Four Marks of the Church

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 811-70:

  • The Nicene Creed describes the Church as “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” – given by Christ, these essential characteristics are the “four marks” of the Church.
  • The Church is one because of her divine Founder; our visible bonds of unity are our profession of one faith, common celebration of the sacraments, and apostolic succession of bishops in communion with St. Peter’s successor, the Pope.
  • The Church instituted by Christ endures to this day in the Catholic Church; but sadly, our gift of unity has been wounded through sin, causing the splintering of believers into other ecclesial communities.
  • These other Christian communities have elements of sanctification, and varying degrees of imperfect unity with the Catholic Church; the Orthodox Churches are nearest of all to us, with their apostolic succession and ancient liturgical heritage.
  • We must never resign ourselves to the historical tragedies of division; urged by the love of Christ, and in fidelity to His will, we must pray and strive for the restoration of full unity among all Christians.
  • The Church is holy because of her union with Christ, who sanctifies her and empowers her to sanctify in turn; the Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect exemplar of the holiness of the Church, while the saints reflect diverse patterns of sanctity.
  • Although the Church in heaven has reached the state of perfect holiness, the Church on earth is still made of sinners struggling on the journey; until the end of the world, the Church is simultaneously holy and yet ever in need of purification.
  • “Catholic” comes from the Greek for “according to the totality,” or “in keeping with the whole,” and the Church is catholic in two senses: she has the fullness of the means of salvation, and she is universal, with a mission to the entire human race.
  • The Church is apostolic because she is built on the foundation of the witness of the Apostles (from the Greek for “emissaries”), she safeguards and transmits apostolic teaching, and she is guided by the Apostles’ successors, the bishops.
  • The Church should not be seen as a federation of discrete local Churches with merely organizational ties to Rome; even as particular Churches contribute their own culture to the rich Catholic tapestry, they are truly one in the Mystical Body.

Live Your Faith

We can sometimes take for granted the incomparable gift we have been given as Catholics – the fullness of the means of salvation that Christ wills for us! It is not triumphalism to want to share this gift with others.

On the contrary, we would be lacking in love if we failed to appreciate our Catholic faith. Let us be ready to reach out to non-practicing Catholics, and people of other faith communities, and invite them to come and see.

 

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