Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Church is Catholic

http://worldchristianchurches.blogspot.comWe have used the term 'Catholic' so many times in our lives that we have tend to take it for granted. Since words are of the most importance, it seems necessary to look more carefully at this very important word in our vocabulary.

It is generally acknowledged that the word Catholic Church first appears in the writings of the apostolic father, St. Ignatius of the Antioch, in his Letter To the Smyrnaeans in the year 110 A.D. The context of the use of these terms is as follows: Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#830) states: The word catholic means universal, in the sense of according to the totality or in keeping with a whole. The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in ther. Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church (St. Ignatius). In her subsists the fullness of the Christ's body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him the fullness of the means of salvation which he has been willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and the ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of the Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

Secondly, the Church is catholic (#831) because she has been sent out by the Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race. Wherever the faithful gathered united under their pastors the universal Church is made present. Hence, in the Sacramento the universal or "Catholic" Church gathers and celebrates, teaches and serves. As the Catechism (#834) states: Particular Churches [i.e., dioceses] are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome which presides in the charity. For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in the accord. Indeed, from the incarnate Word's descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and then hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior's promise, the gates of hell have never been prevailed against her. It is through union with Rome--obedience to the bishop of Rome, the pope--that full incorporation into the church that in Christ instituted upon "Peter" is guaranteed. The Holy Father is the guarantor of unity, and it is through faithful obedience and union with his office and his teaching that the church's unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity are guaranteed.

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