CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Why is the Church holy?
The Church is holy, not because all her members are supposedly holy, but rather because God is holy and is at work in her. All the members of the Church are sanctified by Baptism.

Whenever we allow ourselves to be touched by the Triune God, we grow in love and become holy and whole. The saints are lovers not because they are able to love so well, but because God has touched them. They pass on the love they have received from God to other people in their own, often original way. Once God takes them home, they also sanctify the Church, because they “spend their heaven” supporting us on our path to holiness.

Why is the Church called catholic?

“Catholic” (Greek kat’ holon) means related to the whole. The Church is catholic because Christ called her to profess the whole faith, to preserve all the sacraments, to administer them and proclaim the Good News to all; and he sent her to all nations.

Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
Anyone who, in union with the Pope and the bishops, is united to Jesus Christ through profession of the Catholic faith and reception of the sacraments is in full communion with the Catholic Church. [836-838]

God willed one Church for all. Unfortunately we Christians have been unfaithful to this wish of Christ. Nevertheless, even today we are still deeply united with one another by our faith and common Baptism.

What is the relation between the Church and the Jews?
Jews are the “older brethren” of Christians, because God loved them first and spoke to them first. Jesus Christ as man is a Jew, and this fact unites us. The Church recognizes in him the Son of the living God, and this fact separates us. In awaiting the final coming of the Messiah we are one.

The Jewish faith is the root of our faith. The Sacred Scripture of the Jews, which we call the Old Testament, is the first part of our Sacred Scripture. The Judeo-Christian concept of man and morality, which is informed by the Ten Commandments, is the foundation of Western democracies. It is shameful that for hundreds of years Christians were unwilling to admit this close relation to Judaism and for pseudo-theological reasons helped foment an anti-Semitism that all too often had lethal effects. During the Holy Year 2000, Pope John Paul II expressly asked forgiveness for this. The Second Vatican Council clearly states that the Jews as a people cannot be charged with any collective guilt for the crucifixion of Christ.

How does the Church view other religions?
The Church respects everything in other religions that is good and true. She respects and promotes freedom of religion as a human right. Yet she knows that Jesus Christ is the sole redeemer of all mankind. He alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” (Jn 14:6)

Whoever seeks God is close to us Christians. There is a special degree of “affinity” to the Muslims. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is one of the monotheistic religions (monotheism). The Muslims, too, revere God the Creator and Abraham as their father in faith. Jesus is considered a great prophet in the Qur’an; Mary, his Mother, as the mother of a prophet. The Church teaches that all men who by no fault of their own do not know Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and follow the voice of their conscience can attain eternal salvation. However, anyone who has recognized that Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” but is unwilling to follow him cannot find salvation by other paths. This is what is meant by the saying, Extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside of the Church there is no salvation).

What happened on Pentecost?
Fifty days after his Resurrection, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit down from heaven upon his disciples. The age of the Church began.

On Pentecost the Holy Spirit transformed fearful apostles into courageous witnesses to Christ. In a very short time, thousands had themselves baptized: it was the birthday of the Church. The miracle of the languages on Pentecost shows that the Church is there for all peoples from the very beginning: She is universal (= the Latin term for the Greek kat’ holon, catholic) and missionary. She speaks to all men, overcomes ethnic and linguistic barriers, and can be understood by all. To this day the Holy Spirit is the “soul” of the Church, the essential principle of her life.

What does the Holy Spirit do in the Church?
The Holy Spirit builds up the Church and impels her. He reminds her of her mission. He calls people into her service and sends them the necessary gifts. He leads us ever deeper into communion with the Triune God.

Even though the Church during her long history has often seemed “abandoned by all good spirits,” the Holy Spirit has been at work in her despite all the human failings and inadequacies. The mere fact of her two-thousand-year existence and the many saints of all eras and cultures are the visible proof of his presence. The Holy Spirit is the one who maintains the Church as a whole in the truth and leads her ever deeper into the knowledge of God. It is the Holy Spirit who works in the sacraments and brings Sacred Scripture to life for us. Even today he gives his gifts of grace (charisms) to those who are completely receptive to him.

What does the Holy Spirit do in my life?
The Holy Spirit makes me receptive to God; he teaches me to pray and helps me to be there for others.

Augustine calls the Holy Spirit “The quiet guest of our soul.” Anyone who wants to sense his presence must be quiet. Often this Guest speaks very softly within us and with us, for instance, in the voice of our conscience or through other interior and exterior promptings. Being a “temple of the Holy Spirit” means being there, body and soul, for this Guest, for God in us. Our body is therefore God’s living room, so to speak. The more receptive we are to the Holy Spirit in us, the more he becomes the master of our life, the sooner he will bestow on us even today his charisms for the upbuilding of the Church. And so, instead of the works of the flesh, the fruits of the Spirit grow in us.

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