There is a very common practice today of adding various prefixes to the wonderful title of “Catholic”. These are not the acceptable ones such as: Roman, Greek, Melkite, Maronite, Syro-Malabar, etc which refer to the legitimate diversity of Catholic liturgies and cultures. The ones I refer to are those such as: Traditionalist, Neo-Conservative, Liberal, etc. This has resulted in great scandal to the world, because of these vast numbers of men and women calling themselves Catholic and dissenting from the teaching and/or the authority of the Church. These dissenters have thus removed themselves from the Church and no longer have the right to call themselves Catholic at all, but yet to the world they are representatives of Catholicism. It also shows only further division in Christendom, which is a great stumbling block to potential converts. This is a trend that dates back more than a century and was even preached against by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XV in his encyclical Ad beatissimi apostolorum of November 1st, 1914:
“It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as “profane novelties of words,” out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim “Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,” only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.” (Paragraph #24)
The position of many faithful Catholics who call themselves “Conservative” or even “Traditionalist” Catholics, however, is understandable for by doing so they attempt to differentiate themselves from the many dissenting Catholics who while not actually professing what the Church teachers nor in any way practicing their faith still insist upon calling themselves Catholic. Still these appellations have often developed into a very dangerous drawing of lines, even among good Catholics who are doing their best to be faithful. We have on one side those who suggest that the Church as it was before the Second Vatican Council is the true Church, and on the other those who would say that the Church after the council is the true Church, while rejecting what came before. This rupture is just what our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has spoken of on a number of occasions:
“Certainly the results of Vatican II seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Pope Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to dissension which, to use the words of Pope Paul VI, seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored. Expected was a great step forward, instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which has developed for the most part under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting it for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), L’Osservatore Romano, 24 December 1984
“The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), address to the Chilean Bishops, 13 July 1988, Santiago Chile
“How much Christ suffers in his own Church. How often is the Holy Sacrament of His real presence abused. How often must He enter empty and evil hearts. How often do we celebrate only ourselves without even realizing that He is there. How often is His word twisted and misused. What little faith is present behind so many theories and so many empty words. How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those in the priesthood who should belong entirely to Him. How much pride. How much self complacency. What little respect for the sacrament of reconciliation where He waits for us to raise us up whenever we fall. How much filth there is. How much filth.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Sermon given on Good Friday of 2005 just 3 ½ weeks before being elected Supreme Pontiff
And he clearly points out the focal point of these troubles in the Church:
“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), “Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977” (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.
“What happened at the Council was something else entirely: in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living, process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), From the preface to the French edition of “Reforms of the Roman Liturgy Its Problems and Background” 1993
“The second great event at the beginning of my years in Regensburg was the publication of the Missal of Paul VI, which was accompanied by the almost total prohibition, after a transitional phase of only half a year, of using the missal we had had until then. (…) The prohibition of the missal that was now decreed, a missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries, starting with the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, introduced a breach of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), “Milestones – Memoirs 1927 – 1977”, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1998, p. 146
Here Pope Benedict has plainly elucidated the fundamental principal of “Lex orandi Lex credendi”, which means: the law of worship is the law of belief. Indeed, the way we worship directly influences how we believe and vice versa. On the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi in 2011 Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, made the following remarks to seminarians of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:
“Yours will probably be the first generation that will correctly interpret the Second Vatican Council, not according to the ‘spirit’ of the Council, which has brought so much disorientation to the Church, but according to what the Conciliar Event really said, in its texts to the Church and to the world…There cannot be, nor could there be, a pre-Conciliar Church and a post-Conciliar Church! Were it thus, the second one – ours – would be historically and theologically illegitimate! There is only one Church of Christ, of which you are part, that goes from Our Lord to the Apostles, from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, from Romanesque to Gothic to Baroque, and thus until our days, uninterruptedly, without any dissolution of continuity, ever!”
We need to remember that we must be with the Church in what it actually teaches. We must be faithful to what it is teaching, has taught, and will always teach: the one only truth of Jesus Christ.
“He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” –Luke 11:23; Matt 12:30
“But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing: and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire tried, that thou mayest be made rich; and mayest be clothed in white garments, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear; and anoint thy eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance. Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne: as I also have overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” –The Apocalypse of Saint John 3:16-22
A clear definition of the Church was given to us by the great Jesuit and Doctor of the Church Saint Robert Bellarmine:
“A body of men united together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by participation in the same sacraments, under the governance of lawful pastors, more especially of the Roman Pontiff, the sole vicar of Christ on earth.” (Coetus hominum ejusdem christianæ fidei professione, et eorumdem sacramentorum communione colligatus, sub regimine legitimorum pastorum et præcipue unius Christi in Terris vicarii Romani Pontificis.) (De Eccl., III, ii, 9.)
To this can be added:
“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” -Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Father of the Church, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans #8, (50-117AD)
For a more fleshed out explanation we can turn to the Roman Catechism, which is still the official manual for Catholic Priests to use for catechizing the faithful, and was commissioned by Pope Saint Pius V to be a faithful explanation of the infallible decrees of the Council of Trent, and which was edited by the great Saint Charles Borromeo to whom we also owe for the modern Seminary system:
The Parts of the Church
These things having been explained, it will be necessary to enumerate the several component parts of the Church, and to point out their difference, in order that the faithful may the better comprehend the nature, properties, gifts, and graces of God’s beloved Church, and by reason of them unceasingly praise the most holy name of God.
The Church consists principally of two parts, the one called the Church triumphant; the other, the Church militant. The Church triumphant is that most glorious and happy assemblage of blessed spirits, and of those who have triumphed over the world, the flesh, and the iniquity of Satan, and are now exempt and safe from the troubles of this life and enjoy everlasting bliss. The Church militant is the society of all the faithful still dwelling on earth. It is called militant, because it wages eternal war with those implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.
We are not, however, to infer that there are two Churches. The Church triumphant and the Church militant are two constituent parts of one Church; one part going before, and now in the possession of its heavenly country; the other, following every day, until at length, united with our Saviour, it shall repose in endless felicity.
The Members Of The Church Militant
The Church militant is composed of two classes of persons, the good and the bad, both professing the same faith and partaking of the same Sacraments, yet differing in their manner of life and morality.
The good are those who are linked together not only by the profession of the same faith, and the participation of the same Sacraments, but also by the spirit of grace and the bond of charity. Of these St. Paul says: The Lord knoweth who are his. Who they are that compose this class we also may remotely conjecture, but we can by no means pronounce with certainty. Hence Christ the Saviour does not speak of this portion of His Church when He refers us to the Church and commands us to hear and to obey her. As this part of the Church is unknown, how could we ascertain with certainty whose decision to recur to, whose authority to obey?
The Church, therefore, as the Scriptures and the writings of the Saints testify, includes within her fold the good and the bad; and it was in this sense that St. Paul spoke of one body and one spirit. Thus understood, the Church is known and is compared to a city built on a mountain, and visible from every side. As all must yield obedience to her authority, it is necessary that she may be known by all.
That the Church is composed of the good and the bad we learn from many parables contained in the Gospel. Thus, the kingdom of heaven, that is, the Church militant, is compared to a net cast into the sea, to a field in which tares were sown with the good grain, to a threshing floor on which the grain is mixed up with the chaff, and also to ten virgins, some of whom were wise, and some foolish. And long before, we trace a figure and resemblance of this Church in the ark of Noah, which contained not only clean, but also unclean animals.
But although the Catholic faith uniformly and truly teaches that the good and the bad belong to the Church, yet the same faith declares that the condition of both is very different. The wicked are contained in the Church, as the chaff is mingled with the grain on the threshing floor, or as dead members sometimes remain attached to a living body.
Those Who Are Not Members Of The Church
Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded from the Church’s pale: infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons. Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, and never knew the Church, and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted. It is not, however, to be denied that they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, inasmuch as they may be called before her tribunals, punished and anathematised. Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the number of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent.
But with regard to the rest, however wicked and evil they may be, it is certain that they still belong to the Church: Of this the faithful are frequently to be reminded, in order to be convinced that, were even the lives of her ministers debased by crime, they are still within the Church, and therefore lose nothing of their power.
A difficulty many find today is: just what does the Catholic Church teach, and just what is the “same Christian Faith”, that Saint Robert Bellarmine speaks about in his definition of the Church. We find a very clear answer given to us by the great Father of the Church Saint Vincent of Lérins in his Commonitorium:
How to tell what are the actual truths of the Catholic Faith…
A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity.
I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.
But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason,—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.
Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.
What to do today when it seems many if not most who call themselves Catholic dissent from the true Catholic Faith…
What is to be done if one or more dissent from the rest.
What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.
But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in divers times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.
What a true Catholic looks like…
The Notes of a true Catholic.
This being the case, he is the true and genuine Catholic who loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ, who esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above the authority, above the regard, above the genius, above the eloquence, above the philosophy, of every man whatsoever; who sets light by all of these, and continuing steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that he will believe that, and that only, which he is sure the Catholic Church has held universally and from ancient time; but that whatsoever new and unheard-of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by some one or another, besides that of all, or contrary to that of all the saints, this, he will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted as a trial, being instructed especially by the words of the blessed Apostle Paul, who writes thus in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, “There must needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you:” (1 Corinthians 2:9) as though he should say, This is the reason why the authors of Heresies are not forthwith rooted up by God, namely, that they who are approved may be made manifest; that is, that it may be apparent of each individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of the Catholic faith.
. . .
For therefore it is that outside the most secure harbour of the Catholic Faith, they are tossed about, beaten, and almost killed, by divers tempestuous cogitations, in order that they may take in the sails of self-conceit, which, they had with ill advice unfurled to the blasts of novelty, and may betake themselves again to, and remain stationary within, the most secure harbour of their placid and good mother, and may begin by vomiting up those bitter and turbid floods of error which they had swallowed, that thenceforward they may be able to drink the streams of fresh and living water. Let them unlearn well what they had learnt not well, and let them receive so much of the entire doctrine of the Church as they can understand: what they cannot understand let them believe.
Many Catholics today object to, or even outright reject, the teaching of “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” or “No salvation outside the Church”. Yet this is a defined Dogma of our Catholic faith which we must believe or we cannot be saved. (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott, pgs. 312-13) The following are the official pronouncements through the history of the Church, and for which I have provided complete citations including the paragraph number where it can be found in Denziger’s The Sources of Catholic Dogma:
“By heart we believe and by mouth confess the one Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church outside which we believe that no one is saved.” -Pope Innocent III, Eius exemplo, 18 December 1208 (DS 423)
“The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.” -Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, November 1215 (DS 430)
“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” -Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, 18 November 1302 (DS 468)
“No man of the wayfarers outside the faith of this Church, and outside the obedience of the Pope of Rome, can finally be saved.” -Pope Clement VI, Super quibusdam, 20 September 1351 (DS 570 b)
“The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and proclaims that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go “into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church.” -Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Bull Cantate Domino, 4 February 1441 (DS 714)
“Likewise, all other things I accept and profess, which the Holy Roman Church accepts and professes, and I likewise condemn, reject, and anathematize, at the same time all contrary things, both schisms and heresies, which have been condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the same Church. In addition, I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles and the vicar of Jesus Christ. And that this faith of the Catholic Church, without which no one can be saved, etc. . . . [as in the Tridentine profession of faith].” -Pope Benedict XIV, Nuper ad nos, Profession of Faith prescribed of Eastern Rite Catholics, 16 March 1743 (DS 1473)
“For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God. Now, in truth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of peoples, regions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things? For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains “we shall see God as He is” [1 John 3:2], we shall understand perfectly by how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice are united; but, as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal mass which blunts the soul, let us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is “one God, one faith, one baptism” [Eph. 4:5]; it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry. ” -Blessed Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quadem, 17 March 1856 (DS 1647)
“Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments. Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom ‘the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior.’ (Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in its letter to Pope Leo)” -Blessed Pope Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, 10 August 1863 (DS 1677)
“But when we consider what was actually done we find that Jesus Christ did not, in point of fact, institute a Church to embrace several communities similar in nature, but in themselves distinct, and lacking those bonds which render the Church unique and indivisible after that manner in which in the symbol of our faith we profess: ‘I believe in one Church.’…For this reason Christ, speaking of the mystical edifice, mentions only one Church, which he calls His own – “I will build my church;” any other Church except this one, since it has not been founded by Christ, cannot be the true Church…The Church, therefore, is bound to communicate without stint to all men, and to transmit through all ages, the salvation effected by Jesus Christ, and the blessings flowing there from. Wherefore, by the will of its Founder, it is necessary that this Church should be one in all lands and at all times…The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and the same for ever; those who leave it depart from the will and command of Christ, the Lord – leaving the path of salvation they enter on that of perdition.” -Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 29 June 1896 (DS 1955)
“Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” [I Cor. 12:13] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. [Eph. 4:5] And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered — so the Lord commands — as a heathen and a publican. [Matt. 18:17] It follows that those are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.” -Venerable Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 29 June 1943 (DS 2286)
And lest one think somehow this teaching was changed by Vatican II…
“This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3.5.) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.” -The Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, #14
Many might object to the many sources I have cited throughout this series thus far. They think that “well that was the old days” and that “things have changed now”, but actually they haven’t and they can’t. What the Catholic Church actually teaches is that it teaches the one truth given to us by Jesus Christ and which is unchanging. No one in the Church, not even a Pope, has the authority to change anything that has been set down under the guarantee of Infallibility and bearing the title of Dogma.
The Infallible Teaching of the First Vatican Council:
“For the holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [Lk 22, 32].” (Session 4, 18 July 1870, Ch. 4, #6)
“…that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by holy mother church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.” (Session 3, 24 April 1870, Ch. 4, #14)
And Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, which was promulgated on September 3, 1965 near the close of the Second Vatican Council only reiterates this teaching…
“There are, however, Venerable Brothers, a number of reasons for serious pastoral concern and anxiety… We can see that some of those who are dealing with this… Dogma…that are disturbing the minds of the faithful and causing them no small measure of confusion about matters of faith, just as if it were all right for someone to take doctrine that has already been defined by the Church and consign it to oblivion or else interpret it in such a way as to weaken the genuine meaning of the words or the recognized force of the concepts involved…And so the rule of language which the Church has established through the long labor of centuries, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and which she has confirmed with the authority of the Councils, and which has more than once been the watchword and banner of orthodox faith, is to be religiously preserved, and no one may presume to change it at his own pleasure or under the pretext of new knowledge.”
Having taken a look at a broad overview of the realities of the Catholic Church and Faith and its necessity for salvation we can now turn to practical matters. What follows is a list of essential practices which are a natural outgrowth of what we believe in our hearts as Catholics, the truth of Jesus Christ, and a way of showing forth Christ in our own person:
-Hold fast to all of the true teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
-Frequent the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist
-Follow all Six of the precepts of the Church:
1- To attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation
2- To fast and abstain on the days commanded.
3- To confess our sins at least once a year.
4- To receive the Blessed Eucharist at Easter or within the time approved.
5- To contribute to the support of our Pastors.
6- Not to solemnize marriage at the forbidden times; nor to marry persons within the forbidden degrees of kindred, or otherwise prohibited by the Church, nor secretly.
-Devote your life to serving and loving the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the most Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary in whatever state of life God has called you to.
-Set aside at least 15 minutes each day for Mental Prayer.
-Make a good morning offering every day.
-Pray 3 Hail Mary’s every morning and every night for holiness and a happy death.
-Resolve to live out Chastity according to your state in life, and join the Confraternity of Angelic Warfare.
-Wear the Brown Scapular (or better yet the Five-fold Scapular) and be enrolled in it.
-Perform the Spiritual Works of Mercy:
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.
-Perform the Corporal Works of Mercy:
To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.
-Reflect on a regular basis if we are living out lives in order to becomes Saints by consulting the questionnaire used by the Church when considering the life of a particular individual up for the process of beatification and canonization.
-Use the following 13 essential and most efficacious means for getting to heaven…
(Compiled by a holy Priest and based upon Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s “The Priest in Union with Christ” and Dom Chautard’s “The Soul of the Apostolate”)
-Have a great desire for Holiness, “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” –Matt 5:48
-Conformity to the Will of God and abandonment to Divine Providence and to follow the Vocation God will’s for us.
-Fidelity to the Graces we receive each day and a devotion to the Holy Ghost
-The practice of the presence of God, i.e. Jesus in the Eucharist and the Blessed Trinity in our Souls when we are in the State of Grace. Attending daily Mass, making spiritual communions, praying the Rosary, etc.
-Examination of conscience each day.
-External and internal mortification
-Willingness to makes sacrifices.
-Plan of life. Living a timetable each day that makes time for prayer.
–Spiritual Reading, reading of good and holy Catholic books according to our state in life and aptitude.
-Spiritual Direction. Everyone needs regular spiritual director, which means getting a good spiritual director.
-Good friendships. Meaning making friends with those who are trying to live good and holy lives.
Side Altar in Saint Vincent Ferrer Dominican Priory in New York, NY