The faith of the Catholic church
A few years back, I officiated at a wedding ceremony between a Catholic and a none Catholic; a mixed marriage. Obviously you know what the congregation would be like, it was mixed, Catholics and none Catholics. It appeared to be like an answer to the Lord’s prayer; “Father, may they be one” but unfortunately it was not because there were some negative reactions and comments from some of the none Catholics. Some said they were tired of the kneeling and standing while others complained that they actually planed to dance out their lives but were not given the opportunity. These and some other reactions you may have heard or seen may arouse some questions in your mind: Are we not all Christians? Is the Catholic Faith different from the Christian Faith? Is the teachings of the Catholic Church different from the bible? Where is the source of the Catholic Faith?
Let us begin with the word “Catholic”. The word Catholic has being interpreted and understood differently by different people. In our Creed as Catholics, we say that we believe in One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In some other Church’s Creed, they say the same thing; that they too believe in One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. When you ask them if they are Catholics they will tell you no. The few ones I have chatted with claim that the word Catholic means universal and so it is not restricted to the “Catholic Church” usage. Though it is true that the word “Catholic” means universal, but I often asked; universal in what sense? Does it mean that they believe in all the Churches in the world? This can’t be true because the rivalry among Churches today proves that point wrong. So, to understand the sources of the Catholic faith, you need to understand the true meaning of the word Catholic or the Catholic Church.
The word “Catholic” means universal, but this universality does no imply diversity but oneness in full communion with the bishop of Rome, the Pope. The Catholic Church is universal in the sense that we are connected in Faith, spiritually, liturgically and administratively. So, you begin to wonder how universal are those that claim to be “Catholic” yet liturgically and administratively divided. I am not condemning any one neither do I have the right to do so, I am simply pointing out the fact that the universality of the Holy Mother Church is unique. This is not to say that none Catholics are less Christians, no. Together with them we are Sons and daughters of God, we are co-pilgrims united in our faith in Jesus Christ. We both believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he is God; we believe he came in the flesh, he died and rose for our salvation, ascended into heaven and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. We both preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins; however, we must acknowledge the fact that we differ in doctrine and in our approach to this one faith.
The none Catholics believe strongly in the word of God just as we do. This word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit and preached by the apostles came to us in two ways: written (Sacred Scriptures) and oral form (Sacred Tradition). This is where the Catholic Church differs. The none Catholics believe that anything outside the written word (Sacred Scriptures) should not be considered as true or inspired. We Catholics do not doubt the authenticity of the written word of God; we believe in it and it is one of the sources of our faith. The Sacred Tradition is another source of our faith. Anyone who believes in the Sacred Scriptures must believe in the Sacred Tradition, if not, his or her believe in the Sacred Scripture will be half baked. If you believe in the Sacred Scripture, then you should believe everything it says. The Sacred Scriptures itself testifies that not everything is written down. “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn. 21:25). Everyone who believes that the Sacred Scripture is inspired by God must accept the fact that not everything is written down. They were not written not because they were bad, they were done by Christ and they cannot be bad. So, while the Catholic Church accepts the fact that the Sacred Scriptures is truly inspired by God She also believe that the Sacred Tradition is inspired by God and considers it a true and authentic source of our faith.
The Sacred Tradition are those things that were not written down but handed on orally to our generation. In case you doubt, let me ask: since the Scripture itself says that only a fraction of the truth is written down, what happens to the other fraction? lost? what about the apostles’ close relationship with Christ? They stayed with him for Three years, they heard things he said and saw things he did that were not written down; what happens to those things? St. Paul himself believes in Sacred Tradition, He said to the people of Thessalonians; “so then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2Thess. 2:15). Here, Paul confirms what John had said, that not all things are written down; he charged the Thessalonians to accept the written word and the ones handed on orally.
The Catholic Church is the Mother Church, a Church that is blessed with rich heritage and tradition. It is a Church that was there from the very beginning and so, can boast of having the Apostolic Tradition. No other denomination came before the Catholic Church and so, no other denomination can teach the Catholic Church the source of Christian faith. We are proud of the two sources of our faith: the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition.