Who are we?

Who are Catholics? For some odd reason, I was thinking about this the other morning. What are the attributes of being Catholic that apply to all of us?

Earlier this year, organizers of the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast made a wonderful video entitled Simply Catholic. One answer given is that “being Catholic isn’t just something I do, it’s not a place that I go, it’s who I am.” I like that answer because it succinctly makes a good point. More than just members of an organization, Catholicism describes our very being.

Yet, collectively when considered only as an organization, we accomplish many good works. We are the largest charitable organization on the planet. We established numerous hospitals, schools and orphanages. We educate more children than any other scholarly or religious institution. We founded the college system. We developed the scientific method and laws of evidence. Sacred Tradition gave us the cannon of Holy Scripture (the Bible). Through our Magisterium, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, our faith is unchanging. We are the Church instituted by Jesus Himself.

There are many things that make Catholics different from each other as individuals. We are of every age, race and nationality. We work in every moral field of endeavor. In monetary terms, we are rich and poor. We are involved in every political party, promoting the Church’s teaching in them (not pushing their agenda on the Church!). Our tastes in everything vary widely.

Those are among our many individual differences. There are well over a BILLION of us. Of course no two are the same! Yet apart from an almost infinite array of differences, faithful Catholics have much in common.

We are baptized Christians via trinitarian baptism, as are most Protestants (whose baptisms we also recognize). We profess the same (Nicene) creed. We reject Satan, his works and empty promises.

We attend and co-celebrate the Mass together at least every Sunday and on holy days of obligation. At Mass we receive the Eucharist (communion) often, but at least once per year. We receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (“confession”) regularly, but also at least once per year (minimally, during the Lenten Season).

We believe in the true, real presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior literally present in the Eucharist. When we receive Him, we are joined with Him and He with us. Through the Eucharist we are also joined with each other – at that Mass and more broadly in our parish and other Catholic parishes throughout the world. We are united not only in the present, but also the past and the future.

We are the grateful recipients of the sacraments. Seven gifts from Jesus that bless us with graces throughout our lives. They draw us closer to Christ, reset us when we fall and recharge us when we are depleted. They heal us and dedicate us through initiation and vocation.

Every one of us is an important part of the mystical body of Christ, the Communion of Saints of which He is the head. We are the earthly contingent, the Church Militant. We teach and spread the fullness of the Christian faith. We are all in a priesthood. Some of us who wear Roman collars are ordained into the ministerial priesthood. The rest of us are in the common priesthood. Both serve the one, true High Priest – Jesus Christ.

We are each called to be saints, to live lives patterned on that of Jesus and the canonized Saints who were exemplary men and women. Our journey leads to heaven and our goal is to take as many as possible with us.

We are also deeply ashamed to be sinners, every one of us – every lay person, religious, deacon, priest, bishop and pope. We separate ourselves from God by accepting the false promises of Satan. We blame only ourselves, are profoundly sorry for these failures and resolutely work to transform our lives.

This is who we are. Ours is one family united in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are Catholic.


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