6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church has been one of the world’s most powerful institutions for nearly 2000 years, but much of its history is shrouded in mystery. There are some things that everybody knows about the Catholic Church, even if you aren’t a Christian. For example, most people know that Catholic priests wear roman collars, and remain celibate (with some notable exceptions). Everyone knows who the pope is and that he lives in Vatican City, ensconced in Rome. But there are some surprising things even faithful Catholics don’t know. Here are 7 things you probably didn’t know about the catholic church:
- The purpose of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus. Too many people have a false understanding of the purpose of the Catholic Church. After Jesus made the Church, He gave a clear mission statement to His apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” -Matt 28:19-20. Everything else the Church does, feed the hungry, perpetuate the Sacraments, etc. is in service to this mission. Evangelization isn’t optional.
- The Catholic Church may not be what you think it is. Catholicism isn’t just a set of doctrines or a hierarchy of clergy. Catholicism isn’t just about giving a moral code or set of social teachings. It is much more than we could ever know. The Church isn’t so easily definable, which is why we have so many different ways of describing it – “the bride of Christ”, “the body of Christ”, “the people of God”, etc. The Church’s identity is inseparable from Jesus and thus shares in the mystery of God. When we think we “know” the Church, we are fooling ourselves. This is why growing in knowledge about the content of the Church’s teachings is so important.
- The Trinity really does matter. Many Catholics wouldn’t bat an eye if the Pope declared we don’t need the Trinity anymore, because it makes no difference in many Catholics’ daily lives. But, it really does matter. Why? Because if God is a communion of persons, a family, and we are made in God’s image and likeness, then our families and relationships are called to reflect the same kind of relationship found in the Trinity – the gift of self to another – true love. This is where the paradox of the Gospel finds a foundation. To gain life, we must lose ourselves. To live is to die. To die is to live. All because of the Trinity…and that is just the starting point. Since God is infinite, the Trinity matters an infinite amount. I haven’t even mentioned that it is the most basic of all Christian doctrines and the starting point of everything else we believe
- The Incarnation changes everything. An all-powerful, eternal, all-knowing, divine being decided to create the universe and then he becomes one of the creatures he created!!! This is mind-numbing. Furthermore, in humbling himself to take on our flesh, he raises up our nature to a greater dignity – one that now shares in his own nature. We share in God’s nature. This is flabbergasting. The world is never the same and all of creation and time revolves around this one moment – when God becomes one of us. Our response should be to see God in all of his creation, but most importantly in all of humanity, including ourselves.
- The Church is beautiful. Because of the first three truths above, we can now see the beauty of the Church. Is the Church full of sinners? Certainly (I am in it!). But, we sinners are not the source of the Church’s beauty, God is. We are called to reflect this beauty as best we can, but true beauty is found in the being of God, who is beauty itself. The Church reflects Christ beauty to the world. Through the Saints’ lives, the Cathedrals and artwork, through the music and songs, and through the teachings of the Church. It is in these ways we see God’s beauty rise up for a world that focuses all too often on what is ugly.
- Catholicism contains the most balanced teaching you will find. Catholicism holds a lot of seeming tensions in balance. They include; 1 God and 3 persons, Scripture and Tradition, Faith and Works, Jesus is human and divine, the Church is both holy and imperfect, we can know God through both faith and reason, we are a people of both prayer and action, and the Bible is written by man and inspired by God. We are a people of both/and, not either/or. While it may seem there are contradictions, there are not. But, there is mystery behind the balance.