Tag: Tenets of the Church

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.

Basic Tenets of Catholicism

Basic Tenets of Catholicism

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The center of the Catholic faith

The basic tenets of Catholicism are the fundamental beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.

Are you looking for a quick & simple guide to basic Catholicism? Here’s a primer on Catholic Church doctrine — the essential tenets of Catholicism.

The scope of these tenets of Catholicism

The four categories of the full content of the Catholics church:

  • Basic beliefs (the faith itself)
  • How to live (morality)
  • How Catholics worship (liturgy)
  • Prayer

This page and its related articles covers the first of those points — the tenets of Catholicism are the basics beliefs of the faith.

Other articles here at beginningCatholic.com cover the other three categories of the Catholic faith, as well as provide more information that’s important to the beginning Catholic. You can also look to other reliable guides for learning the faith — see my suggestions at the end of this article.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a full description of the tenets of Catholicism — the essential and basic beliefs in Catholicism. It defines the points of unity for Catholics. (Click here to read the tenets of Catholicism in the Vatican’s online Catechism.)Every Catholic should have a copy of the Catechism. You may not read it cover to cover, but you’ll want to use it as a reference for learning about your faith. (It is pretty readable, though, and a lot of ordinary Catholics do read it to get a full understanding of the tenets of Catholicism.)

There are more readable sources available.

At the end of this article is a list of other reliable guides to the Catholic faith. I strongly encourage you to read some of them!

  • Alan Schreck’s The Essential Catholic Catechism is my top recommendation for learning the basic beliefs in Catholicism.
  • Leo Trese’s The Faith Explained is a very close second to Schreck’s book. In fact, you should read both if you can do so: they are very different and complement each other quite well.
  • I’ve added detailed reviews of these books at the end of this article. Check them out!

Creeds: Summary of the faith

From its earliest days, the Church used brief summaries to describe an outline of its most essential beliefs.

These summaries are called “creeds”, from the Latin credo, meaning “I believe.” They are also called “professions of faith,” since they summarize the faith that Christians profess.

The Catholic Church uses two very old creeds regularly as a part of its liturgy and other prayers. There are a number of other Catholic creeds as well.

The older Apostles Creed is brief and simple. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church at Rome. (See Catechism, 194.)

The longer Catholic Nicene Creed contains some additional language explaining our belief in the Trinity.

Another ancient & traditional creed is commonly called the Athanasian Creed, since it was originally attributed to St. Athanasius, who died in 373 A.D. (This creed is no longer officially attributed to him.) It is also called the Quicumque vult, after its first words in Latin. This beautiful creed contains a detailed meditation on the nature of the Trinity.

RCIA; How long does it take to become Catholic?

RCIA; How long does it take to become Catholic?

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RCIA : The Process of becoming a Catholics

The process is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), so you may see that referenced. By adults, it includes anyone over about 8 years of age, but there are usually different groups for older children, teens, and adults.

For someone converting to Christianity, you will enter the Catholic Church by baptism at the Easter Vigil, the night before Easter Sunday. Normally the preparation process should take a minimum of one full year, sometimes longer or a little shorter depending on how long you have been thinking about this, what your understanding of Christianity is, etc. During this process you are known as a catechumen – one who is learning about the faith.

For someone who is already Christian, a variation is available. It is generally faster, and can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a year, depending on your tradition, background, etc. Normally you would be brought into full communion sometimes during the Easter season, but it could be any time of the year, really. During this process you are a candidate for full communion.

Strictly speaking, “conversion” is only for non-Christians becoming Christian. For candidates, as you are already Christian, you do not “convert”. But we don’t really have a handy name for the move.\

Whether there are any costs associated with the program is up to the individual parish, but most in my experience consider it a part of their core ministry and do not charge anything. Even if they do, the fee is never very large, and if it is in itself a barrier, would be waived.