Many people have remained in the Catholic Church, faithfully practicing their faith and striving to become a better disciple of Jesus each day, despite all the challenges of morality, scandals of some clergy, and conflict with popular culture. Many have also come into the Catholic Faith, often from other Christian denominations. Many of the people who stay, and many of the people who enter the Church, do so because they are convinced that the Catholic Church is right. That what the Catholic Church teaches is in fact true.
How do they know?
You may be surprised to learn that it’s right there in the Mass. It’s something we all say every Sunday or Saturday evening. It’s the Creed.
I BELIEVE IN GOD
This is the first key to our beliefs. You must believe in God. This often involves a three step process.
First, someone tells you about God, often your parents. As a child, that’s all it takes at that point. Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Clause and God… got it. Anything else dad? What about monsters in the basement?
Second, as you grow older, we can reason out that the existence of God makes sense. There is an order to the world. There are oxygen breathing animals who breath out carbon dioxide which plants (who give off oxygen) need to live. Convenient. There is the unexplainable force of gravity. Very convenient. There is morality, love and beauty. Impossible to explain without a God. I could go on, but suffice it to say, our reason leads us to know that God exists.
Third, we encounter God. Through prayer we come to have a personal relationship with Him, so that we not only know God exists because it makes sense, but we also have personal experience of Him.
WE BELIEVE IN ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
We believe that the man Jesus of Nazareth, who lived in the beginning of the first century AD, is in fact God, the second member of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son. We believe this because He told us so.
We have written accounts in the Gospels, understood by those inside and outside the Church as historical accounts of Jesus life. The Gospels were written while many of the people who knew Jesus were still alive, and the Gospel accounts were not disputed by them. In the Gospels Jesus very often referred to Himself as the Son of the Father. He also said that He is equal to God (John 10:30). Jesus also backed up His claim with many miraculous works that only God could do, including raising people from the dead, including raising Himself from the dead.
The Resurrection, of which there were many witnesses, is the greatest proof that Jesus is God. For we know that 11 men, the 12 Apostles minus Judas, all claimed to have seen Jesus after His Resurrection. These men knew for sure that Jesus rose from the dead. We know this because 10 of them were killed because they refused to say otherwise. It’s quite difficult to think even one many would do this for a lie, but 10? And what of the 11th? This is St. John the Apostle. They did try to kill him, but God intervened and prevented it. St. John would go on to live a long life, writing the Book of Revelation and his gospel.
WE BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE LORD, THE GIVER OF LIFE
Jesus told the Apostles that the Holy Spirit, who is God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, would be sent to them after Jesus returned to God the Father (the first person of the Blessed Trinity). Jesus said that, “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still it with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you… I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 14:25-6, 16:12-13).
So, the Holy Spirit continued to reveal divine truths to the Apostles after Jesus Ascended to Heaven (this gift was not passed on to future bishops, but ended with the death of the last Apostle, St. John; thus there is no new divine revelation).
However, Jesus was not going to leave us guessing how to interpret His words. He was not going to leave it up to fallible men to preserve His teachings. The Holy Spirit protects the Church from teaching error on faith and morals. This protection from from teaching error was passed down from the Apostles to the pope and bishops of the church in union with the pope for almost 2000 years.
WE BELIEVE IN ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH
In chapter 16 of the Gospel of St. Matthew Jesus founded the Church. He made St. Peter the first leader, who we now call pope. in Matthew 18:17-18 Jesus places the Church as the final authority and gives the apostles divine authority to govern the Church. In St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy 3:15, St. Paul calls the Church, “the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
Jesus gives His Church the authority to infallibly teach the truth about faith and morals.
Reading the Father’s of the Church from the late first century and into the second century, we find the that the authority of the pope and the Church is sacred and held by all Christians. In the fourth century St. Augustine said, “I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.” The Church was given the authority to teach and dispense the sacraments by Jesus in Matthew 28:16 and following.
It is understood that there is one Church, that this Church is holy because it is united to Christ, Catholic because it is for all mankind and Apostolic because the pope and all the bishops descend from the Apostles and have the same authority Jesus gave the Apostles.
The authority of the Church to teach infallibly, specifically the pope, insures us all that we are being taught the truth when it comes to faith and morals.
So, this is how we know that the Catholic Church, when she teaches us the truths about our Faith and about morality, is teaching truths revealed by God. When the pope teaches in an official capacity, things about Faith or morality, we know it is true.
This does not mean that an individual priest, or even bishop, can’t teach error. If you are ever in doubt about what someone says, it is a good idea to check the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You can click HERE for an online version of the Catechism and use the search window to find the topic you are looking for.