge, understanding, and deeply held belief in the tenants of the Faith.
Truth be told, it was and is not always easy to push into our faith and learn rather than choose to reject because we disagree. We have a responsibility as Catholics to know our faith, but also to live it and grow in it, and share it. We cannot do this if we do not know it, and especially if we do not know Our Lord, or trust Him.
There are so many ways in which our faith can be deepened and can grow, and I encourage you to try to work one of these into your life, or some of them. You can go to Adoration, read the Catechism or scripture and/or do a Bible Study. For these, Catholic Biblical commentaries are invaluable! I’ve listed some resources below. You can also read and be inspired by the writings of the Saints, or other good Catholic literature, also links listed below.
Jesus once shared with us, in the Gospel of Matthew, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids:
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The oil of which they speak is the oil of faith, and only our faith in the Lord, will count for us in the end. But where do we get this oil? We get it from taking measures to get to know our Lord, through the prayer and Sacraments, and through study of scripture and the writings of the Saints, and by their example which we read about. May we all take measures to know Our Lord. God wants to to be with Him, but as He tells us, we need to seek to know Him too.
We are in wait. We have just celebrated Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and tonight we will hold vigil to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. At the Easter Vigil, whose who have spent time going to RCIA classes in preparation, will be baptized, confirmed, receive their first Holy Communion, or all three. It is an incredibly joyful time. This weekend, whether you attend the Easter Vigil, or attend Mass on Sunday, you will renew your baptismal promises. The Priest will ask in question and answer format the tenants of the Creed. Among these, we are asked if we believe in the Holy Catholic Church. Read the rest of this entry
Christ has declared the unity of the Church. Whoever parts and divides the Church cannot possess Christ …The House of God is but one, and no one can have salvation except in the Church.
– St. Cyprian
It is because of Christ that the Church has the four marks of being One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, which are the main features of the Church and her mission. She does not possess these characteristics on her own, but works to realize and maintain these qualities, just as Christ has called her to.
The Church is One
The Church is one because God is One in the Trinity of Persons. It is this unity that is the essence of the Church, and it will never be lost. The Church wants unity, not uniformity, and so the Church is also beautifully diverse, which is made possible by the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of the people who receive them. This unity can be seen in the Church by our common celebration of the faith, especially in the Sacraments, by profession of the faith, handed down to us by the Apostles, and also by Apostolic Succession.
It takes work to maintain unity in the Church, and this difficulty is visibly seen in heresy, apostasy, and schism, such as in the creation of the many churches outside of the one, true Church. These breaks wound the unity of the Church, Christ’s mystical body, and occur because of sin. Where there is virtue, however, there is unity, because in virtue, we become like Christ, and confirm ourselves to Him. We can work toward unity within our own families and the Church, through things like:
– Renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation
– Conversion of heart, leading us to pursue and live holy lives
– Common prayer with others
– A greater knowledge and care of one another
– Proper formation in the teachings of the Church
– Dialogue with others and evangelization
– Common service in the community
The Church is Holy
Just as the Church is one because God is One, the Church is also holy because Christ is Holy, and this too is something that will always remain. The Church, as the Bride of Christ, has become sanctified by Christ and His sacrifice, and so she has become a sanctifying Church, enabling us as the members of the Church to become holy. Although we all still struggle with sin, we are constantly on the path to holiness, especially through the sacraments. We are able to be sanctified through Christ in the Sacraments, initially through our Baptism, and particularly through confession and reception of the Most Holy Eucharist.
We are blessed to have the Saints, who, being canonized, provide us an example of the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to live holy lives, and give us hope in our own process of sanctification. In particular, we can look to the Blessed Mother, in whom the Church is already “all-holy” in her spotlessness.
Catholic means “universal” in the sense that it is “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is Catholic in two major ways. The first is that she is Catholic because Christ is present within her. To be Catholic is to be united to Christ through His mystical body, the Church. The Church is also Catholic because she has been commissioned to proclaim the Gospel to the entire human race, in order that all may become united in the Church.
The people who belong to the Church are those who accept all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, and who participate actively in Church life, primarily through the Sacraments, under the authority of the Pope and the bishops. This alone, however, does not grant one salvation. Salvation must also be gained through sanctification, through perseverance in charity. Those who are properly baptized, but not part of the Catholic Church, are still in an imperfect communion with the Church, where it would not take much to come into full communion. Those who have not yet received the Gospel are still related to the Church in varying ways.
The Church is Apostolic
The Church is apostolic in three ways. The first is that she was and remains built on the foundation of the Apostles. The second is that the Holy Spirit keeps the Church true to the teaching handed down from the Apostles, the “deposit of the faith.” The third is that the Church is Apostolic because she remains to be guided by the first Apostles through their direct successors, the college of bishops and priests, in union with the Pope.
The Apostles, and likewise the whole Church, have their mission given to them directly by Christ, whose mission was given to Him by the Father. Our Blessed Lord says in John 20:21 to the Apostles after His resurrection, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you,” and in Matthew 10:40, He says to the Apostles, “he who receives you, receives me.” One cannot accept Christ and despise the Apostles. In despising and not listening to the Apostles, one also does so to Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “the whole Church is apostolic because she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other Apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is “sent out” into the whole world.”
To have true peace and to attain salvation, we must know Christ and love Christ, who is the Head, and to know and love Him who is the Head, we must be united to the rest of His Mystical Body, the Church. May we all take the steps to become fully united to God, to get rid of the sin in our lives, and to become holy people.
The Church is rich with heavenly doctrine … sailing like a ship on the high seas of this world, preserving those who come to her safe and sound, while the world outside perishes.
– Bl. Pope Pius IX