Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
THE FOUNDATION AND MISSION OF THE CHURCH
The Holy Spirit preserves the Church from all error in its teaching; in times of danger, He raises up able defenders of its doctrines. Saint Athanasius defended the Church in the time of the Arian heretics; Pope Saint Gregory VII, during a period of great disorder; Saint Dominic, during the time of the Albigenses; and Saint Ignatius of Loyola, after the Protestant outbreak.
The Holy Spirit raises up saints in the Church throughout all generations.
The members of the Church strive to imitate its Divine Founder, and in all countries and all times it has produced saints, canonized and uncanonized, martyrs, confessors, hidden souls that burn with the love of God and their fellowmen. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables the Church to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the faithful in the name of Christ.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will teach you all the truth. For He will not speak on His Own authority, but whatever He will hear He will speak, and the things that are to come He will declare to you. He will glorify Me, because He will receive of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16: 13-14).
The Church must teach, otherwise men would not know the sacred truths taught by Jesus Christ. The Church must sanctify, bringing grace, otherwise men could not be saved. And the Church must rule, because Christ founded it as a society, which must have authority. The Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles to enlighten, strengthen, and sanctify them, so that they could preach the Gospel and spread the Church all over the world, “Guard the good trust through the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:14).
The power to sanctify is the power of orders; the power to teach and to rule is the power of jurisdiction.
With these powers -as can easily be seen in the Gospels- Christ gave His Apostles, and those who were to follow them, the power to bind and loose, to baptize, to forgive sin, to offer Holy Mass. By teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in the name of Christ it meant that the Church always does the will of its Divine Founder, Who remains forever its invisible Head.
The will of the Founder of the Church is fully expressed in the commission He gave to His Apostles just before His Ascension: “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” (Matthew 28:19).
During His public life Christ was a teacher, making His doctrines clear, as in the sermon on the mount. He appointed the Church to teach, saying: “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Today the Church continues to teach what He taught, by preaching, by deciding controversies, by condemning wrong teaching.
During life Christ dispensed the means of grace, as when He forgave Mary Magdalene, and when He gave His flesh and blood at the Last Supper. He appointed the Church to continue this office, to sanctify the faithful by administering the means of grace. The Church had power to forgive sins when He said: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23). It had power to say Mass when, after instituting the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, He said: “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11: 24-25). Today the Church exercises the priestly office in offering Mass, forgiving sins, administering the sacraments, etc.
Christ was the Good Shepherd, the pastor and ruler of men. He gave commandments, sent His disciples on missions, instructed them, and reproved the Pharisees. He appointed the Church to rule, with authority, saying: “He who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16). And “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in Heaven” (Matthew 18:18). The Church exercises this office by laying down precepts for all to observe, by reproving and correcting, by binding and loosening. Without this pastoral office and the corresponding duty of the faithful to obey, it would be impossible for the Church to keep going.
“And if he refuse to hear them, appeal to the Church, but if he refuse to hear even the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican” (Matthew 18:17). “Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishops, to rule the Church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).
Tomorrow: The Authority of the Church