My dear Readers, This lesson from my young children's catechism really explained well the Marks of Holy Mother Church. It brought up many questions and gives one much food for thought . . . . . . . .
The information below would go very well with our Marks of the Church Lapbook, which can be found here. The source for this lesson is: "To the Heart of a Child," Imprimatur 1918.
Tom Hunter had been brought up without any religion. Yet he believed that there is a God, and that he had a soul and he was in dead earnest about saving that soul. In walking through the streets he had noticed a great many churches and he made up his mind to visit one each Sunday until he should find out what was necessary to save his soul.
At the end of a year he had visited fifty-two churches and yet he was as much in the dark as when he had started. He took a long walk into the country and sat down in a quiet nook where he could be alone and have time to think the matter over. Each minister had claimed to be able to lead him to Heaven and yet no two of them agreed upon what was necessary to get there. One said there was no Hell, another said there was; one said Christ was God, another said He was not one said there was no such thing as confession, another said he would hear his confession if he wanted to go very much, but that he did not like to do it. In one church they passed around cake and wine to make them think of the Last Supper, in another they said Christ was present in the bread and wine but that they could not say just how. One said all that was necessary was to read the Bible, another said the Bible was old-fashioned and that no one believed in it nowadays.
Poor Tom's brain was in a whirl. How could he ever decide what to do when each church contradicted the others? To make matters worse he discovered that even ministers of the same church do not agree. Suddenly a little rabbit leaped past him and Tom said to himself: "If I should say that little rabbit is black and someone else should say it is white and a third person that it is grey, we could not all be right —not more than one could be right, and if the rabbit is really brown, we should all be wrong. So if each church tells me something different, they cannot all be right—not more than one can be right—and perhaps they are all wrong. There is only one thing 'that all the ministers agree in and that is in warning me to keep away from the Catholic Church. That is very strange. Why should they all take a stand against the Catholic Church? I shall try to find out. At least I shall call on the Catholic priest this very evening and if he can help me no more than the ministers have, I do not know where I shall ever find how to save my soul."
That evening Tom rang the bell at the priest's house and was shown into a small study. In a moment he was shaking hands with Father Carey, who told him to be seated and asked what he might do for him. Tom told his trouble and when he had finished, Father Carey said : "My dear friend, you are right in saying that if there is a true church and God expects you to belong to it, there must be some way by which you can surely tell it. "If you want a good baseball, you look for the trade-mark and buy a League ball. If you want a good tennis-racket, you look for the mark that tells you the make. If you buy a watch, you do not look at the case only, you look for the name that tells you what make it is, so that you may be sure that the works are good. You would not buy any one of these articles because the clerk who sold them was polite or because he told you they were good. No, you must have a stronger proof, you must see the mark that stamps them. Isn't that so? See how careful the United States Government is in marking the money it mints, so that if anyone should try to make any like it, it could be detected at once. Now, is not religion much more important than money? And don't you suppose that if God has made a church, He has taken care to mark it, so that everyone can see that He is its Maker?
''We know from the Bible and from history, just as well as we know that Columbus discovered America, that 1900 (2015) years ago Christ, Who is God, made a Church and said that all must belong to it. For 1500 years everybody knew which was the Church Christ had made. Then just as men have made counterfeit money, money that looked genuine but is not, and have deceived thousands of people but could not deceive the Government experts, so men have made counterfeit churches and have deceived millions of people but they cannot deceive God. As there are certain marks by which a genuine dollar bill can be told from a false bill, so there are certain marks by which God's Church can be told from the false churches."
"Tell me the marks. Father," cried Tom, "because I want to belong to the church that was made by God."
"Very well," said Father Carey. "They are very simple so that anyone who really wants to find them, can do so. In the first place, Christ started His Church on the Apostles at Jerusalem in the year 36. He made St. Peter the Head, the Rock on which He built His Church, the Shepherd of His Flock. Now the true Church must be that same Church, its bishops must be the successors of the Apostles and must have received their power from them, whilst its Head must be the successor of St. Peter and have the same power that he had."
"That's easy," said Tom.
"History proves," continued Father Carey, "that the Catholic Church has always existed since the days of the Apostles and is the same Church as that of the Apostles, for its bishops and its Pope today are the successors of the Apostles and of St. Peter. St. Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and Benedict XV is the present Bishop of Rome, and between the two there has been an unbroken chain of 258 Bishops of Rome or Popes. Is not that a pretty strong proof? How else do we prove that Woodrow Wilson is the successor of George Washington and that the Government of the United States today is the very same Government as that of which Washington was the first President?"
"Did you ever think how this city is supplied with water? First there is the reservoir at the waterworks. The water-mains carry the water from the reservoir and the pipes are connected with the mains. When you turn on the faucet in your house, you get the same water that was in the reservoir. As the city grows, more mains are laid."
"Now Christ is the reservoir, for He has all power, and the Apostles were the first water-mains and received their power from Christ. As the Church grew, more bishops were needed and so new bishops were made. They received all the power that the bishops had who consecrated them, just as when water-mains are needed, new ones are attached and receive all the water that flows through those with which they are connected. Priests are the pipes and get their power from the bishops. Thus in perfect connection has the power of Christ come down to the present day through the bishops of the Catholic Church. What would you think of a man who would build a beautiful home and run water-pipes through it but never connect them with the water-main? How much water do you think he would get when he turned on the faucets?"
"So the first Protestants cut off their connection with God's Church and their bishops and ministers are like empty water-mains and pipes, without any power whatever. They can make as many of them as they like, but of what good are they? You might as well have no pipes in your house, if no water runs through them."
"Now then, my little friend, one great mark of the true Church is that it is Apostolic, which means that it is the Church that Christ founded upon the Apostles."
"That is such a clear mark. Father," said Tom, "that I should think it was enough."
"Hold on, my boy," said Father Carey. "There are three others. The Church of God is well marked, as everyone must be able to find it, for Christ said that every lamb and every sheep must be brought into the one Fold of which He is the Shepherd. Are you too tired for more tonight?"
"Go on. Father. Please tell me more. I never heard anything like this in the other churches."
"All right then.—In the second place, the true Church must teach exactly what Christ taught and if it teaches exactly what Christ taught, it must teach the same today as it did 1900 years ago and it must teach the same in Detroit as it does in Rome, in Paris, in London, in South America, in Asia, in Africa. Now we know from the Bible, in which are written many things that Christ taught, and from the writings of the first bishops of the Church, some of whom were taught by the Apostles themselves, and from the written accounts of the meetings or councils of the bishops and the pope that have taken place every now and then since the first meeting at which St. Peter was present—we know from all these sources that the Catholic Church has never changed in her teachings and teaches the same today as she has always done."
Is this what we see today if we look at what comes out of the Vatican? Are those in the Vatican teaching the same truths that the Catholic Church has always taught?
''You told me this evening that you had discovered that even ministers of the same church do not agree in what they believe. If you like you can speak to a number of Catholic priests—take those that were brought up in different countries—go to the German, the French, the Italian, the Polish churches. You will find that all agree exactly. How is this ? Because they all believe and teach exactly what Christ taught. If one of them should teach anything different, the Church would throw him out, for Christ said: 'He that heareth you, heareth Me. And he that despiseth you, despiseth Me.' And, 'If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen.' ''Then too, all Catholics receive the same sacraments and all obey the Shepherd whom Christ appointed, viz. : the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. This is the second great mark of the True Church, Tom, and it is what we mean when we say that the Church is One."
"My mind is clearing, Father. Everything you say has such a ring of truth about it and you are so certain. The ministers hesitated when I questioned them. They did not seem quite sure of their ground.'' "The third mark of the true Church is that it is Catholic. Before the Apostles left Jerusalem to preach the Gospel in different parts, they drew up a short form of belief known as the Creed of the Apostles, or the Apostles' Creed. In this Creed we find the words : 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.' From that day to this, the Church of Christ has always been known by the name 'Catholic'"
"I heard the Protestants say that same Creed, Father. They do not really believe in the Catholic Church?"
'They most certainly do not. If they did they would be Catholics and not Protestants."
"Then why do they say they believe In the Catholic Church?"
"My friend, did you ever hunt for a thing in the dark that you could easily have found in the light? Just so. Their minds are in darkness and they do not see. They do not mind saying: I believe in the Catholic Church,' whilst all the time they are protesting against it, any more than they mind reading in their Bibles that Christ said at the Last Supper: This is My body,' whilst at the same time they deny that It is His body."
"But to return. The word 'Catholic' means 'universal,' that is, for the whole world as long as the world lasts. Christ said : 'Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world' (Matt., xxviii, 20). So His Church must last until the end of the world. And He said : 'Going, therefore, teach ye all nations.' Now the true Church is Catholic because it has lasted through the nineteen centuries, since Christ started it, and it will last until the end of time. It is Catholic because it has taught all nations, though not all nations have received its teachings. "Go where you will, into every corner and hidden away place in the world and there you will find a Catholic priest. No Protestant Church can call itself Catholic in any sense of the word. Not one of them started until fifteen hundred years after the Catholic Church was founded and not one of them has gone into every part of the world. There is no prouder title under Heaven, and I glory in calling myself a Catholic!"
"The fourth mark of the true Church is its 'Holiness.' Christ made His Church to bring men to Heaven. The Catholic Church is holy in its Founder, Christ, and it is holy in the lives of millions of its children. True, there are many bad Catholics and there will always be black sheep in the Fold, but nowhere can you find such holiness as in the lives of numbers of Catholics. See the thousands of priests and sisters who have given up all they owned and all they loved to follow Christ more closely; and there are thousands of working men and women who are being made holy by frequent and daily Communion.
A Catholic who receives the sacraments often and keeps devoutly the feasts and fasts of the Church, will be holy; whilst a bad Catholic is bad because he does not live up to the teachings of the Church: ''Every man, woman and child that is called saint (as St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Catherine, St. Teresa, St. Agnes), was a Catholic. Not a year passes but in some part of the world Catholics are tortured and put to death because they will not be traitors to God, because they will not give up their faith."
"If I were to add a fifth mark to the true Church, Tom, I would say that it is 'persecution.' Christ said: If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you' (John, xv, 20) ; 'Yea, the hour cometh, whosoever killeth you, will think that he does a service to God' (John, xvi, 2). Look about. Which is the church that is persecuted? Which is the church that is hated, that is lied against? I'll wager you have heard ^ good many lies against the Catholic Church but you will never hear the Catholics lying about the Protestants. Why, if a man comes to town and lies most horribly against the Catholic Church, he will have a large audience and make his fortune!".
"I could not understand before. Father, why all the ministers warned me to keep away from the Catholic Church."
"Just last night," continued Father Carey, I baptized a young woman who has suffered a great deal for the Faith. She told me that when she spoke of attending the Episcopalian Church, her parents made no objection; when she attended service at the Presbyterian Church they encouraged her and when some friends took her to the Baptist Church, they were pleased. But one day she spoke of joining the Catholic Church. They threw up their hands in horror and threatened to put her out of the house."
"Yes the world hated Christ and nailed Him to a cross and it still hates His Church. When Jesus was dying, He prayed for the men who were killing Him and said- 'They know not what they do' (Luke, xxiii. 34) It is the same now. Men do not know what they are hating when they hate the Catholic Church. There is not a man, woman or child in the whole world who would not be a Catholic tomorrow if he knew what the Catholic Church really is.
"Father, I want to save my soul," cried Tom. I want to be a Catholic!"
"My little friend, come and see me tomorrow evening."
"I will, Father, and may I bring my chum?"
"Bring all you can, my boy."
Hmmmmm, this lesson really makes one think. . . . . . . .
(1) What are the four marks of the true Church?
(2) What do you mean by saying that the Church is Apostolic?
(3) What do you mean by saying that the Church is One?
(4) What do you mean by saying that the Church is Catholic?
(5) What do you mean by saying that the Church is Holy?
If we really think about it can we find these four marks in the Vatican today?
Source: To the Heart of a Child, Imprimatur 1918