Chapter 23 – The Catholic Church: Nature and Mission

Jesus replied: I for my part declare to you: you are Rock [Peter], and on this rock I will build my Church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.(Mt 16:18)

 You are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. You form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. . . . In him you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22)

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OPENING

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1349. The first great “living” work of the Holy Spirit, the “Giver of Life,” is the Church. The word “Church” means “that which pertains to the Lord.” Therefore, the best way to introduce the Church’s nature and mission is to focus on Christ. “Christ is the light of all nations, and it is by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature that the light of Christ, which shines out visibly from the Church, may be brought to all men” (LG 1). For the Church is none other than that community of men and women “who, united in Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the Kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men” (GS 1).

1350. This chapter first takes up the Nature of the Church __ “what the Church is” __ as mystery and as sacrament. This is developed through scriptural images, particularly the “Kingdom of God,” “People of God,” and “Body of Christ.” The second section describes the Characteristics of the life of the Church. These are what distinguishes the Church, its “marks” its being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. What the Church is for and how it operates, its Mission and Ministry, are explained in the third part. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief section on the supporting themes of Communion of Saintsand “Mary, Mother of the Church.”

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CONTEXT

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1351. For most Filipinos, the Church is very familiar, perhaps in a sense “too familiar.” For some, “Church” simply means the building where people go to pray. For many, “Church” spontaneously evokes the image of bishops, priests and religious, or particular Church organizations. Moreover, whereas in earlier times Church meant the “Catholic Church,” in today’s Philippine society it can refer to many different Christian churches and sects, too numerous to count.

1352. Yet, the building where people worship is obviously a “church.” The problem, then, is not in relating “Church” to the building, but in restricting the total meaning of “Catholic church” to a particular material building. Likewise, since we commonly identify organizations and groups by their leaders, we make a mistake only when we limit the meaning of “Catholic Church” to bishops, priests and religious, or particular organizations.

1353. More important, then, is the common origin of these inadequate views of the Church. They stem from a “common sense” view of the Church as just one human association among many. This temptation to see the Church only as a human social organization may be fostered in part by the Filipinos’ deep cultural value of belongingness.” We have an intense desire “to belong.” So, for us, the Church is a natural “home” wherein we can feel accepted and loved. Now surely the Church should be such a “home.” But its total meaning and mission cannot be reduced to relieving our insecurities by social “togetherness.” Christ indicates this with his response to the first temptation. “Not on bread alone is man to live, but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).

1354. Our Second Plenary Council has called for a renewed catechesis that can lead our people to a better understanding of the Church. This means recognizing that the Church is much more than a building, or a group of Church men and women, or a social grouping. Seeking this “more” leads us directly to Christ our Lord and his Holy Spirit, both sent to us by our heavenly Father who “wants all men to be saved and to come to know the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). We now turn to these basic truths that ground our personal Christian LOVE for the Church.

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EXPOSITION

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I. NATURE OF THE CHURCH

1355. Ekklesia. This “more” of the Church can be shown first of all from its long history. Our Catholic Church traces its origin back to the Old Testament qahal and the New Testament ekklesia (CCC 751f). Both terms mean “the people of God called together,” or an “assembly convoked by God.” Thus, they stress the action of God in calling the people together. The Church thus claims to be a faith-assembly whose root cause is God’s free call to all to share His divine goodness and love in Christ. The Church therefore is not just a social grouping of people drawn together by cultural values and attitudes. This faith-conviction that God is the ever-present source and ground for the Church is the reason for explaining the Church as mystery and sacrament.”

A.     The Church as Mystery

1356. In the Christian Faith there are mysteries or divine truths proposed to our belief “that are hidden in God and which can never be known unless they are revealed by God himself” (DS, 3015) and which we will never be able to understand fully because of the limitation of our intelligence (cf. DS 3016). Such is the case of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. There are also created salvific realities which can partly be known by our human intelligence, but which have also a transcendent dimension which can be perceived only through faith. These salvific realities are also called “mysteries” because of their inexhaustible richness. It is in this sense that we speak of the Church as “mystery.” By this term, then, we mean not something we cannot know nor understand, but rather a reality we can never fully grasp because there is always more to learn (cf. NCDP 200). As mystery, the Church is a God-given reality we believe in and love __ like a friend or a loved one __ not only something we observe and critically analyze (cf. NCDP 230; CCC 770-73).

To affirm the Church is a mystery simply means, first, that it is “a reality imbued with the hidden presence of God . . . always open to new and greater exploration” (Paul VI at the Opening of the Second Session of Vatican II). Second, it has a unique relation to God Himself, and therefore also with all of us who are called to salvation precisely as a people. But what precisely is this “unique relationship with God?”

1357. The Church is related to each Person of the Blessed Trinity. First, to the eternal Father who “resolved to assemble all those who believe in Christ in the holy Church.” In the Father’s plan, the Church was:

•    prefigured from the beginning of the world;

•    prepared wonderfully in the history of Israel,

•    instituted finally in these last times,

•    manifested in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,

•    to be brought to completion at the end of time (cf. LG 2; CCC 760-69).

1358. Second, to the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. “Christ, the one Mediator, established and ceaselessly sustains here on earth his holy Church” (LG 8; cf. CCC 763-66). The Church originated and grew from Christ. “From the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the Cross came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church” (SC 5). Our life in the Church is completely Christ-centered: “All men are called to this union with Christ who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life leads us” (LG 3).

1359. Like the Incarnate Son, the Church is both visible and invisible, human and divine. As the Son of God “became flesh” to save us from our sins, so the spiritual community of the Church takes on visible social structure to serve its mission (cf. LG 8; CCC 771-73).

1360. Third, to the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16), and bears witness to their adoptive sonship (cf. Gal 4:6). The Spirit guides the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13), gives her a unity of fellowship and service, and constantly renews and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse, Christ (cf. CCC 767).

1361. Hence, the Church is mystery by reason of:

•    its origin in the Father’s plan of salvation,

•    its ongoing life in the Risen Christ and the Spirit, and

•    its ultimate goal in the fully achieved Kingdom of God.

1362. But “most Filipino Catholics approach the Church concretely and pragmatically, not in terms of ‘mystery.’ Yet there is deep respect, loyalty, and love for the Church which this insight into the Church as mystery can develop and confirm” (NCDP 231), for the Church is basically a mystery of communion.

Perhaps a more Filipino approach to the Church as “mystery” would focus on this personal communion that binds us together with the Lord and with one another. It is this living and life-giving communion that makes us belong not to ourselves but to Christ and to his Church, the community of the disciples of Christ (cf. PCP II 87, 402). “I am the vine, you are the branches,” Christ told his disciples (cf. Jn 15:5). This “strong sense of personal belonging, of self-identity and security which Filipino ‘folk Catholicism’ has been able to consistently engender, is perhaps its greatest asset” (NCDP 86).

1363. Moreover, this communion is the ‘integrating aspect,’ indeed the central content of the Church as mystery (cf. CL 19). But it is not a communion created by merely sociological and cultural factors. Rather, the model and source of our communion as Christians with Jesus and with one another is God’s own Trinitarian communion __ of the Son with the Father in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only such a source could explain how “united to the Son in the Spirit’s bond of love, we Christians are united to the Father” (CL 18).

1364. Icon* of the Trinity. Basically, the Church is mystery because of its relationship to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It manifests the Blessed Trinity by both its nature and mission.

         First, by its origin the Church arose from the saving design of the Father, the redemptive mission of the Son and the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

         Second, in structure: just as the Trinity is a community, the communion of love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so too the Church is a community, a communion of believers drawn together by Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Third, the mission of the Church originates “from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (PCP II 103; cf. AG 2).

         Fourth, the destiny of the Church is the full realization of this communion in the Kingdom of God. We are pilgrims, because “joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit ‘who is the pledge of our inheritance’, we have not yet appeared with Christ in the state of glory in which we shall be like God since we shall see Him as He is” (LG 48).

1365. This Trinitarian view of the Church is actually quite close to the ordinary religious experience of Catholic Filipinos. For it is in the Church, especially in communal worship at Mass, when we most often:

        experience God as “our Fatherand feel ourselves as children in His divine hands;

        come to know Christ as our personal Savior, and what it means to be His disciples in service of others; and

        judge true, authentic experiences of the Holy Spirit, among our fellow disciples of Christ, and under the guidance and leadership of Church authorities.

         PCP II expressed this briefly in noting that “in the Liturgy we assemble and pray in the name of our Lord through whom ‘we have access in one Spirit to the Father’ ” (Eph 2:18; PCP II 77).

B.     The Church as Sacrament

1366. The Church as mystery is further clarified and developed by the notion of sacrament. “By her relationship with Christ, the Church is both a sacramental sign and an instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind” (GS 42; cf. LG 1). Christ then has made the Church the effective sign and symbol of:

1)   our union with God;

2)   the unity among men; and

3)   of salvation.

For the Risen Christ, continually active in the world, “sent his life-giving Spirit to establish his Body, the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation” (LG 48; cf. CCC 774-76).

1367. The idea that the Church is sacramentmay sound strange at first to many Filipinos. We have been used to thinking of “sacrament” solely as the “seven sacraments,” individual liturgical rituals such as Baptism, the Mass, Confession, etc. But if we focus on the essentials of “sacrament,” we find both Christ himself as well as the Church fulfill the notion perfectly. A sacrament is a material sign which gives grace, effecting what it symbolizes; it causes grace by symbolizing grace.

So Christ, the eternal Word made flesh, is the visible sign, the sacrament of God. So too the Church, with her visible, institutional structure, is for us the sacrament of Christ, representing him, making him present. The Church signifies in a visible, historical, and tangible form the presence and redeeming activity of Christ, offered to all persons of every age, race and condition.

1368. Thinking of the Church as “sacrament has many advantages.

         First, it unites inseparably the visible and invisible dimensions of the Church. “Sacrament” by definition is a visible sign making present an invisible reality. So the Church is a visible, hierarchically structured society making present a spiritual community. The two aspects form but one complex reality which comprises both a human and a divine element.

1369. Second, “sacrament” directly relates the Church to non-Catholics. Without neglecting the necessity of the visible Church, it helps explain how the grace of Christ can be operative beyond the limits of the institutional Church. The Church as sacrament is “used by Christ as an instrument for the redemption of all, and sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth” (LG 9).

The Church, then, is the tangible sign of Christ’s presence in the world, a beacon of light visible to all and drawing them in the power of the Spirit to communion with God and with one another in Christ (cf. Acts 13:47; Mt 5:14-16).

1370. Third, it unites the Church closely with the Eucharist. The many similarities are striking:

        As the Eucharist is composed of bread and wine “which earth has given and human hands have made,” so the Church is composed of men and women called together.

        As the Eucharist makes sacramentally present the body and blood of the Risen Christ, so the Church is the visible sign of the presence of the Risen Christ in His Spirit.

        As the Eucharist’s bread and wine have no meaning outside of Christ’s words, so the Church cannot be understood except through Christ’s promise “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).

        And as Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic bread and wine is not effected by any human holiness or fidelity, but by the Risen Christ’s own saving activity in the Spirit, so too is his inseparable union with the Church effected.

1371. “Sacrament” can also foster a strong loyalty and personal sense of belonging to the Church, even while recognizing our human limitations. This implies our constant need for renewal and purification. We come to love the Church as our spiritual mother and home.

Yet we know that we are a pilgrim people, already on our journey but not yet arrived. Therefore, we can appreciate the counsel that “guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church ceaselessly ‘exhorts her sons and daughters to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church’ ” (GS 43; LG 8; PCP II, 141).

1372. PCP II openly averred that the Church in the Philippines is not, and will never be on this earth, the perfect bride of Christ. Ours is an imperfect Church living amidst and ministering to a very imperfect society. Both in her internal renewal, therefore, and in her service to society, the Church as the community of the Lord’s disciples is destined to share in His passion and death so that she may also share in his risen life (PCP II 142, 246-49).

 C.     Scriptural Images of the Church

1373. If by its very nature the Church is mystery and sacrament, we come to better understand it more through prayerful reflection on key biblical images than by some abstract definition (cf. CCC 753-57). The New Testament, drawing on major Old Testament themes, contains more than 80 comparisons depicting the Church as a “communion of life, love and truth” established by Christ between God and His human children (cf. LG 9). Vatican II gathers them into four groups. The Church is:

        the Flock of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep;

        the Vineyard of God, cultivated by the heavenly Vinedresser. Christ is the true vine who gives life and fruitfulness to us, the branches;

        the Temple of God, with Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles as foundation; and

•        our Mother, the spotless Spouse of the spotless Lamb, “whom Christ loved and for whom he gave himself up that he might sanctify her” (LG 6).

(Cf. Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-16; Jn 10:1-16; 1 Pt 5:4; Mt 21:33-43; Is 5:1f; Jn 15:1-5; Mt 21:42; Ps 117:22; 1 Cor 3:1; Gal 4:26; Rev 19:7;21:2,9; Eph 5:26).

1374. But since these are images drawn from the specific, concrete culture and times of the biblical people, they have to be carefully explained if they are to enlighten the Filipino Catholic of today on the nature of the Church. Most Filipinos have little or no contact with shepherds, flocks, vinedressers, and the like. These images, therefore, must be brought to life by showing how they manifest basic human values and religious meaning that are relevant to our own Filipino culture and spirituality.

1375. PCP II offers one example of adapting a biblical image of the Church to Filipino culture. Many biblical images revolve about the basic theme of the “household or family of God.” PCP II developed the image of the Church as “a community of families.” The family is “the Church in the home.” Jesus began his earthly mission within a family; the family is where faith-life begins, is nurtured, grows to maturity. It is where Christian conscience is formed, and Christian prayer and worship is nurtured and integrated. In fact the family is “a true foundation for Basic Ecclesial Communities . . . a model of relationships in the Church. For the plan of God is that all should form one family, and the Church is the household of God where all call upon and obey the will of the same Father through the Holy Spirit” (PCP II 21-22).

1376.   Against the above background of these general Biblical images of the Church, and one PCP II adaptation, we shall take up four particular biblical images which are especially helpful for grasping the reality of the Catholic Church today: the Kingdom of God,” the People of God,” the Body of Christ,” and “Temple of the Holy Spirit.”

         1.   Kingdom of God

1377. This is the major theme of Christ’s own teaching in the Synoptic Gospels. But what exactly is this “kingdom”? PCP II sketches it in biblical images: the Kingdom of God is the Good News preached to the poor, the gift of God, our “Abba,” (Father) who is sensitive to the needs and sufferings of every human being. It is the seed quietly sown, the offer of pardon to sinners, the banquet of table-fellowship and joyful communion with the Lord and our fellow men and women, the gift of salvation, eternal life. But it is a gift we must seek, demanding vigilance and active use of talents — a task and project as well as a gift (PCP II 39-47).

1378. Christ “inaugurated his Church by preaching the coming of God’s Kingdom” (cf. LG 5). His parables about the Kingdom of God employed many specific images:

        a treasure hidden in a field,

        the leaven raising the dough,

        the tiny mustard seed growing into a tall tree,

        a fish net catching the good and the bad.

These can help us see how the Church, on the one hand, is not simply identified with the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, the Church does serve the Kingdom as the leaven in the dough of humanity, in sowing the seed and casting of the net (cf. NCDP 230). As such, the Church includes both the good and the bad fish, the wheat and the weeds. In brief, the Church represents the coming of the Kingdom, the Kingdom in process.

1379. The petition “Your Kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer clearly indicates that God’s Kingdom is something already here, but not yet in its fulfillment in glory. Like the Kingdom, the pilgrim Church stands between the already and the not yet, constantly striving to prepare the way for, and witness to, the kingdom in glory, “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, . . . the assembly of the firstborn . . . in heaven” (Heb 12:22f).

         2.   People of God

1380. Vatican II’s favorite image of the Church is “the new People of God.” “God has willed to make men holy and save them, not merely as individuals without any mutual bonds, but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness” (LG 9). Prefigured in the Old Covenant which Yahweh set up with the people of Israel, “Christ instituted the New Covenant in his blood, by calling together a people, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit” (LG 9).

1381. The Church as the “People of God” has clear distinguishing characteristics:

        its cause is GOD: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God claims for his own” (1 Pt 2:9f);

        its Head is Christ “who was handed over to death for our sins and raised up for our justification” (Rom 4:25);

        its members are “those who believe in Christ, who are reborn through the Word of the living God, ‘of water and the Spirit’ in baptism” (cf. Jn 3:3,5);

        its condition is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons/daughters of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple;

        its law is Christ’s new Commandment of love (cf. Jn 13:34), and the new Law of the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:2);

        its mission is to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, its salvation (cf. Mt 5:134-16);

        its destiny is the final Kingdom of God, brought to perfection at the end of time (cf. LG 9; CCC 782).

1382. This new People of God is a “Priestly, Prophetic and Kingly People( cf. PCP II 116-21; CCC 783-86, 901-13; LG 10-12; RH 18-21). As a priestly people by reason of our Baptism, strengthened by Confirmation and nourished by the Eucharist, we Christians offer spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men (cf. LG 34).

As a prophetic people, we give witness to Christ by our understanding of the faith (sensus fidei) and the grace of speech (cf. Acts 2:17f), “so that the power of the Gospel may shine out in daily family and social life” (LG 35).

As a kingly people we share in the power of Christ the King who came “to serve and give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mt 20:28). Thus we serve others, especially the poor and the suffering in whom we recognize “the likeness of our poor and suffering Founder” (LG 8). By sharing in the Spirit’s power “to renew the face of the earth”, we work to overcome sin and to permeate all with the values of Christ. “To be king is to minister, to serve” (PCP II 121).

1383. Filipino culture, with its more authority-structured relationships, may seem at first to run counter to this image of the Church which stresses the dignity of all members of “the new People of God.” But the political and social revolution of EDSA, 1986, the spontaneous response of help toward the victims of the natural calamities, and the Church celebration of its Second Plenary Council (PCP II) in 1990, witness to the growing sense of solidarity among Filipinos, of being “one people.” This deepening sense of national unity and national identity will help Filipino Catholics to realize and assume their full stature, dignity and responsibility as members in the Christian community, the family of God.”

3.   Body of Christ

1384. In the Gospels Jesus called men and women to follow him, to be his disciples and to share his life and mission. He identified them with himself: “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me” (Lk 10:16). This holds true with even the least of his brethren: “I assure you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). Jesus spoke of an intimate communion with his followers: “Live on in me, as I do in you . . . I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:4-5). He even provided the means of such communion: “The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood, remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). At the Last Supper, Jesus promised not to leave his disciples orphans (cf. Jn 14:18), but to send them his Spirit through whom he would be with them till the end of time. The Church is born of this personal communion between Jesus and his disciples (cf. CCC 787-95).

1385. “By communicating his Spirit to his brothers and sisters, called together from all peoples, Christ made them mystically into his own body” (LG 7). Thus the Church is not just like a body, but IS the Body of Christ, really made one in him, in his “mystical” Body. “Mystical” does not mean “unreal” but rather a reality not limited to sensible appearances. Therefore it is accessible to faith alone because it belongs to the mystery of God’s salvific plan hidden for endless ages but revealed in the Gospel.

1386. Christ’s “body,” then, can refer to:

•    the physical body of the historical Jesus, assumed at the Incarnation (cf. Jn 1:14); or

•    his Eucharistic body, making sacramentally present to us the Person of the Risen Christ in his saving sacrifice; or

•    his mystical body, the Church, the faithful united to Christ as their Head, and united and vivified by His Spirit.

1387. Unity in Diversity. Within Christ’s Body, the Church, there is a great variety of members and functions (PCP II 91-94). This means that the unity of the Body of Christ is not uniformity. Rather, “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone” (1 Cor 12:4-6). It is the Holy Spirit whom Christ shares with us as the principle of life, the soul of his Body, who, existing as one and the same in head and members, gives life to, unifies and moves the whole body” (LG 7). Thus we pray:

Father, you gather your children into your Church,

to be ONE as you, Father, are one with your Son

and the Holy Spirit.

You call them to be your PEOPLE,

to praise your wisdom in all your works,

You make them the BODY OF CHRIST,

and the dwelling place of the HOLY SPIRIT.

                                       (8th Preface for Sundays)

         4.   Temple of the Holy Spirit

1388. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Cor 3:16; cf. CCC 797f). Animating the Church as the “Body of Christ” is the Holy Spirit. Traditional teaching of the Church declares: “As Christ is the Head of the Church, so is the Holy Spirit its soul” (ND 852). Vatican II describes it thus:

Christ has shared with us his Spirit who, being one and the same in head and members, gives life to, unifies and moves the whole body. Consequently, the Spirit’s work could be compared to the function which the soul, the principle of life, fulfills in the human body (LG 7).

1389. The Filipino value of close family unity and ties should help Catholic Filipinos to appreciate the Church as the Body of Christ. “Body of Christ” actually stresses first, the living unity of all the faithful among themselves through their union with Christ. Second, under Christ the Head, the organic relationships between the members through the grace and charisms of the Spirit. Third, the Church as Spouse of Christ (cf. Eph 5:27,29; CCC 789-96).

All three aspects are actualized through Baptism and the Eucharist. “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit that all of us . . . were baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:12-13). Moreover, “by really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another” (LG 7; cf. PCP II 89-90).

II. ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHURCH’S LIFE

1390. To distinguish itself from all other religious sects, the early Church used four criteria proclaimed in the Creed: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic (cf. LG 8; CCC 811). These are really dynamic endowments with which the Church is graced by the Holy Spirit, and perceived only in Faith. Besides being gifts they constitute tasks that challenge the Church as part of its Mission.

Moreover, they are so closely linked with one another that an advance in any one means an advance in the other three. Traditionally in apologetic works the marks were presented as qualities appearing in the history of the visible Church. Today they are usually related directly to Christ, starting with unity which leads to holiness and catholicity. “Apostolic” is explained as the origin and means for realizing the other three.

A brief study of each mark can help toward a deeper understanding and love of the Church.

A.     The Church as ONE

1391. In the face of the numerous Christian sects and Churches, we boldly affirm in faith that the Church is one (cf. CCC 813-22).

The Church is one first from her very source, the One living God in three Persons. “The Church shines forth as ‘a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ ” (LG 4).

         Second, the Church is one in her founder, Jesus Christ, who:

    came to redeem and unify the whole human race;

•    prayed to his Father “that all may be one even as you, Father, are in me and I in you” (Jn 17:21);

•    instituted the Eucharist which both signifies and effects the unity of the Church;

    united all by his new commandment of mutual love (cf. Jn 13:34); and

    poured forth his Spirit through whom he calls the people of the New Covenant into a unity of faith, hope, and charity (cf. UR 2-3).

392. The bonds of Church unity are clearly set forth in Scripture. Christians form “one body and one Spirit,” since “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and works through all and is in all” (Eph 4:4-6). In brief, the Church is one:

    in the confession of one faith received from the apostles;

    the common celebration of divine worship, especially the sacraments; and

    the fraternal harmony of God’s family (cf. UR 2; CCC 815).

As a visible sign of this unity, Christ “put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and of communion” (LG 18).

1393. But the Church is a unity-in-diversity, like the sheepfold of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who not only calls each of his own sheep by name and leads them out, but has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold. They shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10:3,16). Hence the universal Church embraces not only people of different ranks, duties, situations and ways of life, but also particular Churches which retain their own traditions while united under the Vicar of Christ (cf. LG 13).

1394. Church Unity as a Task. The divisions among Christians consequently remain a major cause of scandal before the world. Official breaks with Church communion include:

a) heresy, the obstinate denial or doubt by baptized person of a truth which must be believed by divine* and Catholic faith;

b) apostasy, the total repudiation of the Christian faith; and

c) schism, the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him (cf. CJC can. 751; CCC 817).

But closer to most Filipino Catholics are the common daily obstacles to unity against which St. Paul warned the Galatians: hostilities, bickering, jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envy” (Gal 5:20). These both impede authentic communion among Catholics, as well as frustrate legitimate ecumenical reaching out to the many sincere non-Catholic Christian Filipinos.

1395. Ecumenism is concerned with restoring unity of the Christian Churches. Vatican II recognized non-Catholic Christians, for “all who are justified in faith through Baptism are incorporated into Christ and therefore have a right to be called Christians and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church” (UR 3). It also calls for the active involvement of all, faithful and clergy alike” (UR 5). But this unity can be achieved only from a radical “change of heart, new attitudes of mind, from self-denial and unstinted love (cf. UR 7). Ecumenical efforts include fair and respectful dialogue, working together on projects for the common good, and even common prayer (cf. UR 4; CCC 820-22).

1396. For Filipino Catholics, PCP II pointed out the need for both inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue (PCP II 110-15, 216-221). It cautioned, however, that ecumenism in the Philippines requires great pastoral discernment, due to the virulent attacks and aggressive proselytizing of many non-Catholic fundamentalist groups (cf. PCP II 218-28; NCDP 233). This only underlines the fact that the hope of full ecumenical unity transcends human abilities, and must be grounded “in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit” (UR 24).

 B.     The Church as HOLY

1397. In faith we believe the Church is holy in a way that can never fail (cf. CCC 823). First, because “Christ loved the Church as his Bride and gave himself up for her, to make her holy. Uniting her to himself as his body, he endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit” (LG 39). Second, because the Holy Spirit graces her with the fullness of the means of salvation and holiness. Such are the preaching of the Gospel, the sacraments, the moral virtues, self-sacrificing service of neighbor, and charismatic gifts (cf. UR 3; LG 48). More concretely, the sanctity of the Church has shone out in the innumerable uncanonized saints among the ordinary faithful and religious, who through the ages have led holy lives.

1398. A Task. The Church’s holiness is a process of growing, a “Paschal Pilgrimage,” not a static, guaranteed state. Like Jesus, the Church welcomes sinners. But unlike Jesus she is “at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance and renewal” (LG 8; cf. CCC 824-27; PCP II 142-44, 155).

Christians have always been exhorted to “lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, . . . and put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born in truth” (Eph 4:22-24). This reveals the fact that “we all truly offend in many things (cf. Jas. 3:2). We all need God’s mercy continuously and must daily pray: ‘Forgive us our sins’ ” (cf. LG 40).

1399. But this means that all in the Church are called to holiness (cf. 1 Thes 4:3). This call comes from Christ: “The Lord Jesus, divine Teacher and Model of perfection, who stands as the Author and Finisher of all holiness, preached holiness of life to each and every one of his disciples, regardless of their situations” (LG 40).

1400. Traditionally, many Filipino Catholics related holiness to certain persons like priests or religious. Some laity used that as an excuse for not striving after holiness themselves. Priests and religious are called to a special state and service in the Church and vow themselves publicly to bear a special sacrificial witness to the love of God, but all the baptized are called to live the full challenge of Christian holiness. As priests and religious manifest the transcendence of God’s call, so lay people remind all men that God’s love has become incarnate in this world, is found there, and is to be lived there.

In reality, Charity/Love is the center of holiness, uniting inseparably both worship of God and service of our fellow human persons. Christ clearly taught this in his TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS OF LOVE. Vatican II confirms this: “love as the bond of perfection and fulfillment of the law, governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of attaining holiness. Hence it is the love of God and of neighbor which marks the true disciple of Christ” (LG 42; cf. CCC 826).

         PCP II insisted that “all are called to a union of love with God and with one another. All—without exception—are called to holiness, the perfection of charity, though not all pursue the same path to holiness” (PCP II 402).

 C.     The Church as Catholic

1401. The term “Catholic” here means universal, complete, all-embracing. It applies to the Church in two different ways. First, the Church is world-wide, sent to all peoples. Second, being endowed with the “fullness of the means for salvation,” she announces the whole, true faith (cf. AG 6; CCC 830).

Hence catholicity is basically not a question of numbers. The Church was “Catholic” on the day of Pentecost “when was foreshadowed the union of all peoples in the catholicity of the Faith achieved by the Church of the New Covenant, a Church which speaks all languages, and lovingly understands and accepts all tongues” (AG 4). It will still be Catholic even if, on the last day, she may only be a “little flock” (cf. Lk 12:32;18:8).

1402. The Church is “Catholic” according to a Church Father because she:

        is spread throughout the world (cf. Acts 1:8).

        possesses all saving truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

        is sent to all peoples (cf. Mk 16:15).

        can heal all kinds of sins (cf. Jn 20:23)

        abounds in every kind of virtue and spiritual gift (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures).

1403. Traditionally, the Church’s “catholicity” as its external, visible universality, was used in apologetics to distinguish the one true Church from all heretical and schismatic Christian sects and groups. “Catholic” was a label identifying the Christian “denomination” to which a believer belonged. Today, “catholicity” is also explained as the Church’s interior capacity of exercising a universal ministry of reconciliation. Such intrinsic capacity is a gift of grace not fully accessible to any sociological study, but directly rooted in the Triune God __ particularly in Jesus Christ, the universal Mediator, and in his Spirit.

1404. Vatican II explains the universality of God’s call to the whole world:

All are called to belong to the new People of God. Wherefore this People, while remaining one and unique, is to be spread throughout the whole world to all ages. . . This character of universality which adorns the People of God is that gift of the Lord whereby the Catholic Church strives energetically and constantly to bring all humanity with all its riches back to Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit (LG 13; cf. CCC 831).

1405. A Task. The Church’s “catholicity” then, is both a gift and a task which involves mission and inculturation. In its mission the Church manifests a basic respect for local Churches and cultures. Its “catholicity” is not any monotonous uniformity, but reaches out to the cultural wealth of all peoples. “The Church as People of God fosters and takes to herself the abilities, resources, and customs of each people; she purifies, strengthens, and ennobles them” (LG 13).

When the Christian Faith is accepted by a people, they bring their own cultural heritage to bear. The Gospel becomes clothed in a new culture, while at the same time, it purifies what is not authentic and strengthens the culture’s true human values. This mutual interaction of the Christian message and human culture is an ongoing, never-completed process through history. Local Churches express the one Christian Faith in distinct ways and forms characteristic of their people, yet in harmony with all other Catholic Churches and “giving ever richer expression to the authentic catholicity of the Church” (UR 4; cf. AG 22).

1406. Filipino “Inculturation” was a major theme of PCP II. “The Christian Faith must take root in the matrix of our Filipino being so that we may truly believe and love as Filipino” (PCP II 72). To “inculturate our Faith” is a primary need for the Catholic Church in our country.

Inculturation is necessary for the sake of the Church itself. It enriches the Church . . . . This process of inculturation . . . respectfully draws the good elements within a culture, renews them from within and assimilates them to form part of its Catholic unity. The Catholicity of the Church is more fully realized when it is able to assimilate and use the riches of a people’s culture for the glory of God (PCP II 208). Practically speaking, “We have to raise up more and more Filipino evangelizers, formed in a ‘Filipino way’ ” (PCP II 210).

D.     The Church as Apostolic

1407. The Church is “Apostolic” in three basic ways: first, because Jesus Christ grounded her permanently “on the foundation of the apostles(Eph 2:20); second, because she guards and transmits their teaching and witness (cf. Mt 28:19-20); third, she continues to be instructed, sanctified and guided by the apostles through their successors (cf. CCC 857-60).

The apostles were sent out by the Risen Lord:

first to the children of Israel and then to all the nations, so that as sharers in Christ’s power they might make all peoples his disciples and sanctify and govern them, and thus spread his Church and, by administering it under the guidance of the Lord, shepherd it all days until the end of the world (LG 19).

Through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within her, the Church guards the sound teaching of the apostles, which forms the rich deposit of faith (cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14).

1408. These truths are brought out clearly and simply in the Prefaces for Apostles:

Father, you founded your Church on the apostles,

to stand firm forever as the living Gospel for all men to hear.

Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock to share

in the work of your Son,

And from their place in heaven they guide us still.

         Apostolic Succession

1409. The principal way the apostles “guide us still” is through the apostolic succession of the bishops, assisted by the Holy Spirit (cf. CCC 861f). “Through those who were appointed bishops by the apostles, and through their successors down to our own time, the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved throughout the world” (LG 20). Christ had formed the apostles in the form of a college or permanent assembly, over which he placed Peter, chosen from among them (cf. LG 19). Today John Paul II has affirmed that:

the Church is now more united in fellowship of service and in the awareness of the apostolate. This unity springs from the principle of collegiality . . . Christ himself made this principle a living part of the apostolic College of the Twelve, with Peter at their head. Christ is continuously renewing it in the College of Bishops, united with and under the guidance of the Successor of St. Peter (RH 5).

1410. Thus, precisely as “Apostolic,” the Church is a hierarchical community, whose unity in faith and communion are grounded in the successors of the apostles, and especially of Peter, the chosen “rock” upon which Christ would build his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; cf. LG 18). This Petrine commission was confirmed when the Risen Christ, calling Peter to a threefold profession of atoning love, charged him thrice with the task of shepherding and leading the flock: “Feed my lambs” (cf. Jn 21:15-17). Since Christ’s commission to Peter and his apostles was destined to last until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20), the “apostles were careful to appoint successors in this hierarchically structured society,” the Church (LG 20). Today, the Roman Pontiff, the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter, has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And the Bishops, as successors of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, “together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, have supreme and full power over the universal Church” (cf. LG 22). But this power and leadership of the hierarchy is a “ministry of service” by which “our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the midst of the faithful” (LG 21).

1411. A Task. The challenge presented to the Church by its “apostolic” quality was commonly treated under the term “apostolate,” meaning the work of all the faithful who carry on the original mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles. So Vatican II’s “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” was issued “to intensify the apostolic activity of the People of God” (AA 1). Such activity is a work of grace aimed at bringing people to the knowledge and love of Christ through which they gain eternal life (cf. Jn 20:31). Today, this work is usually presented in terms of the Church’s Mission and Ministries, to which we now turn.

 III. MISSION AND MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH

 A.     Mission

1412. Christ founded his Church to continue his saving mission on earth. “The Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder, receives the mission to proclaim and to establish among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God” (LG 5). This ‘mission’ is built into her very nature as originating from the Blessed Trinity. The mission flows from the Church as “Sacrament of salvation,” the sign and instrument for achieving intimate union with God (cf. AG 5; LG 1).

Briefly then, the Church has:

        a mission mandate (cf. Mt 228:19f);

        whose origin and goal is the Blessed Trinity (cf. AG 2);

        motivated by God’s love (cf. 2 Cor 5:14); and

        with the Holy Spirit as Principal Agent (cf. R Mi 21; CCC 849-56).

1413. This mission of the “People of God” is a central theme in all four Gospels. Mark presents mission as “proclaiming the Gospel to lead others to the faith: “Clearly this man was the Son of God” (Mk 15:39). Matthew’s mission stresses the teaching of the Christian community, the Church (cf. Mt 28:19-20;16:18). Luke emphasizes the Gospel’s transforming power to work conversion to God’s merciful love, and liberation from the root of all evil, sin. In John’s Gospel Jesus sends forth his disciples on mission, just as the Father sent him (cf. Jn 20:21).

1414.   PCP II describes the Church in the Philippines as a “Community in Mission” (PCP II 102-6). Since mission is at the center of Church’s being, the whole Church is missionary. This means that “we are missionaries above all because of what we are as a Church. . . even before we become missionaries in word or deed(RMi 23).

         In the past, most Catholics thought of “mission” and “missionary” only in terms of priests, brothers, and religious who were sent to the “foreign missions.” It concerned only a few who were specially called. Today, we realize that “each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of his ability” (LG 17). PCP II asserts: “All are called to mission . . . all __ without exception __ are called to evangelize(PCP II 402).

1415. PCP II goes further to describe the particular mission of the lay faithful within the one universal mission of the Church. It grounds the “Lay Apostolate” in Vatican II’s teaching:

The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself. . . . The laity have this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth (LG 33; cf. CL 14; PCP II 402-11).

         PCP II then develops the mission of the laity in terms of being called to: 1) a community of families; 2) Christian presence in the world; 3) service and evangelization; and 4) social transformation (cf. PCP II 419-38).

1416. The Church’s mission toward non-Christians is based on two firm convictions. First, Christ is the one Savior of all, the one mediator between God and man.

This holds true . . . for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same divine destiny, we must hold that the Holy Spirit, in a way known only to God, offers to all the possibility of being made partners in Christ’s Paschal Mystery (GS 22).

         Second, God established the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation, sent on mission to the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth” (LG, 9). Therefore, “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind, and the necessity of the Church for salvation” (RMi 5, 9).

1417. The mission of every Filipino Catholic derives from both the Lord’s mandate and the life of God’s grace within us. As Catholics we are privileged to receive the Lord’s charge of bearing witness to the Faith and to the Christian way of life as a service to our brothers and sisters, and as a fitting response to God (RMi 11). As members of a missionary Church, we are called to confess the Faith in full adherence to the Word of God, celebrated in the Sacraments, and lived in charity, the principle of Christian moral existence(CL 33).

         PCP II recalled John Paul II’s words: “the Philippines has a special missionary vocation to proclaim the Good News, to carry the light of Christ to the nations.” It added; “while it is true that the Church has a mission towards Philippine society, it has also a very definite mission to the other peoples of Asia” (PCP II 106).

1418. Church of the Poor. This mission involves a balance between the essential inculturation of the Faith in Filipino culture and the mission to all peoples, or the Church’s international outreach. PCP II described at length how in the Philippines today, the Church must be a “Church of the Poor.” This means a Church that:

   embraces and practices the spirit of evangelical poverty; combines detachment from possessions with profound trust in the Lord;

   shows special love, a love of preference, for the poor;

   does not discriminate against the poor, but vindicates their rights;

   gives preferential attention and time to the poor;

   has Pastors and leaders who will learn to be with, work with, and learn from, the poor;

   not only evangelizes the poor, but recognizes that the poor will themselves become true evangelizers; and

   orients and tilts the center of gravity of the entire community in favor of the needy (cf. PCP II 125-36).

But PCP II also emphasized the missionary efforts of Filipino religious, priests and lay persons actively spreading the Faith in foreign lands, as well as the missionary potential of Filipino migrant workers abroad (cf. PCP II 106ff).

1419. A further balance must be maintained between the evangelizing mission of proclaiming the Gospel and the thrust for justice and liberation. Evangelization and human liberation, while not identical, are clearly intimately connected. PCP II speaks of a renewed evangelization which does not stop at the building of the Church. It seeks to transform the whole fabric of society according to the values of the Kingdom and of Christ. Thus, the Church promotes human development, integral liberation, justice and peace in society and the integrity of creation. The need for such evangelization is shown by the fact that while our churches are filled on Sundays, our society remains a sick society.

This overall view is illustrated in the “Flow Chart” of the National Pastoral Plan (NPP):

    from the Call: to be Church of the Poor;

    through the Response: Renewed Integral Evangelization;

    to the Vision: to become a Community of Disciples.

B.     Ministries in the Church

1420. The mission of the Church has given rise to numerous ministries within the Church (cf. LG 18; CCC 874). “Ministry” means “service,” and Christian ministry refers to “serving the people of God in a stable fashion.” This includes any public activity of a baptized disciple of Christ, animated by the grace [charism] of the Holy Spirit, performed on behalf of the Christian community, and in the service of the Kingdom of God.

Thus, ministry is characterized by: a) doing something, b) for God’s Kingdom, c) in public, d) on behalf of the Christian community, e) empowered by a gift of faith received in baptism, or ordination, and f) identifiable within the diversity of ministerial activities.

Ministry in its most general sense, therefore, is not the privilege of a selected few, but the vocation of all baptized Christians. The grace of God’s active presence among us, is the source, the context, the judge and the goal of all Church ministries.

1421. Ministries in the Church have greatly expanded today, both in the variety of services and at the levels of ministerial activity. Such expansion has given rise to various groups of distinctions such as “charism, service, ministry,” or “ministries, offices, roles” (cf. CL 21). In order to avoid confusion and arbitrary interpretations, we shall limit the following to only what is essential for our purpose.

What must be insisted upon is both the unity of the Church’s mission in which all the baptized participate, and the substantial diver-sity of the ministry of Pastors and the ministries of the lay faithful, exercised in conformity to their specific lay vocation which is different from that of the sacred ministry.

1422. Ordained Ministry. There are first of all the ordained ministries that arise from the Sacrament of Orders. These ministers receive the authority and power to serve the Church, acting in the person of Christ, the Head. But they are fundamentally ordered to the service of the entire People of God (cf. CL 22). “The sacramental ministry in the Church, then, is a service at once collegial and personal, exercised in the name of Christ” (cf. CCC 875-79). The three degrees of the Sacrament of Orders: bishop, priest and deacon, are taken up in Chapter 28. Here we focus solely on the Magisterium, the teaching office of the Bishops.

1423. Infallibility. The most important duty of the Bishop is “preaching the Gospel” (cf. LG 25). The Bishops are the “authentic teachers,” endowed with the authority of Christ, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff. Through the Spirit, Christ bestowed on his Church, in particular on the College of Bishops teaching in communion with Peter’s successor, the Pope, the gift of infallibility . This gift preserves the Church from error in teaching what God has revealed in faith and morals (cf. LG 12, 25; CCC 889-92).

1424. In promising to be with the Church to the end of time, Christ, the divine Redeemer, willed this charism of infallibility for his Church. This simply means that Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, through his Holy Spirit, will preserve his Church from error in its solemn, definitive teaching of the deposit of faith (cf. LG 12, 25). This special charism of infallibility is enjoyed by the Roman Pontiff, in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful, he proclaims by a definitive act, a doctrine of faith or morals” (cf. LG 25). This infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the Bishops when, as a body together with the successor of Peter, they exercise their supreme teaching office.

To such definitive teaching all Catholics are obliged to adhere “with the loyal and obedient assent of faith” (LG 25). This “assent of the Church can never be lacking on account of the activity of the same Holy Spirit, whereby the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith” (LG 25).

1425. Lay Apostolate. Different not simply in degree but in essence are the ministries of the lay faithful, founded in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and for a good many of them, in the Sacrament of Matrimony (CJC, Can. 230; CL 23).

PCP II described the laity’s field of evangelizing activity as:

the vast and complex world of education, politics, society, and economics, as well as the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media.

To fulfill the mission of communicating Christ in these vast areas, the Church needs:

all the lay faithful, rich and poor, with the special gifts, individual and collective, of farmers, fishermen, workers, mass media practitioners, educators and lawyers, civil servants, those in the medical and nursing services, and professionals in the various strata of society (PCP II 434).

It is clear, then, that the laity’s apostolate cannot be exclusively described in terms of ministry.

1426. The Religious. Besides the ordained and lay ministries, there are the “Religious Brothers and Sisters,” those faithful who bind themselves to Christ in a state of life consecrated to God by the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience (cf. LG 44; CCC 914-33). The Church recognizes various forms of consecrated life: monastic, eremitic, religious institutes, secular institutes, etc., and different societies of apostolic life. PCP II offers an extended exposition of their nature, radical discipleship, witness value, revitalizing their specific religious charisms, their essential missionary character with a “passion for justice,” within the local Church. It adds a description of their spiritualities: contemplative and contemplatives in action (cf. PCP II 448-506).

1427. Basic Ecclesial Communities. Filipino Catholics need to see that the Church’s Mission and all her Ministries are directly for the service of the Kingdom. Besides the primary task of evangelization through preaching the Word, this service means establishing communities, local Churches, and forming Basic Ecclesial Communities which become centers for Christian formation and missionary outreach (RMi 51). By incarnating the Gospel in the Filipino culture, these BECs also become means for effectively spreading Gospel values, and for bringing out the eschatological dimension of daily life. Finally, dialogue with our Filipino and Asian brothers and sisters of other religions is an important part of the Filipino Catholic’s evangelizing mission (PCP II 104-8,137-40).

IV. SUPPORTING THEMES

A.     The Communion of Saints

1428. To “the holy Catholic Church” the Apostles’ Creed adds the explicitation: “the Communion of Saints.” The phrase has two meanings:

•    communion in holy things (sancta), and

•    communion with holy people (sancti).

Both senses are true of the Church (cf. CCC 946-48).

The inspired description of the primitive Church in Acts summarizes the members’ “communion in holy things.”

They devoted themselves to:

    the teaching of the apostles: communion in the faith received from the apostles;

    communal life: fellowship in the Lord, supported by the charisms of the Holy Spirit;

    the breaking of bread and to prayers: communion in the sacraments, especially Baptism, the door to the Church, and the Eucharist which nourishes and perfects the communion;

    “they shared all things in common”: communion in possessions;

    “with exultation and sincerity of heart they ate their meals”: communion of charity (cf. Acts 2:42; CCC 949-53).

1429. But the Church is also the “communion of holy people” in three states. There are first, those who are still pilgrims on earth; second, those who are being purified; and third, those who are already in glory, contemplating in full light God Himself (cf. LG 49). Despite these different states, all are in communion in loving the same God and their neighbor, being disciples of the same Lord, and animated by the same Spirit. Moreover “the union of the living with the brethren who have fallen asleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, is reinforced by the sharing of spiritual goods” (LG 49).

1430. Filipino Catholics are culturally attuned to communion with the saints, communion with the departed, in one family of God. November 1-2 are National Holidays in our country, showing how much Filipinos “cherish the memory of the dead with great piety, offering prayers for them “because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead” (2 Mc 12:46) (cf. LG 50). Yet we must beware of abuses, excesses or defects which may have crept in.

“Authentic cult of the saints consists not so much in multiplying external acts, but rather in a more intense practice of our love, whereby we seek from the saints ‘example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and help in their intercession’ ” (LG 51). Thus, . . . for as long as we, who are sons and daughters of God and form one family in Christ, remain in communion with one another in mutual love and in one praise of the most Holy Trinity, we are responding to the deepest vocation of the Church (LG 51).

B.     Mary: Daughter, Mother and Model of the Church

1431. In Chapter 1 we explained the unique place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Filipino Catholicism. Chapter 3 concluded its exposition of Faith by describing “Mary: Model of Faith.” Chapter 10 explained Mary’s relation to Christ as grounded in Scripture and Church teaching. The Virgin Mary is “acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer.”

         1.   Mary, Daughter of the Church

1432. Now we briefly develop Mary’s relation to the Church. Marian piety has uncovered an abundant richness of relationships between Mary and the Church. For example, as “being of the race of Adam and redeemed by Christ in a more exalted fashion” and as a “believing disciple of Jesus,” Mary is a “daughter of the Church, and our sister as well” (LG 53; cf. BYM 114). But the Vatican Council immediately adds that Mary is “clearly the mother of the members of Christ, since she has with love cooperated in bringing about the birth in the Church of the faithful who are members of Christ their Head” (LG 53; cf. CCC 963).

         2.   Mary, Mother of the Church

1433. Mary as “Mother of the Church” is the reflection and extension of her being the Mother of God and the associate in Christ’s saving work (cf. BYM 117; R Ma 24). We saw how Mary became the Mother of God, that is, of the historical Christ, beginning with her acceptance at the Annunciation when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. Now we see that Mary is the Mother of the Church because:

    As “Mother of Jesus Christ” she is Mother of the Head of the Church, his mystical Body, and thus mother of all members of his Body, all his disciples. Therefore as disciples of Christ and as members of his Body, we have Mary as our spiritual mother (cf. Jn 19:26f; CCC 964).

    As “associate in Christ’s saving work,” Mary “cooperated in an utterly singular way by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior . . . . She is a mother to us in the order of grace” (LG 61; cf. CCC 968).

1434. Mary’s motherhood in the order of grace continues without interruption, since “taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” (LG 62; cf. CCC 968; AMB 55-59). As assumed into heaven in bodily and spiritual glory, Mary “shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (cf. 2 Pt 3:10) as a sign of sure hope and solace for the pilgrim people of God” (LG 68; cf. CCC 972).

1435. Motherhood of Mary and of the Church Relative to Christ. Mary and the Church mutually clarify each other (cf. R Ma 30). Their interrelation can be spelled out in terms of their life-giving maternity, following the pattern “Word of God __ Faith __ birth of Christ.”#

a.  •    Mary brought forth Christ, the Life of the world;

     •    the Church regenerates people in the Christ-life.

b.  •    Mary was “overshadowed” by the Spirit at the Annunciation and Christ was conceived;

     •    the Church received the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and Christ is born in his members, the Church;

c.   •    Mary is a Virginal Mother, that is, entirely dependent on God, not on man.

     •    the Church is likewise;

d.  •    Mary, the redeemed, is missioned to be mother of the redeemed;

     •    Church’s mission is to be “mother of the redeemed.”

                                                                   (BYM 79-80)

In fact, Paul VI did not hesitate to affirm that “knowledge of the true Catholic doctrine regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary will always be a key to the exact understanding of the mystery of Christ and of the Church” (quoted in RMa 47).

1436. John Paul II develops this mutual relation of Mary and the Church’s maternity. On the one hand, the Church learns to be Mother and Virgin from Mary (cf. LG 64; R Ma 43). The Church learned to imitate Mary’s faith and love in carrying out the Father’s will. The Church thereby became virginal mother in her own right. Through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, she brings forth adopted sons and daughters of the Father, receiving the Word of God in faith.

On the other hand, in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church and through the Church (cf. R Ma 47).

3.   Mary, Model of the Church

1437. Mary is Model of the Church because she “shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues” (LG 65). Mary is the first to be evangelized, and the first evangelizer (cf. PCP II 145-52; AMB 60).

As the first to be evangelized and redeemed:

    in her relationship to Christ, she is the most admirable fruit of Christ’s redemption;

    in relation to the life of the Church and its members, she is model of Faith as both virgin and mother, and the perfect disciple of Christ. She is blest among women, raised to a dignity of unimagined heights, “our fallen nature’s solitary boast.”

As the first evangelizer:

Mary is Christ’s God-chosen sharer in mediating it. She is the model of ecclesial service, the handmaid of the Lord who proclaimed her service in her Magnificat, and collaborated with her Son to evangelize for the liberation of all (Puebla 292-303).

1438. Mary, then, “is present in the mystery of the Church as model __ but she is much more. Indeed, with a maternal love she cooperates in the birth and education of the sons and daughters of mother Church” (R Ma 44).

For Filipino Catholics, the central experience of Mary, Mother and Model of the Church, is her constant help and protection through her maternal mediation, interceding for all her children (cf. R Ma 40). Traditional Catholic prayers come spontaneously to Filipinos:

     We fly to your protection, O holy Mother of God. Despise not our petitions, but in our need deliver us from all dangers, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.

     Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided. . .

     Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy; hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope;

To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;

To you do we send up our sighs, mourning

and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,

your eyes of mercy towards us,

And after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit

of your womb, Jesus,

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

1439. Mary is our model in many ways, especially in her interior attitude of service and sacrifice. A total obedience to God’s will and the desire to help others marked her daily life. In that way, God was preparing her for the final sacrifice of the cross. PCP II declares that “we need to consider Mary’s qualities such as faith, generosity, courage at the Annunciation and Crucifixion, her intercessory role at Cana and at the Upper Room before Pentecost, her gentleness and nurturing love” (PCP II 580).

1440. In like manner, Paul VI clarified how Mary can be truly a model for the modern woman. He highlighted her decision making, her free choice of virginity for total self-consecration to God, her proclamation of God’s vindicating the humble and oppressed, her courageous stand in flight, exile, and persecution of her Son, and her support of the apostolic community (cf. MC 37).

Therefore, Mary can rightfully be considered:

an example to be imitated, not precisely in the type of life she led, and much less for the socio-cultural background in which she lived. . . but as an example for the way in which, in her own particular way of life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God. She heard the word of God and acted on it. . . She is the first and most perfect of Christ’s disciples (MC 35; AMB 91).

1441. This also refutes those who erroneously are led to conceive of Christ as the model of men, and Mary as the model of women. Christ is the Lord and Savior of all __ men and women. Those who consider Mary only in her attitude of service and obedience, supposedly representing the ideal values of “femininity,” forget that Christ is THE model of service and obedience. Mary’s yes is Christ’s, leading to the struggle of the Cross. Mary, then, is the fulfillment of Israel raised to a new level; following Christ, she is model for both men and women.

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INTEGRATION

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1442. The doctrine of the Church as the People of God has a profound effect on Catholic Morality. For if it is true that God’s very life and grace are shared with us as members of the Church, then the social dimension of all authentic morality becomes even more sharply evident. More concretely, this doctrine of the Church underlines the Christian community’s necessary role in the ongoing formation of Christian conscience, especially through the moral guidance and enlightenment offered by the Church’s Magisterium to the People of God in regard to difficult moral problems.

1443. Moreover, viewing the Church as the “foundational sacrament” grounds the whole sacramental order and fosters a renewed appreciation of Worship . . . . The liturgical renewal owes much to this new dynamic view of the Church. But the most fruitful change wrought by this new ecclesiology is the stress on the spiritual vocation of all members of the Church. All are called to a life of authentic prayer and holiness, marked by a genuine personal intimacy with the Lord. This life is developed in the subsequent chapters on the sacramental life of the Church.

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

______________________________________________________________

1444. What is the Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church is the community of men and women, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, under the leadership of the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.

As such, “they press onward towards the Kingdom of the Father as bearers of the message of salvation intended for all” (GS 1).

1445. How should we understand the Church?

The Church is not merely a human social organization, but “the People of God called together.” It consists of all who are drawn to personal communion with Christ and with one another, and as “united to the Son, in the Spirit’s bond of love, [are thus] united to the Father(CL 18).

The Church, then, is “mystery __ a God-centered reality in its origin, ongoing life and final goal.

1446. How is the Church related to the Trinity?

The Church:

    originates according to the Father’s eternal plan, from the side of the Crucified Christ, and is animated and united by the coming of the Holy Spirit;

    structured as a community of love modelled on the Trinity’s loving union of Father, Son and Spirit;

•    missioned (sent) by the Father following the joint Mission of Son and Spirit;

    destined as a pilgrim people to journey toward perfect communion with the Trinity in heaven.

1447. Do Catholics as Church members experience the Trinity?

In practice, Filipino Catholics experience the Trinity in their parish community. Without consciously attending to it, they actually:

•    come to worship God as their Father,

•    through their union with Jesus Christ, their Savior,

•    guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and

•    under the leadership of their parish priests and the Bishops, successors of the apostles.

1448. Why is the Church today called “sacrament”?

The Church, like Christ himself, is rightly called “sacrament” because it is a visible sign which makes present a spiritual grace-filled reality.

Specifically, the Church is the efficacious symbol that unites us to God and to one another, and thus is the efficacious symbol of our salvation.

1449.  What advantages does thinking of the Church as “sacrament” offer?

Thinking of the Church as fundamental sacrament helps us

    unite the visible (institutional) and invisible (mystery) aspects of the Church;

    relate the Church to non-Catholics for whom it is called to be the “light” of the world and “salt” of the earth;

      link the Church with the Eucharist in its union with Christ; and

    love the Church, as our home.

1450. How does Scripture picture the Church?

Among the many Scriptural images of the Church, three stand out: “Kingdom of God,” “People of God,” and “Body of Christ.”

1451. What is meant by the Church as “Kingdom of God”?

The Church is the “Kingdom of God in process,” that is:

•    the Good News preached to the poor,

•    the seed quietly sown, and

•    the leaven in the dough, gradually raising all in the pilgrimage to the Kingdom of the Father, through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

1452. How is the Church the new “People of God”?

God saves us not merely as individuals, but by calling us into a single people, united in faith, whose:

    Head is Christ the Lord;

    unifying soul is the indwelling Spirit;

    members are those who believe in Christ and are reborn through water and the Spirit in Baptism;

    structure is the Christ-instituted hierarchy of apostles and their successors, the Bishops, with the Roman Pontiff as head;

    law is Christ’s new commandment of Love;

    mission is loving service of neighbor, and

    final destiny is sharing in the perfect community of Love, of Father, Risen Incarnate Son, and Spirit.

1453. How is the Church the “Body of Christ”?

         “By communicating his Spirit to his brothers [and sisters], called together from all peoples, Christ made them mystically into his own body” (LG 7).

The Church is a real, living body whose members are formed in Baptism into the likeness of Christ, fed in the Eucharist with the very life of Christ their head, and animated and unified by his Spirit as its soul.

[Hence we see how “Christ’s body” can mean: a) his physical body while he was on earth; b) his Eucharistic body, by which his glorified body/Person is sacramentally present to us, and c) Mystical body of the Church formed by all his disciples, united to him as Head and sharing his very life through his Spirit in the visible society governed by the successors of the apostles.]

1454. What are the essential characteristics of the Church?

         Traditionally the Church has been described by four basic characteristics, each of which as both gift and task relates the Church directly to Christ. These characteristics are: ONE, HOLY, CATH-OLIC, and APOSTOLIC.

1455. What is meant by affirming the Church as “ONE”?

Despite numerous Christian sects and Churches, the Church is essentially ONE as Gift in its:

a)   SOURCE, as a people made one with the unity of the Trinity and its founder, Jesus Christ;

b)  LIFE, as one body and one Spirit in:

     the confession of one Faith;

     common sacramental worship;

     loving service of one another;

     loving obedience to the Vicar of Christ on earth.

1456. How is the Church’s oneness a “Task”?

         As followers of Christ and members of his Body, the Church, we are called to a radical change of heart to overcome the divisions rooted in heresy, apostasy and schism, and especially our own factions, rivalries, and dissensions that fracture the visible communion of Christ’s people.

1457. What is meant by the Church as HOLY”?

The Church is holy as a gift from Christ who unites her to himself as his Body, and sends her his Holy Spirit. Empowered by the Spirit, the Church sanctifies her members by her preaching, loving service, sacramental life, and charismatic gifts.

1458. How is the Church’s holiness also a “Task”?

Since the Church is “at the same time holy and always in need of being purified” (LG 8), her holiness is a process of growing into the full stature of Christ.

“. . . Till we become one in faith and in the knowledge God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature . . . Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows. . . and builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:13-16).

PCP II has stressed that “all __ without exception __ are called to holiness. . . though all do not pursue the same path” (PCP II 402; cf. LG 32).

1459. What does it mean to call the Church “Catholic”?

         The Church is “Catholic” or universal as a gift from the Lord because she is sent to bring all peoples “to Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit” (LG 13).

But it is also a Task since “all __ without exception are also called to mission, that is, to evangelize (PCP II 402; cf. LG 33).

1460. What is meant by the Church as “APOSTOLIC”?

As Gift, the Church is apostolic because Christ built [her] upon “the foundation of the apostles” (Eph 2:20), thus linking her permanently with their witness (cf. Mt 28:19-20). This apostolic charism is carried on through the apostolic succession of the Bishops.

As Task, the apostolic nature of the Church is exercised by all the faithful who carry on the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles.

1461. What is the mission Christ entrusted to his Church?

The Church received the mission to proclaim and establish among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God (cf. LG 5). She is the “Universal Sacrament of salvation” for the whole world.

The Church is “missionary by her very nature, since she originates from the mission of the Son and the mission the Spirit, according to the plan of God the Father” (AG 2). Every member of the Church, therefore, shares in this mission, i.e., “the obligation of spreading the faith” (LG 17).

1462. How is this mission applied to Filipino Catholics?

Since the Church in the Philippines is a “Church of the Poor,” PCP II stresses the thrust for justice and liberation as an integral part of the renewed evangelizing mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

This mission is carried out in the various ordained ministries and the ministries of the lay faithful who, through Baptism and Confirmation, share in Christ’s triple role, as Priest, Prophet, and King.

1463. What is meant by the “Communion of Saints”?

         The “Communion of Saints” can refer to the communion:

    of Christ’s holy people: those on pilgrimage, those being purified, and those already in glory __ as manifested concretely in Filipino Catholics’ celebration of November 1-2; or

    in holy things: like the Church’s teaching, communal life, sacraments and charity (cf. Acts 2:42).

1464. How is the Virgin Mary Daughter and Mother of the Church?

         Mary is:

    Daughter of the Church as redeemed by, and the perfect disciple of, Jesus Christ;

    Mother of the Church because she is Mother of Jesus Christ and associate in his saving work.

As she consented to give birth to Jesus, her Son, so she cooperated with love in bringing about the birth of the Church, whose faithful are united under Christ their Head (cf. LG 53).

As Mother of Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, Mary becomes the spiritual mother of all the disciples of Christ (cf. Jn 19:26f).

1465. How is the Virgin Mary “Model” of the Church?

Mary is venerated as Model of the Church because she is:

•    the first to be evangelized and redeemed: the perfect disciple of Christ her Son, model of Faith as both virgin and mother, blest among women, the handmaid of the Lord; and

•   the first evangelizer: with Christ, she perfectly fulfilled — and is even now fulfilling — her role in God’s plan of universal salvation.


*       “Icon” is a sacred image, painted on wood or formed by a  mosaic, that presents persons and scenes symbolically, fostering public and private prayer and worship. Reverence shown to icons does not refer to the images themselves, but to the sacred persons represented: the living God, Christ the Savior, the Virgin, the angels and saints.

#    Vatican II sketches this same relationship of the Church to Mary: “The Church in her apostolic work rightly looks to her who brought forth Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, so that through the Church, Christ may be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful” (LG 65).

Back to: CATECHISM FOR FILIPINO CATHOLICS



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