“DEFEND US IN BATTLE”, are the iconic words found in our famous call to St Michael, the archangel. These words of course, presume that the person asking for help is in the middle of a fight, whether it be for reasons of self-defense or conquest. It assumes that there is something or someone worth fighting for, something or someone worth dying for.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen pagan goddesses on the gardens of St Peter, pride flags all over so-called “Catholic” schools, churches closed because bureaucrats and some bishops deemed them non-essential, churches burned to the ground, kids denied participation as altar servers due to covid-injection status, the Eucharist denied to unvaccinated (but never to abortionists), the state given power to choose bishops (China), a papal proclamation stating “God wills many religions”, a bishop in a nation with 0.07% Catholic population asking our brothers and sisters to stop proselytizing, and so on and on. Does this sound like anyone is in a battle? Lots of silence and appeasement here, unless of course one the sheep wanders into a traditional Latin Mass. Then the wolves come out!
With so many churches out there, how do we know which one is the one founded in Christ? Hard to go to war without knowing which army one belongs to. God’s Church has four marks and three primary functions. The marks of the true Church are that it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic (CCC 811-870). Its primary functions are to worship, evangelize, and care for the poor, and through this triadic process, help people become saints.
The Church is One. Christ did not create or desire many churches, let alone will many religions, which explains why He said, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that You have given me, so that they may be as one, as We are One” (Jn 17:11). In case there was doubt or misinterpretation of our Lord’s words, St Paul clarified them for us when he taught the Ephesians that “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope… one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father to all” (Ephe 4:4-5). In addition, if the Church is the “Bride of Christ” (CCC 796), then wouldn’t having multiple churches make Jesus a polygamist or an unfaithful groom? This would be directly contrary to His own teaching on the unity and sanctity of marriage (Mk 10:7-9), therefore, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”. We can be confident Christ wills for one bride, one kingdom, one Church.
The Church is Holy. This one always raises the question of how can an institution riddled with scandal still go out and call itself holy? The Catechism in its reflection called “Wounds of unity” quotes the following from Origen: “Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there is also harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.” (CCC 817). This is the story up and down the centuries of the Church of saints and sinners. Mother Mary warned the three little shepherds in Fatima, Portugal, that more people lose their salvation over sins of the flesh than anything else. In response to this fallen nature of man, the Church teaches the virtue of chastity. Not to be confused with celibacy, which is one of the forms of chastity, this particular virtue is defined as “an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” (CCC 2339). Offenses against chastity include lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, conjugal infidelity, rape, and homosexual acts, to name a few. The latter is mentioned specifically in CCC 2357, Gen 19:1-29, Rom 1:24-32, 1 Cor 6:9-10, 1 Tim 1:10, etc. The creation of Adam and Eve, and the aforementioned words of Christ regarding one male and one female becoming one, are further reflections to help us have a clear understanding on God’s natural law. If you want to know and see with your own eyes what happens to churches that ignore, rationalize, or relativize sins, i encourage you to drive to Annette street in Toronto (between Jane and Keele). There were at least five Christian churches there for many years (two are Catholic). The three non-Catholic churches proudly waved the flag of pride, contraception, abortion, and today, all of them without exception have been turned to condos. The only churches left standing there today are the two Catholic ones. I do not share this gleefully. Church closures are a symptom of a loss of faith, a loss of Christian identity, and so although I disagree theologically with those churches, I am saddened by their replacement for mere housing. This is however, a warning to those that think softening our standards on morality will bring in herds of new believers. The exact opposite is true. Sin separates us from God. The Church works to heal as many sinners as possible, same way a hospital works to heal as many injured/sick people as possible. Not all are healed however, and some clergy even do more damage, but people still die in hospitals and some doctors also do more damage, and no one is calling for an end to medicine or the closure of hospitals (abortion clinics are not hospitals, they are morgues). The Church is Holy, because Christ has sanctified her, and because of her saints, the Virgin Mother being the greatest among them.
The Church is Catholic. The word itself simply means “universal”, but there are two reasons why the Church is described this way:
1 – Christ is present within her!! St Ignatius of Antioch famously said, “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church!”
2 – The Church has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole human race (Mt 28:19). Since Christ came for all of us, the Church too works to gather everyone.
Jesus came to establish a kingdom on earth not a local club or political party, and there’s something really powerful about the thought of millions of people around the world worshipping together every Sunday at Mass, although praying in different languages. It’s almost like the Last Supper and Pentecost combined, but instead of celebrating in one room, the world itself becomes one giant “upper room”!
The Church is Apostolic. She is founded on the Apostles (Eph 2:20) (Rev 21:14), the witnesses chosen by Christ Himself to send on mission. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church protects and hands on the teaching received from them (Acts 2:42), through their successors, forming what we call the “college of bishops”. As Jesus chose to give the keys to one of the apostles (Mt 16:18-19), our first Pope St Peter, so today the Church continues to have a visible head, the Vicar of Christ. The root word for apostle is “apostoloi”, which in Greek means “emissary”. When Jesus said to the twelve, “he who receives you receives Me”, it was within the context of mission, of going out as His emissaries (apostles) to share the Good News of His Resurrection.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has the mission to lead the world in worship of God, to evangelize everywhere to the ends of the earth, and to care for the poor. All are called to participate in this mission: man and woman, married and single, rich and poor, old and young, healthy and sick, black and white, etc etc. How is that for inclusivity? The Church however, needs to do all three, all the time. If she was to solely focus on worship, she would quickly turn inwards and run the risk of becoming ritualistic. If we only preach without practice, this becomes like faith that grows in rocky ground: grows quickly, and withers even quicker. Caring for the poor is a noble endeavour, but if that becomes the sole focus, the Church would morph into nothing more than you typical NGO. The Church at its best is administering the Sacraments, especially Baptism and Eucharist (worship), sharing the good news to the whole world through its schools and various ministries (evangelization), and looking after those in need (both physical and spiritual).
As a baptized man, which one(s) of these missions are you supporting? You don’t have to be a priest to help the Church with worship: you can become one of the lectors for example, but most importantly, bring your family to Mass. You don’t have to be like Bishop Barron or Scott Hahn to help the Church evangelize: pray grace before meals when out at a restaurant, or if you are up for a challenge, pray the rosary at a pro-life rally. To care for the poor, you don’t need to be Mother Teresa or jet out to Africa. Plenty of poverty around us. Start by donating your time and some treasure to local soup kitchen, and support organizations like ShareLife or Chalice.
It is sometimes said that those in Heaven are the Church Triumphant, those in Purgatory are the Church Suffering, and those here on earth are the Church Militant. We are meant to be in battle! We should therefore not be surprised when we look around and see our Church under attack. Whether it be communists or islamists from the outside, or heretical clergy and apostatised educators (see Critical Race Theory and Gender Theory), the threat is both from within and external, This is the history of the Church, right from the garden, to the golden calf, to Judas’ betrayal, to Arian heretics, to Luther, to abuse scandals (read also on Eli and his sons), and so on.
So when you feel like running, take a look at the Cross, and as you gaze at the beaten body of God’s only Son, “put on the whole armour of God” (Ephe 6:11) and stand firm. The Church is worth fighting for, and Christ is worth dying for!
St Joseph: Pray for us
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