Author: Vincent

What are the Four Marks of the Church?

What are the Four Marks of the Church?

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Marks of the Church

In the Nicene Creed, we profess, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”:  these are the four marks of the Church.  They are inseparable and intrinsically linked to each other.  Our Lord Himself in founding the Church marked it with these characteristics, which reflect its essential features and mission.  Through the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church fulfills these marks.

First, the Church is one.  The Catechism notes that the Church is one for three reasons: first, because of its source, which is the Holy Trinity, a perfect unity of three divine persons– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; second, because of its founder, Jesus Christ, who came to reconcile all mankind through the blood of the cross; and third, because of its “soul,” the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the souls of the faithful, who unites all of the faithful into one communion of believers, and who guides the Church (#813).

The “oneness” of the Church is also visible.  As Catholics, we are united in our Creed and our other teachings, the celebration of the sacraments, and the hierarchical structure based on the apostolic succession preserved and handed on through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  For example, whether one attends Mass in Alexandria, San Francisco, Moscow, Mexico City, or wherever, the Mass is the same– the same readings, structure, prayers, and the like except for a difference in language– celebrated by the faithful who share the same Catholic beliefs, and offered by a priest who is united to his bishop who is united to the Holy Father, the Pope, the successor of St. Peter.

In our oneness, we do find diversity:   The faithful bear witness to many different vocations and many different gifts, but work together to continue the mission of our Lord.   The various cultures and traditions enrich our Church in their expressions of one faith.  In all, charity must permeate the Church, for it is through charity that the members are bound together and work together in harmonious unity.

The Church is also holy.  Our Lord Himself is the source of all holiness:  “The one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in His body which is the Church” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #14).   Christ sanctifies the Church, and in turn, through Him and with Him, the Church is His agent of sanctification.  Through the ministry of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord pours forth abundant graces, especially through the sacraments.  Therefore, through its teaching, prayer and worship, and good works, the Church is a visible sign of holiness.

Nevertheless, we must not forget that each of us as a member of the Church has been called to holiness.  Through baptism, we have been freed from original sin, filled with sanctifying grace, plunged into the mystery of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, and incorporated into the Church, “the holy people of God.”  By God’s grace, we strive for holiness.  The Second Vatican Council exhorted, “Every Catholic must therefore aim at Christian perfection and, each according to his station, play his part, that the Church, which bears in her own body the humility and dying of Jesus, may daily be more purified and renewed, against the day when Christ will present her to Himself in all her glory without spot or wrinkle” (Decree on Ecumenism, #4).

Our Church has been marked by outstanding examples of holiness in the lives of the saints of every age.  No matter how dark the times may have been for our Church, there have always been those great saints through whom the light of Christ radiated.  Yes, we are frail human beings, and at times we sin; yet, we repent of that sin and continue once again on the path of holiness.  In a sense, our Church is a Church of sinners, not of the self-righteous or self-assured saved.  One of the beautiful prayers of the Mass occurs before the Sign of Peace: “Lord, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church.”  Even though poor frail individual members of the Church fail and sin, the Church continues to be the sign and instrument of holiness.

The Church is also catholic.  St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 100) used this word meaning “universal” to describe the Church (Letter to the Smyrnaens).  The Church is indeed Catholic in that Christ is universally present in the Church and that He has commissioned the Church to evangelize the world– “Go therefore an make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Moreover, we must not forget that the Church here on earth– what we call the Church militant– is united to the Church triumphant in Heaven and the Church suffering in Purgatory.   Here is the understanding of the communion of saints– the union of the faithful in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth.

Finally, the Church is apostolic.  Christ founded the Church and entrusted His authority to His apostles, the first bishops.  He entrusted a special authority to St. Peter, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, to act as His vicar here on earth.  This authority has been handed down through the Sacrament of Holy Orders from bishop to bishop, and then by extension to priests and deacons: this continuous handing on of the authority given to the apostles by the Lord is known as “apostolic succession.”  If possible, any could trace his apostolic succession as a bishop back to one of the apostles.  When a bishop ordains men as priests for a diocese, he does so with the authority of apostolic succession, and those men in turn share in the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  No bishop, priest, or deacon in our Church is self-ordained or self-proclaimed; rather, he is called by the Church and ordained into the apostolic ministry given by our Lord to His Church to be exercised in union with the Pope.

Why is church sacred?

Why is church sacred?

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The Sacredness of the Church

According Joseph Ratzinger

Even the staunchest opponents of sacred things, of sacred space in this case, accept the Christian community needs a place to meet, and on that basis they define the purpose of a church building in a non-sacral, strictly functional sense. Church buildings, they say, make it possible for people to get together for the liturgy. This is without question an essential function of church buildings and distinguishes them from the classical form of the temple in most religions. In the Old Covenant, the high priest performed the rite of atonement in the Holy of Holies

I hope all of us have special places in our life. It might be where, as a child, we built a fort or a dollhouse. It might have been that cozy chair where we learned to enjoy mystery stories. It might have been where we had that first kiss. Special places are memorable.

But, what makes a place more than that? What makes a place sacred””really holy? That is to say, what makes it set apart? What makes it somehow blessed?

Sacred places are where we meet something beyond ourselves. They are not always conventionally religious places. I think of the beaches of Normandy, or even many of the battlefields of the Civil War. Men lost their lives in those places; they gave up everything they had, for a cause. It is their very devotion, a devotion to something beyond their individual comforts and their future successes, that has made those bloody places holy. Sacred places are costly places.

I think of awesome places outside our comfortable homes that we call holy. Wide beaches, where our eye meets the mystery of the horizon. Mountain views, where the clouds move constantly into new and mesmerizing configurations. And, of course, I think of churches. 

Traditionally, of course, churches are expected to be holy. Even if one is not traditional, one thinks of churches as holy. Even a non-churchgoer expects to walk into a church and feel something different, even if he or she has never been there before.

And they are. Churches are holy. Our Cathedral of St. Philip is sacred. But our building, our sacred space, is not holy only because of expectation or architecture or silence or time apart.

Our cathedral is holy because holy things have happened there. And the buildings know it. Those events and experiences are real; they make a difference. At the Cathedral, people’s births have been celebrated, and their deaths have been mourned. At the Cathedral, we have rejoiced in good and boisterous times; and we have been disappointed with pain and betrayal.

In churches, prayers have been offered. Weddings and meals have been offered. Even bitterness and anger have been offered. All those offerings make the actual, physical place holy. The actual physical place has provided the space for our human struggle to meet divine grace. 

Every time you offer a prayer at the Cathedral of St. Philip, you help make the place holy. Every time you rejoice here, every time you cry here, you make the place holy. And every time it costs you to be here, you are consecrating this space. Yes, holiness costs something; it always does. Holy places occur when we have paid something, when we have given something, when we have left something of ourselves here. Thus, as always this time of year, I ask you to give financially; if you want to know holiness, give something.

The synagogue, in its shrine of the Torah, contains a kind of Ark of the Covenant, which means it is the place of a kind of “real presence.” Here are kept the scrolls of the Torah, the living Word of God, through which he sits on his throne in Israel among his own people. The shrine is surrounded, therefore, with signs of reverence befitting the mysterious presence of God. It is protected by a curtain, before which burn the seven lights of the menorah, the seven-branch candlestick. Now the furnishing of the synagogue with an “Ark of the Covenant” does not in any way signify the local community has become, so to speak, independent, self-sufficient. No, it is the place where the local community reaches out beyond itself to the Temple, to the commonality of the one People of God as defined by the one God. The Torah is in all places one and the same. And so the Ark points beyond itself, to the one place of its presence that God chose for himself—the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. This Holy of Holies, as Bouyer puts it, remained the “ultimate focus of the synagogal worship”

In a few days, we will invite the homeless of Atlanta into our sacred space. We will remember those who have died on the streets of Atlanta at our annual Requiem Eucharist for the Homeless, on November 1, All Saints Day. If you have not been part of this dramatic evening, you should come and offer something. The homeless do. They bring their struggle, and their pain, and they even make financial offerings at the Offering; they give what they have. In so doing, their prayers too, and their lives, become part of what makes the Cathedral of St. Philip a sacred place. Welcome them on November 1. Together, all of us, continue to make this a sacred place.

9 interesting things you don’t know about the Catholic leader

9 interesting things you don’t know about the Catholic leader

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Pope Francis

This was when Pope was an ordinary man. Before becoming a Pope, he was like any of us though till now. He has history and very funny one. Read and enjoy and not to be discouraged but to emulate his decision to serve God and become one of the most respected person in the world.


Did you know the Pontiff likes pop music and used to be a bouncer at a nightclub?

Pope Francis is the leader of the Roman Catholic church.

This makes him one of the world’s biggest figures, still, there is a lot most people do not know about him.

Here are nine interesting things you have never heard about Catholic leader.

Pope Francis is not his real name

Many years ago, the Pope was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Shocker, right?

He was on December 17, 1936, to parents, Mario and Regina (Sivori) Bergoglio.

Note —  this is not so strange because it is a normal tradition in the Catholic church for Popes to get a new name once they are appointed.

His current name pays homage to a Saint

Upon appointment, popes get to choose their own name. Pope Francis chose to pay homage to St. Francis of Assisi of Italy.

He is a well-known servant to the poor, who was born into a wealthy home but chose to devote himself to helping the poor in Rome.

Fun fact- This pope is the first one to choose St. Francis as his namesake.

He does not hate gay people

Four years ago, the Pontiff caused a controversy when he did not outrightly condemn homosexuality.

During an interview with reporters, he shocked people by saying, “Who am I to judge?” in reference to gay people.

He continued by saying: “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They should not be marginalized.”

Officially, he is opposed to gay marriage and gay adoption. He was once quoted saying that same-sex marriage is “an attack on God’s plan.”

He likes pop music

Babble reports that the Catholic leader is a fan of One Direction. According to the pope, his favourite song is “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful,” adding that it is “a great pop tune with a killer hook.”

He used to be a bouncer

Once upon a time, Pope Francis worked as a nightclub bouncer. He did this to earn money as a student.

According to Express, this was before beginning his seminary studies.

After that, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1969, became Argentina’s provincial superior of the Society of Jesus from 1973 to 1979.

Next, he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, then a Cardinal in 2001 before finally becoming a pope.

He is quite funny

Being a pope is a serious job, one this Catholic leader approaches with a sense of humour.

Upon becoming pope, he reportedly told other cardinals, “May God forgive you for what you have done.”

His funny side was once photographed when he was seen trying on a red nose used by clowns.

Pope Francis used to be a romantic

Telegraph reports that he once wrote a love letter to a girl in his neighbourhood when he was 12 years old.

He said, “If I don’t marry you, I’m going to be a priest.” He was quoted saying, “She was one of a group of friends I went dancing with. But then I discovered my religious vocation.”

He has only one lung

This is due to an infection that he suffered as a young man.

He has had many firsts:

First and only pope to be on the cover of “Rolling Stone”,

To make a pop-rock CD,

To be-be honoured as “Person of the Year”,

10 Things to Know About Electing the Pope

10 Things to Know About Electing the Pope

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Catholic Popes- Pope Francis

1. Who will elect the new pope?

The next pope will be elected at a papal conclave, a meeting of the College of Cardinals. The authority of the pope as leader of the Catholic Church is based on the fact that he is the Bishop of Rome and successor to Peter. The Diocese of Rome includes the Vatican State and the city of Rome.

Since 1059 the election of the pope is reserved to the pastors of churches in either the Diocese of Rome or one of the seven adjacent (or suburbicarian) dioceses. When cardinals receive their red hats, they also become titular pastors (an appointment without formal authority) of a parish in the Diocese of Rome or in one of the suburbicarian dioceses adjacent to Rome. It is as titular pastors of these churches that they have the authority to elect the new pope.

2. How quickly will a new pope be elected?

After the death of a pope, there is a 15 day period to celebrate the funeral Mass and burial of the pope, as well as a period of mourning. Since Benedict XVI has not died, this period of mourning will not take place.

The death of a pope has been the usual time for the election of a new pontiff. The Cardinal Camerlengo, or Chamberlain, declares the death of the pope in the presence of the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, the Cleric Prelates, and the Chancellor of the Apostolic Camera. The Cardinal Camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman, the symbol of papal authority. Then the ring and the papal seal are destroyed before the College of Cardinals.

Although Benedict XVI has not died, his papal ring will be destroyed and his papal seal defaced.

3. Which cardinals are eligible to elect the pope?

Only cardinals under the age of 80 can be electors in the conclave. There will be 115 eligible cardinals in the 2013 conclave.

4. How will the conclave begin?

On the morning designated for the beginning of the conclave, the cardinal electors will celebrate the Eucharist in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the afternoon they will gather and process from the Pauline Chapel of the Palace of the Vatican to the Sistine Chapel, while singing Veni Creator Spiritus.

Upon arriving in the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will take an oath to defend the liberty of the Holy See, to keep all the proceedings secret, and to ignore any instructions they might have received from secular authorities on how to vote.

The cardinals will have to give up their cell phones and any other electronic devices. The Sistine Chapel will probably be swept, as it was in 2005, to discover if there are any electronic listening devices. While no devices were found in 2005, there have been instances in the past when reporters disguised as attendants to the cardinals were found in the chapel.

5. What is the process of balloting?

On the first afternoon of the conclave, the first ballot may be held. There can be as many as four ballots on each day following. Before voting on each ballot, the cardinals take an oath to follow the rules of the conclave.

If there is no one elected pope at the end of three days of balloting, the cardinals have a day of reflection and prayer. If there are seven more ballots without result, the process may be suspended once again.

The voting continues until a two-thirds majority is reached for a candidate. If there are more than 33 votes without an election, the pope may be chosen by a simple majority.

If a new pope is not elected in a ballot, the ballots are burned with chemicals that cause the smoke from the chimney to come out as black. Upon the election of the pope, the smoke from the ballots will be white, and bells will ring to announce a successful election.

6. What happens when a cardinal is elected pope?

When a cardinal has been elected, he is asked in Latin by the Cardinal Dean “Acceptasne electionem de te canonice factam in Summum Pontificem?” (“Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?”) The cardinal who is elected has the choice of saying “non accepto” (“I don’t accept”). If a cardinal does not intend to accept the papacy, he will explicitly state this before he receives a sufficient number of votes to become pope-elect. Cardinal Giovanni Colombo declared his intention not to accept the papacy in the conclave of 1978.

After the newly-elected pope accepts his election, the Cardinal Dean asks him about his papal name, saying in Latin: “Quo nomine vis vocari?” (“By what name do you wish to be called?”) After the papal name is chosen, the officials are readmitted to the conclave, and the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies writes a document recording the acceptance and the new name of the pope.

7. Who can be elected pope?

In theory, any baptized Catholic male can be elected pope. Current law states that he must be an ordained bishop. Only cardinals have been elected since the 15th century.

8. Can members of religious communities be elected pope?

Of the 115 electors for the next pope, 17 belong to religious communities, including Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, the Society of the Divine Word, and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (ex. Cardinal Francis George, OMI). Any one of these could theoretically be elected pope. One of the two Jesuit electors will not be attending the conclave due to health reasons.

Thirty-four popes have been members of religious orders. They include 17 Benedictines, six Augustinians, five Canons Regular, four Dominicans, four Franciscans, and two Cistercians.

9. How do popes choose their names?

Choosing a name is a personal decision. John XXIII chose his father’s name. John Paul I was the first to choose two names to honor his immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. John Paul II chose his name to show his esteem for John Paul I. Benedict XVI took the name to honor Benedict XV (pope from 1914 to 1922) and St. Benedict of Nursia, who founded and inspired the Benedictine monastic tradition in the Western Church.

10. Who’s in charge of the Catholic Church when there is no pope?

During the transition period, certain limited powers pass to the College of Cardinals. Vatican offices suspend activities until a new pope is elected. The Particular Congregation deals with the everyday matters of the Church.