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III.

Session Three: The Catholic Church


A. Goal for the Session

To show that the Catholic Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that
Christ Himself founded.

B. References

1. From The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Know what the Church teaches and why by studying the following references
from the Catechism.

See paragraphs #748-750.

2. Important Point to Keep In Mind

The divine nature of the Church is under attack today. Many people want to say that
the Church is simply a human institution, and that it really should be run as a
democracy Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Church is Christ's Bride (that's
why the Church is referred to in the feminine) and Christ is the head of the Church.
The Church is a monarchy in the true sense of the word because Christ is her King.
Taking the divine element out of the Church turns the Church into a human institution.

C. Teaching:

1. Why the Catholic Church? Many of you may be saying that all religions are the
same, or that the Catholic Church is nothing but a human institution run by old,
celibate men. Both these opinions are wrong. The Church is simply the Body of Christ,
and is Christ's symbol of unity on earth for all believers. Unity is so important to God
because He wants us all to be one body, one family. How do we see this unity? The unity
of the Church is seen in her love, her Profession of Faith, the celebration of the
sacraments, and in Apostolic succession. Many Christian churches have tried to be faithful
to this, but only the Catholic Church has remained true in these regards. This is not to
boast, because she has failed in the category of love, and that failure calls for repentance.
(Ephesians 5:1-5)

2. Christ loves the Church and holds her in the highest esteem - and we should do
the same. The love Christ has for the Church is the basis for the love between husband
and wife. He offered His life for her security (Ephesians 5:21-32). So it is wrong to say
that the Church is run by men - it is run by Christ, the head of the Church. It is also wrong
to say that the Catholic Church is like any other religion, be it Christian or non-Christian:
The Catholic Church is the only Church to have stayed loyal to Christ and His teaching. It
was Christ's intention to have only one Church, a visible structure on earth (John 17:22).
Christ founded the Church on Peter, (Matthew 16:18). We must be loyal to his successor,
the pope, who acts as a visible sign of unity for the entire Church. All of this does not
mean that non-Catholics are bad, nor does it mean that Catholics are superior: It means to
say, however, that Christ desires only one Church, and the fullness of the desire is in the
Catholic Church.

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3. Separation in the body of Christ is caused by her members. Both Catholics and
non-Catholics are responsible for this break. The results of separation in the Body of
Christ is tragic: The eastern and Western Churches are broken, there are over 20,000
Protestant denominations, and some people look at Christianity as a group of hypocrites
that say one thing and do another.

D. Recap:
Many people have decided not to be Catholic and to go their own way. This is open to all
of us. Remember that the word 'catholic' means 'universal'. In other words, it’s meant for
everyone, but not without a price. In order to be Catholic, we must learn to put God's will
first in our lives, and this means being loyal to Christ's Church as if we are being loyal to
Christ. The unity of the Church is at stake. St. Clement of Alexandria said, 'there is one
Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere
one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her
Church (CCC #813). ' In other words, it is all connected: You can't separate Christ from the
Church.

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V. Session Five: Catholic Traditions
A. Goal for the Session

To understand the root of Church traditions, customs, devotions and practices by looking
primarily at the liturgical year.

B. References

1. From The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Know what the Church teaches and why by studying the following references
from the Catechism.

See paragraphs #1136-1199, 1672-1676, 2041-2048.

2. Important Point to Keep In Mind

First, recognize that there is a difference between Tradition (which includes the Liturgy,
Dogmatic and Doctrinal teachings of the Church) and tradition (which includes the
customs, practices and devotions of the Church). Tradition is unchanging, coming
down from the Apostles to us through the bishops. Catholic 'tradition' does change and
can change to help the faithful participate more deeply in the life of Christ and the
Church.

Second, the Church is loaded with 'traditions'. That is not a bad thing, because
'traditions' give the Church life, vibrancy, and help us see the diversity in being
Catholic. There are many different ways to experience Christ and yet still be Catholic.
Let us not look upon 'tradition' as a bad thing, but as the 'spice' of our Faith.

3. Important Related Topics

Our beliefs are all interconnected, forming One Faith in the One Christ.

The customs of the Church and the liturgical year are all connected with the liturgy and
Eucharist of the Church. They are designed to help us participate in the Mass on a
deeper level. The customs of the Church are part of the devotional life of the Church,
which includes the spiritual life of the individual. This is connected to our holiness and
Baptism, which are all there to help us become holy children of God.

C. Teaching:

1. The Liturgical Year

The Liturgical (Church calendar) year is our constant reminder of the Paschal
Mystery - the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. It also serves as a
way for us to enter the Paschal Mystery, both individually and as a Church.

a. Sunday: Sunday is the Lord's Day. It is not only the day of rest, where we abstain

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from our jobs and work. It is the day of worship. Sunday is the day Christ rose from
the dead, and so we honor each Sunday as a ‘mini-Easter’.

b. Church Seasons: Let's begin by looking at the seasons of the Liturgical Year.

- Advent: The beginning of the Church year, it is the period of preparation


before the birth of Christ.

- Christmas: The celebration of the Incarnation, that God became man.

- Ordinary Time 1: This goes from Christmas until Lent. It represents the time of
the Church calendar that is ‘ordered’ to the Paschal Mystery.

- Lent: Forty days of penance and preparation before Easter.

- Triduum: The celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.

- Easter: The celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, spanning 50 days from


the Resurrection of Christ until Pentecost Sunday, with Ascension
Thursday taking place 40 days after Easter.

- Ordinary Time 2: Includes Trinity Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi through
the last feast of the liturgical year, the feast of Christ the King.

c. Holy Days of Obligation

Certain liturgical (family) feasts in the Church mark key points in God's plan of
salvation, and call us to participate in them as an entire family.

- Immaculate Conception: December 8

- Christmas Day: December 25

- Mary, Mother of God: January 1

- Ascension Thursday: 40 Days after Easter (Some diocese celebrate it the


following Sunday).

- Assumption of Mary: August 15

- All Saints' Day: November 1

d. Weekday Dedication

Each day has a special dedication:

- Sunday: The Trinity

- Monday: Souls in Purgatory/Holy Spirit

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- Tuesday: Guardian Angels

- Wednesday: St. Joseph

- Thursday: The Blessed Sacrament

- Friday: Precious Blood of Jesus

- Saturday: Mary, The Mother of God

e. Month Dedication

Each month has a special dedication:

- January: Holy Childhood

- February: Holy Family

- March: St. Joseph

- April: Holy Spirit/Eucharist

- May: Mary

- June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus

- July: The Precious Blood

- August: The Blessed Sacrament

- September: The Seven Sorrows

- October: The Holy Rosary

- November: The Souls in Purgatory

- December: The Immaculate Conception

f. Major Feast Days/Solemnities of the Church Year

- Immaculate Conception of Mary, December 8

- Christmas, the birth of Jesus, December 25

- Mary, Mother of God, January 1

- Epiphany (the revelation of Christ to the Gentile Wise men), Sunday after
January 1

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- St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, March 19

- Annunciation, the angel Gabriel's proclamation to Mary, March 25 (nine


months before Christmas)

- Easter Sunday, the Day Christ rose from the dead, first Sunday of Spring

- Ascension, the Day Christ ascended into heaven, forty Days after Easter
(Some dioceses celebrate it the following Sunday).

- Pentecost, the celebration of the giving of the Spirit to the disciples, Fifty days
after Easter

- Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost

- Corpus Christi/The Body and Blood of Jesus, the Sunday after Trinity Sunday

- Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost

- Birth of St. John the Baptist, June 24

- Assumption of Mary, Mary is taken Body and Soul into heaven, August 15

- All Saints, God is praised for His work in the Saints, November 1

- Christ the King, the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, late November
Other big feasts include:

- Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the first Sunday after Christmas

- Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent and a return to God

- Palm Sunday, commemorates Christ's entry into Jerusalem

2. Church Precepts (as listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The Church gives us precepts, or basic minimal requirements, for being considered a
practicing Catholic. They are:

- You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile
labor (work)

- You shall confess your (serious) sins at least once a year

- You shall receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter Season

- You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church

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- You shall help provide for the needs of the Church

3. Additional Customs

a. Fasting: On certain days (such as Ash Wednesday and Fridays in Lent), the
Church calls us to fast. The Church also asks us to fast one hour before we consume
the Eucharist. The reason we fast is so we give up a temporary good (such as food)
to focus on a greater good, God. We can and should fast throughout our lives, no
matter the occasion. Any time we stop doing something we enjoy that is a temporary
reality, such as watching TV, we can turn our focus over to an eternal reality, God.
That does not mean to say that food, TV, etc. are bad: They just aren't eternal. Our
primary fast, however, should be from sin.

b. Devotions: Devotions are private prayer practices that Catholics take part in to
mark their lives to Jesus through prayer or other customs. Some devotions include
First Friday/Saturday devotion, Sacred Heart devotion, Consecration to Mary, etc.
They are a great way of anchoring our lives to Christ and taking our baptismal
commitment deeper.

c. Sacramentals/Religious objects: We can use different objects to be reminded of


Christ, and His presence in our lives. Many people wear crosses, T-shirts, scapulars
(a necklace-type garment that reminds us of our devotion to Mary) and carry rosaries
to remind them of Christ. Other people use sacramentals, objects used to remind us
of the Sacraments, to help them in their devotional life.

d. Devotions to Patron Saints: Many people ask particular Saints for special
intentions and help based on their special patronage. For example, many priests
pray to St. John Vianney because he is the Patron Saint of Parish Priests. Because
of the Saint's unique life experience, their patronage helps us learn and grow through
their intercession.

Recap:

Sometimes we are tempted to 'blow-off' the traditions of the Church as 'external' or


'secondary' things, saying ‘if we get to them, that is great, but if not, it’s no big problem’.
That is the wrong attitude to have! Christ wants us to take the gifts of the Church and hold
them as a treasure. They are not secondary customs, but opportunities to get closer to
Jesus. Let us then, with St. Peter, the first Pope and Rock of the Church, be able to look
upon Jesus and say, ‘You are the Christ’.

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