An Overview of Catholic Beliefs and Practices
This section is intended to merely offer an overview of those areas of Catholic Belief and Practice where people often have questions. In this limited amount of space however, it is impossible to cover everything. Please also refer to the Catholic Library in the right column of our main parish page or to KofC Catholic Information Service, Catholic Pages or the Catholic Answers link in the left column of the main page for more information.
Of course, for an official and more comprehensive and in depth review of Catholic beliefs and practice, go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This Catechism is “a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life.” (Pope John Paul II)
What is the “Core” message of Christianity?
The core message of Christianity is a message of redemption, of salvation, of love and of hope. It is the message of the person of Jesus Christ, who walked this earth 2000 years ago. To know and understand the Christian faith one must know Jesus. Knowing Jesus, however is more than just knowing “about” him. A Christian is a follower of Christ. This means giving one’s whole life to Jesus and following him in every area of your life.
The Christian message is called the “gospel” of Jesus Christ. “Gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news of Christianity is that when we decide to give our lives to Jesus, to follow after him and live our lives modeled after his example, not only are we promised eternal life in heaven after we die, but Jesus actually provides us with his grace (supernatural help) to help us to change and transform our lives so that we can live the way we were meant to live – in loving communion with our God and our fellow man. In order to better understand the Christian message, we need to know more about who Jesus is, what he has done for us and how he has called us to follow after him.
Christians believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of long awaited prophecies of the Jewish religion. Central to this believe is the claim that Jesus was both God and man, and that he was, and is still today, the Savior of the world. Christians believe that accepting or rejecting Jesus, and his message of love and redemption, can affect our eternal destiny. These are bold claims. Are they true? What could it mean for our lives if they are?
Historical evidence supports the idea that Jesus is in fact a real historical person. It also supports the fact that he claimed to be not only a man, but God as well. It is hard to ignore someone who claims to be God – the same God who created the universe! This is the type of claim which prompts a response. People today who claim to be God, are usually labeled as being insane. The people of Jesus’ time responded to Jesus’ claim to be God by hanging him on a cross to die as a criminal!
If in fact Jesus made this claim, logic would suggest only three possibilities:
- Liar: If he was not God, and he knew it, this would make him a liar.
- Lunatic: If he was not God, but he thought he was, then he was crazy.
- Lord: If Jesus was God as he claimed, then his rightful place is as our Lord.
This simple logic compels us to make a decision to either accept or reject the person of Jesus Christ and his gospel (message of good news). Once one understands the bold claims made by Jesus, it is difficult to maintain that Jesus was merely a good person or a good prophet; but not what he claimed to be. Jesus claimed to be both God and man. He claimed to be the savior of the world. Either what he claimed is true or it isn’t. If we believe that his claims are true, then we would be foolish not to follow him!
One of the evidences for the validity of the message of Jesus Christ is that he did something no one has ever done before or since. He rose from the dead! Never before in the history of mankind have there been such signs and wonders are were done by Jesus Christ in a public manner for all to see. The blind, deaf and lame were healed and the dead raised to life!
The gospel message (or “good news”), which Jesus Christ gave to his followers, is also referred to as the â€œdeposit of faith.â€ For if this message came from Jesus, who was God, and is so important that it can affect our eternal destiny, it must be safeguarded for future generations. This is why it is called the “deposit of faith.”
But how did Jesus give this message to his followers and how has it been handed down to us 2000 years later? What he did in fact, was to commission his closest followers (called Apostles) to spread this message to all mankind. He gave them his divine authority and power and established them as the leaders of his church. He gave them a divine promise to be with them and to protect his church. They acted in his name in leading his church and they worked miracles just as he had.
In order to fulfill the command of Christ to carefully preserve his message and spread it to everyone, the Apostles established other men in the authority of Christ (which had been given to them) to lead his church. These were called bishops and are the successors of the Apostles.
The the followers of Christ became know as Christians and after a short period of time this church began to be referred to as the “catholic” (which means “universal”) Church. All Christians belonged to what has now became known as the Catholic Church.
Catholics believe that the Catholic Church, which has an unbroken line of succession back to the first Apostles of Christ, most fully represents and preserves not only this â€œdeposit of faithâ€ (the teachings of Christ), but also the authority of Christ which he passed on to his Apostles. The Catholic Church also believes however, that all Christians who follow the teachings of Christ and who have been baptized according to the command of Christ, are part of this same Church in a mystical way even if they do not consider themselves to be Catholic. We refer to non Catholic Christians thus as our separated brothers and sisters.
Jesus established his Church when he gave his authority to his Apostles and instructed them to pass on his Gospel message of good news (the deposit of faith) to all mankind. After a few centuries however, the leaders of this Church decided that some of the early writings of the followers of Christ should be collected and given special reverence as a sure standard of this deposit of faith. They could only presume to do this because they were the successors of the Apostles and had thus been given the authority to act in the name and authority of Christ. We call this collection of writings the New Testament of the Bible.
For a brief look at this core message of Christianity (the faith of those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ), click on Answers to Life’s Hard Questions.For a brief explanation of the Catholic Church, click on Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth.For a more comprehensive explanation of Christian beliefs in an organized format, refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To read the inspired Word of God which remains the solid norm for all Christians, turn to the Holy Bible.To read the story of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible, read the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
How to Deal with Life’s Difficult Questions
Irregardless of our religious beliefs or the degree of our faith, when faced with difficulties and disappointments in life, we can find ourselves asking questions like:
Is there is a point to life?
What is wrong with this world?!
Is there any hope?
What does God want from me anyway?!
Life can be hard at times. For an encouraging answer of hope, in the light of the basic Gospel message of the Christian faith, click on “Answers to Hard Questions” below.
Responding to Jesus’ Invitation
In the Bible, Jesus says:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelations 3:20)
No matter what our situation, Jesus wants to come into our hearts in a deeper way. He wants to share with us his love and forgiveness. He wants to heal us and make us whole – to give us new hope.
Let us respond to Jesus who knows our every need, who loves us, and who knocks at the door of our heart.
(Please take a moment to quiet your mind and heart and to pray this prayer.)
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for loving me.
Please come now and make me whole.
I haven’t always lived as I should.
I’ve offended You and hurt others, and I am truly sorry for this.
Forgive me Jesus of all my sins.
I place my trust in You,
my Savior, my Lord and my God.
Fill my heart with Your love.
I give my whole life now to you.
I will no longer run from your love,