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 AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
The chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and indefectibility.
These attributes are qualities or characteristics perfecting the nature of the Church.
By the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops, as the lawful successors of the Apostles, have power from Jesus Christ Himself to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters. Authority is the power one person has over another, such that he can exact obedience justly. Thus rulers have authority over subjects; parents over their children; teachers, over pupils, etc.
Christ appointed the Church to teach whatever He taught: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Christ taught, as in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ appointed the Church to sanctify the faithful, by administering the means of grace to its members. Christ dispensed the means of grace, as when He forgave Mary Magdalen, gave His flesh and blood at the Last Supper, and blessed little children.
Christ appointed the Church to govern with authority and jurisdiction.Christ was the pastor or ruler of men. He gave commandments, sent the disciples on missions, instructed them, reproved the Pharisees.
Christ gave the Church full authority and power, saying, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). As a father who goes away on a journey leaves all his power and authority to the mother, so Christ upon leaving the earth gave to His Church full power and authority to carry on His work. “He who hears you, hears Me; and he who rejects you, rejects Me” (Luke 10:16).
The authority of the Church is not restricted to matters of doctrine and belief, but to whatever is necessary for the good of the Church and its members. Thus the Church lays down laws concerning fast and abstinence, Sundays and holy days of obligation, worship, and administration of the sacraments.
The members of the Church must observe whatever laws and regulations it makes. Authority in some form is necessary for every organization; without it members could not be directed to their common purpose.
Every society lays down rules for its members. Those who do not wish to keep them are excluded from it. Without authority the Church could not fulfill its divine purpose. The denominations that broke from the unity of the Church denied its authority. Having no head to obey, they split and re split into hundreds of denominations.
The Church exercises her authority to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful by various means, among them being:
- Teaching by sermons and by religious classes in schools and parishes.
Today the Church teaches by preaching, by deciding controversies, and by condemning wrong teaching. Parish churches have sermons in the Masses of Sundays and holy days of obligation. Every Catholic school prescribes the study of religion in every class. Every parish holds catechetical classes.
- Sanctifying by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by the sacraments, by blessings, and by special devotions held in the Churches.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by Our Lord Himself, is the great act of worship of the Church, the source of grace to sanctify the faithful. The sacraments are means of grace by which we obtain help to become more holy children of God.
- Governing by the commandments of the Church, by other laws ordered from time to time as need arises, and from the general control by bishops in the dioceses.
In her capacity as ruler, the Church makes regulations forbidding what is dangerous or sinful, as when she prohibits the reading of dangerous books and magazines. All members of the Church are under a strict obligation to obey her laws and regulations; disobedience to the Church is disobedience to Him Who authorized her rule, Jesus Christ, God.
Tomorrow: The Infallibility of the Church