Each week we profess in our Nicene Creed that we as a Church are: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. You can refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for an in depth explanation of these qualities (see Part One, Section Two, Chapter 3, Article 9, Paragraph 3) which we call the Marks of the Church.
Briefly stated, one means that there should be a unity among us. “The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope (cf. Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome.” (Catechism, 866) It is not the work of God to tear the Church apart, to create factions, or to create dissention in the ranks. [Interestingly, the root of the word diabolical, coming from Greek, means to throw (tear) apart.]
Holy refers to the fact that, although the Church is made up of sinners, we are set apart for a special purpose by and for God. “The Church is holy: the Most Holy God is her author; Christ, her bridegroom, gave himself up to make her holy; the Spirit of holiness gives her life. Since she still includes sinners, she is ‘the sinless one made up of sinners.’ Her holiness shines in the saints; in Mary she is already all-holy.” (Catechism, 867) We enjoy the means to sanctification and holiness through Christ and the sacraments of His Church. Charity should be our rule and guide.
Catholic tells us of the universality, wholeness and totality of the Church. “She proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is ‘missionary of her very nature.’" (Catechism, 868) Salvation comes from Christ (the Head) and through His Church (His Body). There is a line from Vatican Council II that is important for those who contend that one religion is as good as another or may choose to leave the Catholic Church: “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (Lumen Gentium 14)
Apostolic means that we can trace our leadership and teachings directly back to the Apostles. The Catholic Church has the Pope as the Successor of St. Peter and the Bishops as Successors of the Apostles. “She is built on a lasting foundation: "the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev 21:14). She is indestructible (cf. Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.” (Catechism, 869) Our Pope and Bishop, as successors of St. Peter and the Apostles respectively, because of the office they hold, deserve our respect and obedience. Like the original Apostles, they are not sinless or perfect as human beings. However, the position that they hold in the Church and their teaching authority warrants a respect and obedience from us. Again from Vatican Council II: “The bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ.” (Lumen Gentium 20)
Hopefully, we try to live out the Marks of the Church which we proclaim to believe each week in our creed.
Fr. Ed Namiotka