"...and upon this rock
I will build my church"
If someone walked up to you and asked, “What is Catholicism?” How would you respond?
In today’s tech-savvy and sometimes short-attention-span world, coming up with a 140-character Tweetable answer would be tough. On top of that, many people—even those raised in the Catholic faith—never benefited from a solid understanding of the Christian faith. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
At the heart of asking “What is the Catholic Church” are several more paramount questions:
- Who is Jesus Christ?
- Why should I develop a relationship with Him?
- How do I best know Him, love Him, and serve Him?
- What was Christ offering me when he founded the Church?
Who is Jesus Christ?
Bishop Barron: Who is Jesus and what makes him unique?
What is the Catholic Church?
From Christ himself, through the 12 apostles and the earliest Christian community, the Catholic Church has for nearly 2,000 years stretched across the globe. Today more than a billion Catholics celebrate Mass in every country of the world.
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Why does God love you?
God loves you more than you know! Listen to this brief message from Fr. Mike to better understand why.
If you look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you’ll read that the Catholic Church is “The Church established by Christ on the foundation of the Apostles, possessing the fullness of the means of salvation which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession.”
More simply, Scripture describes four characteristics which are proclaimed in the Nicene Creed. These four characteristics are all found in the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
If you understand the four marks of the Church, that leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation on areas such as the Authority of the Church, Eucharist, Confession, Priesthood, Marriage, Family and more.
In Ephesians 4:4-5, St. Paul writes, “There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (emphasis added).
With so many references to being one, why is it that there are so many thousands of different religious denominations in the world? Some sources say that there are upwards of 40,000 different denominations since the Reformation, yet Catholicism has been there since Jesus Christ established His Church here on earth.
For hundreds of years the Catholic Church was one, just as Christ wished it to be.
“And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Jesus didn’t establish the Church so that there could be tens of thousands of fractures. He created the Church to be one flock under one shepherd.
Jesus goes on to pray in John 17:21 “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
For 2,000 years there has been one Catholic Church that Jesus Christ himself proclaimed would not be overcome by the gates of hell itself (Matthew 16:18).
Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.”
It is often said that the church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. But we are sinners called to sainthood.
But if one of the four marks of the Catholic Church is “Holy,” and the Church is made up of sinners, how can the Church claim to uphold that mark?
The answer is simple: Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, and we are one body of Christ. Given that Jesus is sinless and blameless and therefore Holy, the Church herself is holy.
The Church document Lumen Gentium says that, “This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.”
Even the early Church, the Church of the apostles, was holy despite being full of sinners, as well. The Great News is that Christ died on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins and that by his death and resurrection, we are redeemed and made holy.
So if you ever feel unworthy, if you ever feel like you’re no good and can never be worthy of God, you’re in good company! But also keep in mind that “unworthiness” pretty much defines every Christian who ever lived, and yet the Church remains holy because Christ is at the head.
“All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness.” (CCC 827).
The Catholic Church is led by Jesus Christ and guided by His Holy Spirit so that we would have the means to achieve holiness. Additionally, we are blessed with the gifts of the Sacraments themselves, with the Eucharist as the source and summit of them all, given to us by Jesus through the Church to provide the graces necessary to strengthen us in our spiritual journey to sainthood and make us holy.
The word Catholic means, in Greek, universal.
If you were to go to Sunday Mass anywhere in the world, you’d hear the same Scripture readings being proclaimed (albeit in the local language).
This is a universal practice of the Catholic faith.
But more than just commonalities in Scripture readings, the Catholic idea of “universal” has a much deeper meaning that simple global coordination of liturgical readings.
Universal in terms of Catholicism means “according to the totality” (CCC 830). Simply put, everything in the world is affected totally and completely by the Catholic Church.
To this point, it is hard to imagine an area of the world – hospitals, educational institutions, governments, families, businesses, social programs – that hasn’t been or currently isn’t affected in some way by the Catholic Church. This is because all these areas are rooted in various teachings of the Church and lead in various ways by members of the Body of Christ.
Whether you know a Catholic, are a Catholic, went to a Catholic school, or lived near a Catholic Church, few people can honestly claim to not have been affected by the universality of the Catholic Church.
Lumen Gentium states that, “The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.”
Poet George Santayana’s Reason in Common Sense says, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
From a Catholic perspective it could be rewritten to say, “Those who do not fully understand the early Church are at risk of losing the fullness of the Faith.”
When one embarks upon the incredible journey of learning about the early Fathers and Mothers of the Church, the great men and women who either knew Jesus Christ personally, or were the Christians in the first 4 centuries after His death and resurrection, it becomes hard to deny the sameness of the Catholic faith then as to today.
The way Christians lived out their faith, sought forgiveness for their sins, celebrated the Holy Mass, and the core tenets of their faith have remarkably similarities to those of Catholics today.
Logic would dictate that since the early Christians followed the apostles who were the original disciples of Jesus, that today’s Catholic Church would adhere to the same teachings.
And it does.
Pope Francis can trace his position back to St. Peter, the very first Pope to whom Jesus Christ said, “on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).
Like the mark of being “one,” the Church is apostolic in that it is impossible for the Church established by Jesus Christ to be fractured time and again and still retain the authority and unity of the one body.
The Catholic Church is the Church of the apostles. It is entirely apostolic.
Becoming Catholic is one of life’s most profound and joyous experiences. Some are blessed enough to receive this great gift while they are infants, and, over time, they recognize the enormous grace that has been bestowed on them. Others enter the Catholic fold when they are older children or adults. Let’s examine the joyful process by which one becomes a Catholic.
A person is brought into full communion with the Catholic Church through reception of the three sacraments of Christian initiation—baptism, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist—but the process by which one becomes a Catholic can take different forms.
A person who is baptized in the Catholic Church becomes a Catholic at that moment. One’s initiation is deepened by Confirmation and the Eucharist, but one becomes a Catholic at baptism. This is true for children who are baptized Catholic (and receive the other two sacraments later) and for adults who are Baptized, Confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at the same time.
Those who have been validly baptized outside the Church become Catholics by making a profession of the Catholic faith and being formally received into the Church. This is normally followed immediately by confirmation and the Eucharist.
Before a person is ready to be received into the Church, whether by baptism or by profession of faith, preparation is necessary. The amount and form of this preparation depends on the individual’s circumstance. The most basic division in the kind of preparation needed is between those who are unbaptized and those who have already become Christian through baptism in another church.
Having meaningful conversations about life and faith can be hard. At Alpha, everyone is invited to explore the Christian faith, ask questions and share their point of view. ALPHA for Catholics is coming in Fall 2018.
ChristLife equips Catholics for the essential work of evangelization so that all people might personally encounter Jesus Christ and be transformed into His missionary disciples. The ChristLife Evangelization Process is a relational way to make missionary disciples by helping people discover, follow, and share Jesus Christ. ChristLife partners with parishes, priests, clergy, religious, and lay leaders who are seeking to answer the Church’s call for the New Evangelization through a proven method of parish evangelization and outreach.
RCIA is a process of prayer, reflection, and learning that allows for the continual discernment of God’s will in our lives. No matter where you are on your faith journey, there is a place for you! The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process for adults.
Many people inquire about becoming Catholic for many different reasons. Phase one of the journey starts in the heart of the seeker and continues in a small inquiry group where questions are raised and discussed freely. RCIA is called a process because, like any faith journey, each one’s pace is unique.
The general process that the Catholic Church uses to initiate adults is based on the same process that the early Christians used during early centuries of Christianity. Full initiation takes place with the reception of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion.
Interested in beginning the RCIA Process?
Talks and Studies
Theology on Tap
Theology on Tap is a forum to encounter Truth and Beauty over a pint with friends! These popular monthly gatherings feature thought provoking speakers addressing questions fundamental to the hungers of the human heart.
Denver Catholic Biblical & Catechetical Schools
The Biblical School (4-year program) has assembled a first-rate team of experienced instructors who have a deep love for Scripture and the Catholic faith. Through lectures, small-group discussions and weekly coursework, master instructors will guide you through the Bible and demonstrate the relevance of God’s Living Word in the world today.
The Catechetical School (2-year program) places people in contact and communion with the Person of Christ, who alone leads us to the heart of the Father in the Spirit – in essence, making and maturing disciples. We do this through a prayerful, organic, and systematic presentation of the Catholic Faith, contained both in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (Catechism of the Catholic Church 80-82). This occurs in a setting that takes advantage of all the facets of effective adult learning: engaging lectures, small group dynamics, independent study, and personal application.
Word On Fire
Word on Fire is a Catholic media organization founded by Bishop Robert Barron that focuses on using digital and traditional media to explain Catholicism to the broader world. Check out the extensive library of online videos, blogs, articles, podcasts, study programs and more.
FORMED is a digital platform that provides access to video-based study programs, feature films, audio presentations and eBooks from the Church’s foremost presentations. Whether fallen away from the faith or deeply engaged, there is something for everybody.
Ascension Presents is an evangelistic online platform that has a ton of entertaining, faith-filled content brought to you by dynamic Catholic speakers. Check out their extensive library of online videos and podcasts.
Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Bishop Robert Barron
Rome Sweet Home by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
Why We’re Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope and Love by Trent Horn
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship with Jesus by Dave Nodar and Bert Ghezzi
Crossing the Tiber by Stephen K. Ray
Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed
Why I Am Catholic (and you should be too) by Brandon Vogt