- What does it mean to be catholic?
- What are the four marks of the catholic church?
- Why are they important?
The catholic church defines professes itself to be the one true church founded by Jesus Christ. A church which exists not just here on earth in material form but also in the Heavens and is the connection between women and men here on earth and our celestial home among the angels and saints. The catholic church is said to be marked by four characteristics or more commonly called marks:
“This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities. Catechism of the Catholic Church
The catholic church is singled out with four marks; one, holy, catholic and, apostolic.
The church is said to be one:
813 The Church is one because of her source: “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” The Church is one because of her founder: for “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body.” The Church is one because of her “soul”: “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.” Catechism of the Catholic Church
The church is said to be holy:
823 “The Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. 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.” The Church, then, is “the holy People of God,” and her members are called “saints.”
824 United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. “All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God.” It is in the Church that “the fullness of the means of salvation” has been deposited. It is in her that “by the grace of God we acquire holiness.” Catechism of the Catholic Church
The church is said to be catholic:
831 …the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:
All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one…. 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. Catechism of the Catholic Church
And the church is said to be apostolic:
857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,” The witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, The “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:
You are the eternal Shepherd
who never leaves his flock untended.
Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always.
You made them shepherds of the flock
to share in the work of your Son…. Catechism of the Catholic Church
Anglo-Catholics claim to be part of the catholic church because they posses all of the same marks of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and other particular churches within the catholic fold. However, because members take particular issue with certain social and administrative teachings of the Roman church, and importantly to Roman Catholics, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, Anglo-Catholics are not welcomed within the catholic fold by the Roman church. Be that as it may, an everlasting plank of Anglo-Catholicism and indeed the entire Church of England (even while under Roman approval) was a connection to the universal catholic church via apostolic succession, holiness, and oneness. A professing of the common creeds, adherence to common patristic councils and a common liturgy albeit in the English tongue had always been accepted traits of a catholic church in union.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums it up pretty well in the final articles on the subject:
866 The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope (Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome.
867 The Church is holy: the Most Holy God is her author; Christ, her bridegroom, gave himself up to make her holy; the Spirit of holiness gives her life. Since she still includes sinners, she is “the sinless one made up of sinners.” Her holiness shines in the saints; in Mary she is already all-holy.
868 The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is “missionary of her very nature”.
869 The Church is apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14). She is indestructible (Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.
870 “The sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, . . . subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines”. Catechism of the Catholic Church