What it means to be Catholic
What it means to be Catholic


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.

—CCC, no. 811

Inseparably linked with one another, these four marks indicate the essential features of the Church and her mission on earth. Each mark is so joined with the others that they form one coherent and interrelated idea of what Christ’s Church must be. They strengthen the faith of the believer and at the same time can attract non-Catholics to investigate the Church more fully. Because of the sinfulness of the Church’s members, these marks are not always lived out fully, so we need to view them as both a reality and yet a challenge.

The Church is One

The mark of oneness reflects the unity of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, the bond of love between the Father and the Son, unites all the members of the Church as the one People of God. The Church professes one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism and forms one body (cf. CCC, no. 866) under the leadership of the Holy Father, successor to Peter the Apostle. Within the Church there is a diversity of races, nations, cultures, languages, and traditions, which are held together in one communion by the gift of love from the Holy Spirit. The unity that Christ bestowed on his Church is something she can never lose.

The Church is Holy

The Church has her origin in the Holy Trinity, and that is the source of her holiness. In his plan for the salvation of humanity, God the Father willed the existence of the Church. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, established a community of disciples and died on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, works within the Church to keep her members faithful to the Gospel. The Church is holy in her Founder, in her saints, and in her means of salvation.

The Church is Catholic

The word Catholic means “universal.” The Catholic Church has lived and continues to live in a diversity of cultures and languages because she is led by the Spirit of Christ to bring the Gospel to all peoples. She has known how to accept what is true and good in all cultures and, at the same time, to infuse the truth and goodness of her tradition and life into them. The process of inculturation includes this dynamic.

The Church is Apostolic

The Church is built upon the foundation of the Apostles, who were chosen by Christ himself, and at whose head he placed Peter. The entire community of Christians received the Apostles’ proclamation of the Gospel, and so the Church in her entirety is called “apostolic.” Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church as a whole remains and will always remain faithful to the teaching of the Apostles. This is called the indefectibility of the Church, because she will never fall away from the Gospel.

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