As we begin our 7th week of isolation from COVID-19, I can’t help to think of everything put on hold that I used to take for granted. I don’t need to ramble here about what all those things are, you know as well as me. But, I do think this Sunday is a good time to reflect on something we can all take for granted, because it has been there seemingly forever. That “something” is my Catholic faith.
During this isolation, I’ve realized how I take for granted worshiping at Mass every Sunday with my parish families, or any day of the week. I take for granted how I can receive the Eucharist almost at will, or can stop by the church anytime during the day to spend a few minutes of solitude with our Lord. I take for granted the rich traditions of my Catholic faith, and what I really believe as a Catholic. So, I thought I would take another look here at just what do we believe?
We believe God created everything that exists – and he created a universe that is good. Our story is humanity’s story, and begins before time was even measured. It is recorded in the Bible, which simply means “book.” Jews and Christians share the first books of the Bible – for Christians, they are called the Old Testament. The New Testament is our story of Salvation. The Easter Story we celebrate every time we worship at Mass.
We are a community of believers who span the globe – our very name, “catholic,” means universal. We are members of smaller faith communities called “parishes”. Our core beliefs are summed up in our Creed which we pray at every Mass. We are the original Christian Church, which began when Jesus himself said to the Apostle Peter, “You are the rock on which I will build my church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Every pope since then has been part of an unbroken line of succession since Peter, the first pope.
Ever since the 1st Century, we have believed that when Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Take this and eat – this is my body; take this and drink – this is my blood,” he was giving us the gift of his real presence in the form of bread and wine. We call this the Eucharist – a name that comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. The Catholic Mass is a Eucharistic celebration and a celebration of God’s word in Scriptures. We believe that holy men and women who have come before us still pray for us and aid us. We call them saints. Many of them were martyred, and our churches are named for them. First among the saints is Mary, a virgin who gave birth to the child Jesus, and who is honored as the mother of God and the mother of the Church.
From the beginning of Christianity, the Catholic Church handed on God’s word to each new generation – and defined what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Through the centuries, it is the Catholic Church that preserved the Bible, as well as many other written works, through its monasteries and libraries. It instituted the university system in order to educate.
We also believe that beauty is a sign of God’s loving presence – and so we have commissioned and preserved some of the world’s greatest art-works. Without the sponsorship of the Church, Michelangelo would never have painted his famous Sistine Chapel nor carved the Pietà.
Today, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest charitable organization; we provide a significant portion of social service needs for Americans. There are nearly 250 Catholic universities and colleges in the United States alone. We also operate this nation’s largest non-public school system, one of those schools is right here in our community.
Mostly, we are over a billion people on every continent who profess and express a faith in Christ that spans two millennia. We are Catholics. We will survive this time of quarantine, and soon be back together worshiping our glorious God at Mass again. Until then, stay safe and have a Blessed Easter Season!
Deacon John Adapted from www.dioceseoflansing.org.