Which Ones Are the Catholics
Question: Who are the
authentic Catholics? There are so many people, holding such varied opinions, who
claim to be Catholics. How can we distinguish those who are genuine from those
who are not? (P.L. Chicago)
There are four "marks" of the
Catholic Church, identified in the Creed, which distinguish It from all others.
The true Church is "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic." Its true
members possess characteristics as individuals that enable the Church to display
her "marks" as a society.
The Church is One. Catholics must seek the truth and
profess it to those around them. Only unity of belief in the truth can bring
about unity of purpose and unity of action. Our Lord describes Himself
as the Truth, the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.(1)
Without truth there is no Christ; without Christ there is no Church.
Catholics must be truthful and seekers of truth.
The Church is Holy. But, by nature, we are sinful people.
The Church offers us many avenues to holiness, many forms of life that
lead to God, and many ways to receive His graces. But central to any
attempt at holiness is the virtue of humility. Those that perceive
themselves as somehow better than others are destined to sin, just as
the devil was able to tempt Adam and Eve through their pride.(2)
Catholics must be humble.
The Church is Catholic. For the Church to be
Catholic, simply the Greek word for "universal," Her members must have
charity, the Greek word for "love." We will unite all nations under
the rule of Christ the King, only if we love God and only if we love our fellow
man for the love of God.(3) "Charity is not envious, is not pretentious, is
not ambitious, is not self seeking"; it has no room for schismatics making
others look bad so that they can look good.(4)
Catholics must be charitable.
The Church is Apostolic. Our Faith goes back to the
Incarnation and the Public Life of Christ. Catholics hold the Faith that has
come down to us from the Apostles, as though it were a jewel wrapped in silk.
"Even if an angel from heaven should preach a different Gospel, we would
not believe him."(5) They "stand firm and hold the traditions they
have learned from the Apostles."(6)
Catholics must be traditional.
Pope Saint Pius X is said to
have quizzed a group of seminarians studying in Rome as to how the Church might
be identified. They all responded with the traditional four "marks,"
but Pope Pius demanded another. One bright student added that "the Church
must be Roman." Another quickly added, "and loyal to the Popes."
The Saint smiled, perhaps condescendingly. "Yes, of course, to both the
good ones and the bad ones, but what else." No hands were raised. The
Pontiff himself supplied the answer:
This we learn from our Lord
Himself at the first Mass: "If you had been of the world, the world would
love its own: but because you are not of the world ... the world hateth you. If
they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you."(7)
But, our Lord would have us cherish this persecution as a beatitude:
"Blessed shall you be when men hate you, and when they shut you out, and
reproach you, and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice on that day and exult, for behold your reward is great in
heaven.... bless them that curse you and pray for those who lie about
Catholics will be persecuted.
(1) John xiv: 6; i: 1, 14, 17.
(2) Genesis iii: 5 "and you shall be as Gods.-"
(3) Mark xii: 30, 31. The two great commandments.
(4) 1 Corinthians xiii: 4-6.
(5) Cf. Galatians i: 8, 9.
(6) Cf. 2 Thessalonians ii: 14 (15).
(7) John xv: 19, 20. But John xiii through xvii are as much a consolation as a
forewarning of persecution. Everyone should read them once in a while.
(8) Luke vi: 22, 23, 28.