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The Four Properties of the Church and their Relationship to Catholic Unity

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o summarize the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sacrament is fundamentally a visible sign of an invisible reality of Salvation. In his book, Introduction to the Mystery of the Church, De La Sojeole says: “The Church… is the sacrament of the Kingdom; she points to it and “contains” it in some way so as to give it” (De La Sojeole 320). The Catholic Church believes since the Fall of our first parents, the triune God has been working to gradually reveal Himself to us, as a parent would speak and act toward a child in slow and gradual ways, so as to draw us into His very life. The Church also holds fast to the startling claim that this charity and subjective ache for each human person in God’s very life reaches its climax when God Himself in Jesus Christ entered His own creation by taking unto Himself a human nature to redeem man through the Paschal Mystery and restore him to intimate communion with God. Jesus Christ takes unto His Divine Person a human nature with a created visible body; capable of words and deeds, and this human nature of His thus becomes an instrument of His work of Salvation. Our Lord Himself then is “the mystery of Salvation” (CCC 774) and “[t]he Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (CCC 775). The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium states “established by Christ as a communion of life, love and truth, it is taken up by him also as the instrument for the Salvation for all’ as the light of the world and the sat of the earth it is sent forth in the whole world” (LG 9).

In confessing the Church as a mystery and sacrament of Salvation in Christ, is to understand that she is composed of visible and invisible dimensions. As human persons, we can too easily forget that there is more to the Church than what our senses perceive. As human persons, we come to realize that what we know and understand in our intellect comes to us through sense data and input.  But we do ourselves no favors in reducing the Church to only those things which are visible: laws, traditions, the hierarchy, and not moving beyond them to the deeper invisible realities of which the visible elements are signs and instruments of Christ’s mediation of His life and grace to men of all times and places. The visible and invisible dimensions of the one Church are always united together by the Holy Spirit.

In the Catholic Bible Dictionary, Scripture scholar Scott Hahn notes that Saint Paul clearly teaches on the properties of the Church in his early Letter to the Ephesians so the community can recognize the Church as the one true instrument of Salvation. “The Church is one – “one faith, one baptism” (Eph 3:3); holy – “that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27); catholic – “you who were once far off” (that is, all the nations outside Israel) “have been brought near in the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13); and apostolic – “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20)” (Hahn 576).

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, proclaimed the four attributes of the Church in 381 to help men to know and recognize the true Church of Jesus Christ, through her fundamental properties: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The Church as a complex reality has a number of these properties which help men to identify her and which speak of her nature and being. Each of her four attributes from the Creed throws light on some aspect of the Church as they “necessarily follow from [her] essence” (De La Sojeole 346). At the same time, in looking at the Church through the form of a specific attribute, you also find signs and realities of her other properties because the Church is indeed one and not the sum total of these four characteristics, as De La Sojeole confirms when he says “…every being is one (undivided, individual), even though it may be complex (De La Sojeole 515).

“Charles Journet clearly saw the apparent paradox of these signs: they must lead to the mystery, and yet they can be received only in light of this mystery. This is why he considers these signs at two levels of intelligibility: at the first level, they are notes- that is, intrinsically prodigious manifestations for the human intellect; this they can lead open minds to accept the faith and to accept it effectively. Once the faith is accepted, these signs can then be considered in terms of what they truly bear witness to – namely, the supernatural properties of the ecclesial community” (De La Sojeole 444-445). This will see realized in the four properties of the Church as we unpack them in this paper.

“The four properties of the Church – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic – are the major characteristics of the community of salvation, the salvation that is received in order to be transmitted” (De La Sojeole 444). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “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” (CCC 811). From this teaching of the Church, it is clear that the attributes of the Church are not static things which the Lord set into motion within her being, but are very dynamic principals which the Church herself must continually realize and live with the help and animation of the Holy Spirit.

The Church is One

Firstly, and most fundamentally, the Church is one because of her origin and life in the communion of the Blessed Trinity (CCC 813). The unity of the Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is given and reflected in the oneness of the Church as she is founded on Jesus Christ with the “grace of the hypostatic union” (De La Soujeole 516). In the holy Gospel according to Saint John, we hear of this unity in the beautiful priestly prayer of our Lord to His Father when He prays: “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21). The Father sent His Son Jesus Christ into the broken world to disclose God’s very heart and to reconcile “all men and women to God by the cross… restoring the unity of all in one people and one body…” (GS 78). At Pentecost, the Lord gave the Holy Spirit so “that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in the one Spirit… He guides the Church in the way of all truth… He rejuvenates the Church, constantly renewing it and leading it to perfect union with its spouse [Jesus Christ]” (LG 4).

It is important to make some clarification on the attribute of the Church’s oneness. It is true she is one, but this unity does mean that she is the same in all times and in all places. We must not lose sight of the fact that Salvation has been offered to all people, and that means people of different historical times, of various geographical places, of different cultures and languages, and to many people who have had a former way of life before becoming a Christian. Saint Paul also reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians that the Spirit gives gifts to each person and prompts them to a specific task or part in the one Mystical Body of Christ. “Despite differences they are one in confession that Jesus Christ is Lord and in looking to Him as their Saviour. Nothing in the New Testament suggests that uniformity – the denial of diversity – is an ideal, and the history of the Church is evidence that it has never been a reality” (Marthaler 308).

Recalling the reality of the complexity of the Church as both visible and invisible, the Church manifests her oneness in a number of visible and discernable ways. Firstly, the Catechism importantly states, “above all, charity “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (CCC 814). Through the form of charity, the Church’s unity is also upheld by visible bonds which Saint Paul points to in a general and succinct way in his letter to the Ephesians: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:6). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 815) identifies the visible bonds of unity as the Church’s Profession of Faith (“one faith”), her Worship and celebration of the Sacraments (“one baptism”), and the third way which ensures the previous two: valid Apostolic Succession (“one Lord” as priests and bishops act in particular moments of their ministry in persona Christi Capitis (CCC 1548)).

With the Church’s Profession of Faith and unity of doctrine, “all members of the Church inwardly believe the truths of faith proposed by the teaching office of the Church, at least implicitly, and outwardly confess them” (Ott 303). The Deposit of Faith, given to the Church by the triune God, comes before the believer who receives it and incarnates it in his life through the business of conversion. We see this unity through the power of the Spirit in a beautiful way in the Holy Mass; when in the power of the Spirit, all men and women from various cultural backgrounds, different economic strata, and countless social circles, together stand and profess the one faith they have received and accepted in obedience. In an article introducing the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, wrote: “the one Catholic Church praises God in the Holy Mass using the same words is both an expression and a confirmation of the unity in faith which underlies the communion in charity that is essential to the life of the Church” (Di Noia 4).

Saint Paul writes of our “one baptism” (Eph 4:6) into the Church, in which we are washed of sin and reborn of a child of God to participate in the Divine Life by being grafted onto Jesus Christ, and made active shares in the life and mission of His Mystical Body the Church (CCC 1213). Holy baptism also consecrates us to worship God in the sacred liturgy and by the witness of our Christian life in truth and in charity (CCC 1273).  This is possible by an active participation in the Church’s sacramental life of grace; especially by the up building of each member of the Mystical Body of Christ by receiving the Lord in Holy Communion.

The final visible identifier of unity from the Catechism upon which the two previous signs rely is the unity of communion which is brought about in reality through apostolic succession. Ludwig Ott writes, “in order that the whole host of the faithful may remain in unity of faith and communion [Jesus] placed St. Peter over the other Apostles and instituted in him both a perpetual principle of unity and a visible foundation” (Ott 302). It is through the working of the Spirit that Jesus Christ’s gifts of the fullness of faith and sacramental life are retained through the bishops in union with the Holy Father in the Catholic Church.

The Church is Holy

The second mark or property of the Church is that she is holy. De La Soujeole and Marthaler both remark in their respective books that this property of the church is the most ancient. De La Soujeole cites Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:27) and Marthaler notes the prominence in which the Early Church Fathers spoke of the holiness of the Church in their writings. The Catechism says, “The Church… is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ,… 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” (CCC 823). It is clear from the Catechism that the holiness of the Church is not properly speaking to the moral holiness of the members of the Mystical Body, but of the Church herself because Christ has united His Divine Person to her through His human nature and loves her as His bride.

On this point of Christ’s love for His Spouse the Church, De La Soujeole offers some helpful clarifications on how we are to understand that the Church is holy while maintaining the reality that in this world, she lives in sinners. He gives context by going back to the Church Fathers who “often repeat the idea that Christ chose the Church as his Bride, even though she was a prostitute. He accepted her, impure as she was, and loved her out of sheer mercy. He purified her by faith and baptism, making her his virginal Bride” (De La Soujeole 556).  De La Soujeola makes some important distinctions in how we are to work from this understanding of the Church Fathers and official Church teaching on the property of holiness in the Church; holiness in the saints of the Church Triumphant; and to maintain the free will of the sinners in which the Church lives in this world, without falling into error by breaking up the complex reality of the singular Church.

Firstly, De La Soujeola explains that the Church will always be holy because of the merits of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in Whom she subsists by appropriation. It is because of the Holy Spirit that the Church is holy and will until the end of time, offer men all the means of holiness in her pure faith and by the deposit of grace in her sacraments. In charity, God gave human persons the gift of free will and so De La Soujeola goes onto explain that men, in whom the Church subsists, will be open and disposed to the fullness of life in differing degrees. In this world, there will be those men who live the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and by living with an intimate attachment to God are holy (in the state of grace), and are a means of leaven to other persons. There are also those who are oriented in varying degrees toward holiness and fullness of life by conversion whose “subsistence is more precarious and less fruitful” (De La Soujeola 561). The lives of these persons, however, do not affect in the negative the holiness of the Church herself, but simply speak of an individual Christian.

In light of what has been written then, the Church is sanctifying, especially by her fullness and purity of faith and the grace of authentic sacraments, and she endeavors to encounter those of the world who are open to hear and respond to her faith and disposed to her grace, for the “sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God” (CCC 824). In his book Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Ratzinger writes, “the holiness of the Church consists in that power of sanctification which God exerts in it despite of human sinfulness… in Christ God has bound himself to men, has let himself be bound by them… It is the expression of God’s love, which will not let itself be defeated by man’s incapacity but always remains well-disposed towards him…” (Ratzinger 263). Through the working of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus desires to encounter man, to wash him clean in His blood, and to incorporate him into His body the Church. It is through this life in His Mystical Body that the Lord, as much as each man will allow Him, acts to continually Redeem all the fibers of his person with His love, so that each member  “might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27).

The Church is Catholic

The third attribute of the Church is that she is catholic in two important fundamental ways. Firstly, the Church is catholic in the way of universality in a two-fold way. The first way of universal catholicity, which De La Soujeola terms the “qualitative connotation,” (De La Soujeola 564) regards the Church’s faith and life of grace in the very Person of Jesus Christ. As the Catechism teaches: “In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “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” (CCC 830). This first catholic way of universality, by way of wholeness, will be covered more completely and in a speculative way later in this paper.

The second way that the Church is catholic, or universal, is in regard to her extension in Christ to all men. De La Soujeola terms this way the “quantitative sense” (De La Soujeola 565) and he finds it in four ways from the Church’s Tradition. In the first way, the Church is catholic as Christ has ordered her in a missionary way to the ends of the earth. The Lord sent His Apostles out saying: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). The second way, Saint Timothy makes clear when he writes, “God… wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The triune God, as the author of all life came to Redeem all mankind and therefore the Church teaches “all women and men are called to belong to the new People of God” (LG 13). The third way rests upon the reality that God begins His plan of Salvation immediately after the Fall, as we hear the first Gospel in Genesis 3:15, and this then begins the age of the Church. “All the just form only one Body, the Body of Christ… the Church is simultaneously ancient and perpetual” (De La Soujeola 566). Lastly, the Church’s mark of catholic universality is known in all persons: those in Heaven, those in Purgatory, and those working out their Salvation in this world, who have responded to the Redemption Christ the Lord as Head offers His Body. Hans Urs von Balthasar sums up this first two-fold way of catholicity in saying “it is all-encompassing, endowed with all plentitude, and perfect” (von Balthasar 137).

A second fundamental way in which the Church is catholic concerns the unity of the Church through the hierarchical structure the Lord Himself ordered among His Apostles with Peter given a special primacy. Ratzinger writes of the Church’s catholicity in this way: “it refers first to local unity – only the community united with the bishop is the “Catholic Church”… Second, the term describes the unity formed by the combination of the many local Churches which are not entitled to encapsulate themselves in isolation; they can only remain the Church by being open to one another, by forming one Church…” (Ratzinger 267) especially understood by way of union with the Bishop of Rome.  Saint Ignatius of Antioch, the first person of holy Tradition who taught in his letter to the Smyrnaeans on the way of the Church’s catholicity, wrote: “where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (De La Soujeola 563).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church draws these important insights together to explain the Church’s two-fold catholic unity in a magisterial way. The first way of catholic unity is found whole and entire in the local or Particular Church, know as a diocese or eparchy, which is under their Pastor/Bishop who is in valid succession of the Apostles, who is in communion with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity” (CCC 832) and who serves the people in the headship of Jesus Christ as chief teacher, sanctifier, and ruler of that Church (CCC 832-834). On a side note, we use the word Church in this catholic way in reference to the different fully Catholic Churches that possess their own “ecclesiastical disciplines, liturgical rites, and theology and spiritual heritages” (CCC 835) these fully catholic Churches are the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches. The second way of catholic unity regards the whole universal Church: the people everywhere in their Particular Churches, who are united under the Holy Father, the successor of Saint Peter and bishop of the Church of Rome. The Catechism cautions: “let us be careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the simple sum, or … the more or less anomalous federation of essentially different particular churches… (CCC 835) In this way, Saint Thomas in helpful in this summary to think of the catholicity of the Universal Church by “her extension over the whole world; on the catholicity of the classes represented in her; and on her universal duration from the time of Abel to the end of the world” (Ott 308). So she possesses the Lord’s two-fold gifts of catholic wholeness and completeness in the mystery of the Church in the Particular and the Universal.

The Church is Apostolic

The fourth property of the Church, her mark of apostolicity, which has been touched on several times, incompletely, will be explained in the first way in three parts: the Church’s apostolic origin; her apostolic teaching; and her episcopal apostolic succession (CCC 857). Saint Paul recalls this realized property of apostolicity in the Early Church in his letter to the Ephesians: “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through Him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord” (Eph 2:20-21). Firstly, the Church is apostolic in her beginning as the Lord Jesus Himself founded her upon the men He called to Himself as Disciples and later sent out to the ends of the earth as Apostles (CCC 857).  The Lord builds His Church on these men who are sent out to bear witness to His Resurrection by preaching and teaching, to sanctify the People of God, and to govern and order them in the unity of truth and peace.

The second way the Church is apostolic is by way of her apostolic teaching office. This is not to be understood as if Lord founded His Church under the Apostles with the primacy of Peter, sent them out to teach in His name with their very best effort, and at that Jesus Christ stepped away. No. The Lord promised the band of Apostles an Advocate after He returns to His Father: “when He comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13). By the power, guidance, and protection of the Holy Spirit the Apostles under the primacy of Peter become the “authentic teachers of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ”” (CCC 888) thus fulfilling Jesus’ words to His Apostles: “whoever listens to you listens to me” (Lk 10:16).

The third way in which the Church is apostolic is in regard to the bishops preserving in apostolic succession. Recalling previously the truth that God desires all men down the ages to have access to Salvation, the Catechism explains how He willed this in His Church. “In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, [the apostles] consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborates the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God” (CCC 861). This is quickly attested to in the life of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles (1:15-26), as Peter leads his brother Apostles in welcoming the guidance of the Holy Spirit to assist them in calling a successor for Judas to collaborate with them in witnessing to the Resurrection of the Lord.

De La Soujeola helps us to understand the very reality of this succession in three ways: a relationship between persons; a real data that is transmitted from person to person; and, an assurance of duration of the element. He defines succession then as “the transmission from one person to another of a reality so that it continues” (De La Soujeola 595). In this way the Lord ensured the means of Salvation which only He can offer, that is, the whole and entire faith and life of the sacraments will be continued in this unbroken line of succession in the bishops/patriarchs from the Apostles. So this way of apostolicity then concerns not principally the outward activities of the Apostles and their successors, but it is rooted in the very being of the Church founded upon the Apostles to continue to allow the Lord to accomplish His work in them until the end of time.

The second fundamental way of apostolic succession is in regards to primacy that the Lord established in His Church among His Apostles in of the office of Saint Peter. The Catechism says, “The office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as the first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one…” (CCC 862). The Lord set Peter as the rock and pastor of His Church and head of his brothers. Jesus said “I have prayed that your own faith may not fail… you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32). De La Soujeola notes the special attention Peter is given in the Gospels, the frequency in which he is spoken of, and the way he speaks on behalf of the Apostles. He also unpacks the meaning of Matthew 16:16-19: to show that Simon Peter receives this authority as a gift; that as rock he serves as a kind of secondary foundation to the Church as he has been called to be a visible vicar for Christ, and the special preeminence of Peter being given the keys by Jesus Christ. In Lumen gentium chapter three, the Second Vatican Council spoke to the beautiful relationship between the bishops and the bishop of Rome by explaining how they each are in service of the other. The bishop of Rome works to build up and unify his brother bishops and they help him with his responsibilities and to collaborate with him as universal pastor. In this way then, we see they are not opposed or at tension with the other, but rather work together for the whole life of the body.

Toward Catholic Unity

To begin the move toward the conclusion of this paper on the study of the fundamental aspects of the Church’s four properties of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, we will turn to look at the catholic attribute as a means to unity and ecclesial renewal by briefly focusing our comments around Lumen gentium article eight. Under the guidance and promise of the Holy Spirit, the Magisterium of the Church grows in her understanding and depth of the mystery of the Church as a sacrament of Salvation and strives to better articulate and clarify her identity not only to the members of her Church body but especially to those in the world who are in varying degrees of relationship to her.

Although the schema De ecclesia of Vatican Council I was never voted on and promulgated by the Council, the document remains a kind of source in recent memory of the Church going into Vatican Council II. De La Soujeola explains that the schema De ecclesia in chapters two and five took a pretty cold and hardened position toward those persons of the various protestant ecclesial communities since they are not in full communion with the Church where the religion of Christ only be truly practiced (De La Soujeola 112-117). Vatican Council II, took a much more ecumenical tone in her relationship with our separated brethren without compromising the Church’s inspired understanding of herself. Below a statement from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – Lumen gentium:

“The unique church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic… constituted and organized as the society in the present world, 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. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling toward catholic unity” (LG 8).

Before beginning to unpack this teaching, several things should be said which some find bothersome after reading or hearing and never move beyond to the truth the document is conveying. Vatican Council II is not commenting here on the moral qualities of the Church or separated ecclesial communities. The Council is not teaching that those men belonging to the Catholic Church are by virtue of having access to the fullness of faith and sacramental grace holier men and those who are not in full communion with the Church are less holy. This statement is also not saying the Catholic Church is right in correct belief and correct practice and everyone else is wrong in belief and practice.

Vatican Council II took up the complex reality of the Church and considered it in a speculative context. The Council teaches the Church of Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church” (LG 8). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published some clarifying remarks on the word use of “subsists” in a document entitled “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church” on 29 June 2007. The document explains: “The use of this expression, … does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity” (LG 8).

In this way, the Church upholds the reality that she possesses, by virtue of the college of bishops in union with the Holy Father, the fullness of the profession of faith and graces of the sacramental life, which the Lord Jesus Himself bestowed upon her through the Holy Spirit. At the same time, in this document of Vatican Council II, the Church takes a much more ecumenical posture toward our separated brethren by recognizing that “elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside [the Church’s] visible confines” (LG 8). This means the Catholic Church recognizes that those who have departed full communion with the Church, or those who were baptized into and raised in an ecclesial community not in full communion with the Church, or other men in the world, still possess elements of truth and grace that retain their salvific power. It should also be said at the same time that these salvific elements are salvific not because they are within a particular ecclesial community, but because they are elements from or reflections of the Church of Jesus Christ. In this way then, the Church with one hand maintains that she alone possesses the fullness of the gifts the Lord bestowed upon His Church through the Holy Spirit in the Pentecost event while with the other hand looks to embrace the truth and grace alive and at work in varying degrees of participation outside the Catholic Church.

In this article of Lumen gentium (8) we beautifully behold the Church expressing her catholicity, that she alone possesses the “fullness of God communicated to the world in Christ” (von Balthasar 137).  Without compromising this belief, the Church also reaches out to uphold the truths and means of grace that exist outside of her in persons of other ecclesial communities and across the world. The Church in this way, mindful of her catholicity, knows the Lord has destined for her to extend to all nations and all peoples and offer them the fullness life the Lord has bestowed upon her. In recognizing the “elements of sanctification and of truth… outside its confines” (LG 8) the Church desires to accompany those men who are open and seeking the fullness of truth and grace to find the seeds they possess will lead them to the Catholic Church.

Joseph Ratzinger, in his book, Theological Highlights of Vatican II gives us a beautiful perspective on living and further realizing the Lord’s intention and attributes of the Church: “A Christ-centered Church is thus oriented not merely toward past salvific events; it will always also be a Church moving forward under the sign of hope. Its decisive future and its transformation are still ahead. It must therefore always be open to what comes and always ready to shed fixed formulations with which it was one at home so as to march on toward the Lord who is calling and waiting” (Ratzinger 76). The Church must continue forward in her journey to the Lord. She must not be stuck looking back at past division and rupture, but she must look forward with a great hope to be a bridge to join people from across the world in charity and peace by the means of her apostolic structure around the Bishop of Rome.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Lk 12:48). The Catholic Church has been entrusted with the fullness of the Jesus’ gifts to His Church that we’ve seen in her attribute of catholicity. Her fully Initiated members have the responsibility and awesome vocation to work at growing closer to the Lord and to one another in charity and in the fullness of faith and grace the Church has to offer them through her hierarchical structure. We must also be open to recognizing the truth of Christ that is outside the Catholic Church and uphold it as such, but without reducing the whole faith and life of grace to the least common denominator we find before us at any moment. Our obligation to the Lord, and in true charity to our neighbor, is to accompany them to follow the elements of truth and grace they possess toward their catholic fullness.  This is said for our neighbor in the Catholic Church and for our neighbor who may be in a state of varying participation with the Church of Christ. In this way, we can look to the attributes of the Church to help guide us toward a catholic unity in the fullness of the gifts of Salvation the Lord has bestowed upon His Church. In closing, we must always remember that this work of unity in truth and peace is not simply an endeavor of faith and intellectual assistance from the common elements of truth and grace we can work from, but must be carried out in charity and with much prayer, so that hearts may not be hardened but will be opened by the Spirit to receive the catholic fullness of Christ’s Church.

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References

Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications from the Editio Typica. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Print.

De La Soujeole, Benoît-Dominique. Introduction to the Mystery of the Church. Vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: Catholic U of America, 2014. Print. Thomistic Ressourcement Ser.

Di Noia, J. Augustine. “Introduction.” Magnificat Roman Missal Companion. 3-6. Print.

Flannery, Austin, ed. Vatican Council II: The Basic Sixteen Documents: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations. Northport, NY: Costello, 1996. Print.

Hahn, Scott, ed. Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 2009. Print.

Marthaler, Bernard L.. The Creed. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1987. Print.

Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Ed. James Canon Bastible. Trans. Patrick Lynch. St. Louis: B. Herder Book, 1960. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Introduction to Christianity. Trans. J.R. Foster. New York: Seabury, 1969. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Theological Highlights of Vatican II. New York: Paulist, 2009. Print.

“Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 29 June 2007. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. <http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html>.

Senior, Donald, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan, eds. The Catholic Study Bible: The New American Bible. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.

von Balthasar, Hans Urs. “The Absoluteness of Christianity and the Catholic Church.” Communio. XL.1 (Spring 2013): 132-160. Print.

 

Author Profile

Brian McCauley, M.A.T.
Brian McCauley, M.A.T.
Mr. Brian McCauley has been married to his beautiful wife Gina for three years and lives in Lancaster, Ohio. He earned his Master of Arts in Theology degree from Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio and serves at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Lancaster as the Director of Religious Education.

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