Tag: The Catholic Church is Holy

The Catholic Church is Holy

The Catholic Church is Holy


The Catholic Church is Holy

 We will continue looking at the Ninth Article of the Apostles’ Creed and focus on the Holiness of the Catholic Church. Last post we looked at the first mark of the Church : its Oneness. If we remember correctly from previous posts, the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, and these we call the Four Marks of the Church.

  We will let the late Reverend Monsignor Ronald Knox lead this catechesis on the Holiness of the Catholic Church.

“We must consider the second mark, the holiness of the Church. Here we are in a somewhat more embarrassing position when we start arguing with our friends outside the Church; they’re so apt to expect rather too much, aren’t they? The usual explanation the books give of this second mark is that “holiness” in the Church is proved partly by the continuance of miracles within her fold, and partly by the existence of the religious orders, with their special cult of perfection. The Church (we are told) has her ups and downs, her bad patches here and there, but we’ve still got Lourdes and we’ve still got Carmel. I’ve no quarrel with that explanation, but I think you can put the thing rather more simply in this way–Christians of any other denomination, if they describe that denomination as “holy” at all (which they very seldom do), are referring in fact to the individual holiness of its members. Whereas when we talk about the Holy Catholic Church we aren’t thinking, precisely, of the holiness of its members. We think of the Church as sanctifying its members, rather than being sanctified by its members. Sanctity–what a hard thing it is to define! There is a kind of bouquet of mystery about Catholic ceremonial, there is a kind of familiarity about the attitude of Catholics towards death and what lies beyond death, there is a patient acceptance of little oddnesses and inconveniences about the practice of religion, which you don’t find outside the Church itself, except perhaps among certain High Church people who have been at pains to imitate what is to us a natural attitude. That’s all very vague, and I haven’t time to analyze it more particularly; but I think the reason why atheists usually say, “If I was anything, I’d be a Catholic”, is that there is a something about her; and that something is really her sanctity, a quality which belongs to the institution as such, not to you and me.

And that something is not affected, really, by all the mud-slinging which starts, among the more embittered kind of Protestants, the moment the sanctity of the Church is mentioned. Immoral popes and worldly bishops, and priests in odd parts of the world who aren’t any better than they should be, and the massacre of St Bartholomew and a dozen other incidents which recall to us the dictum “Happy is the nation which has no history”–well, yes. All that we can admit, and regret, and refuse to extenuate, and still say, “Yes, I know, but I’d sooner be a Catholic than anything else, because I’m not much of a chap really, and somehow being a Catholic means feeling that you get something out of it, whereas being any other kind of Christian means feeling that you’ve got to put something into it.” All that’s true, and it’s fine. But, mark you, the real reason why Catholic propaganda doesn’t go down better than it does, is our individual unholiness. I don’t so much mean the way Catholics are always appearing in the police-courts and so on; there’s a lot to be said about that, and it’s not all to our discredit. No, I mean rather our terrible second-rateness, our determination to get to heaven as cheaply as possible, the mechanical way in which we accept our religious duties, our habit of thinking about every problem of conduct in terms of sin and of hell, when we ought to be thinking much more about generosity in our treatment of God. “Nor knowest thou what argument thy life to thy neighbour’s creed hath lent”–it isn’t logic, but that’s the real mark of the Church the world is looking out for, all the time. ”

  I have to say this catechesis of  the late Monsignor Ronald Knox  really hit me square in the chest! It is up to us to be examples of Christ and His Holiness, and we can only do that through Him, with Him, and in Him. That is only possible if we are regularly approaching the Sacraments of confession and Holy Eucharist. Recently I have had time to reflect on the effort that I actually put into life in general. Sometimes I settle for “just doing enough”. Through Christ and His Sacraments I know that I can do much better through Him, and with Him, and for Him. His grace is always there, why do I settle for “good enough”?

      In JM+JT,