The Church is either holy or has no reason to exist
(Blessed Paolo Manna)
Attributes of the Church
From Sacred Scripture
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:5-6)
“So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (Jn 17:21-23)
From the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
“‘This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.’ These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 811)
“Jesus Christ, then, willed that the apostles and their successors - the bishops with Peter's successor at their head - should preach the Gospel faithfully, administer the sacraments, and rule the Church in love. It is thus, under the action of the Holy Spirit, that Christ wills His people to increase, and He perfects His people's fellowship in unity: in their confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God.” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, 2)
“The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as ‘uniquely holy,’ loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her.(214) He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God's glory.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 39)
“The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members.” (Second Vatican. Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 2)
“The word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal,’ in the sense of ‘according to the totality’ or ‘in keeping with the whole.’ The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. ‘Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.’ (...) Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 830-831)
“The Church is apostolic. 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 of the Catholic Church, 869)
From the writings of Blessed Father Paolo Manna
“As for any kingdom so for the Church of Christ, which is the Kingdom of God, unity is the condition of life and existence. The Church of Christ must be strictly one, one in doctrine, one in adoration (worship), one in government. How many times did Jesus speak of this unity!” (P. Manna, Lettere sparse, in: Scritti, vol. 64, p. 273)
“The Church is either holy or has no reason to exist. She is the bride of the Son of God and it is her destiny and vocation to lead her children to holiness.” (P. Manna, Lettere sparse, in: Scritti, vol. 64, p. 285)
“Catholicity is the character of the true Church. The particular Church of a specific nation cannot be the Church of the Father common to all. [...] The true Church, the Church that teaches the truth, the Church founded by the eternal Truth must be Catholic, must be universal, both with regard to people and with regard to places and times.” (P. Manna, Lettere sparse, in: Scritti, vol. 64, p. 298)
“The Church is apostolic because it is the only one derived directly from the Apostles, through an uninterrupted succession of bishops.” (P. Manna, Lettere sparse, in: Scritti, vol. 64, p. 298)
“This divine mission is moreover necessary. Without it the Church would not exist, or if it did exist, it would soon die, just as a tree becomes sterile and dies if it does not send forth shoots. ‘A church that would cease to have apostles would soon die out; its days would be numbered, and its funeral knell would soon be heard.’” (P. Manna, The conversion of the pagan world. A Treatise upon Catholic Foreign Missions, translated and adapted from the Italian of rev. Paolo Manna, M. Ap. by rev. Joseph F. McGlinchey, d.d., Boston, Society for the propagation of the Faith 1921, p.8)
Questions for reflection
- Do I find it easier to see the weaknesses of the Church’s pastors or to pray for them?
- Do I strive to defend the holiness, unity and universality of the Church in daily conversations with different people?
- What is my personal commitment to the apostolate of the Church?
Prayer to the Most Holy Mary Mother of the Church
O Virgin Mary, Mother of God, most holy Mother of the Church! We entrust the whole Church to You. You, “help of shepherds,” protect and intercede for the pastors of the Church in their apostolic mission. Take care of all religious and the faithful who support them in their hard work.
You, who by the will of your Divine Son, at the moment of His saving death, became Mother of the beloved disciple, remember the Christian people entrusted to You. Remember all Your children, intercede before God for their requests, keep their faith firm, strengthen their hope and kindle their love.
Look with mercy on our separated brethren and deign to unite us, You who have begotten Christ, the Mediator between God and humanity.
Oh temple of light without shadow and without blemish, intercede for us with Your Only Begotten Son, Mediator of our reconciliation with the Father, that He may show us mercy in our weaknesses and drive away from us all discord, pouring into our souls the joy of love. Amen.