It would be a mistake to imagine that you can find everything you might want to know about the Catholic faith on this website. As has been described elsewhere, the purpose of the material to be found here is to provide some thoughts and ideas that may be of interest to people as they seek to introduce themselves to a few ideas about the Catholic faith. From there, we offer some direction as to where the reader might be able to find out more. The journey to a full understanding of the things we briefly touch upon, while interesting and life-giving, will take the whole of our lives. How can it be otherwise if God is its focus?
By the Catholic faith, we mean the elements and principles around which the Catholic Church organises and expresses its understanding of God, itself, and its self-expression in the world here and now. It is a universal term for the Catholic experience and includes those elements the practice of which on an experiential level contribute to defining a Catholic as Catholic. While the different aspects of the Catholic faith may take on various textures depending on the context (the period of Church history, the particular culture of those living the faith, etc.), there are constants that are definably ‘Catholic.’
The development of the Catholic faith does not come about in a vacuum. Instead, it comes into being as the members of the Church contemplate and respond to those truths that we have inherited from our spiritual forebears, under the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit. This revealed body of truth is grounded in the Scriptures (primarily in the teaching of Jesus Christ and in his life, death, and resurrection), as passed on to us through the teaching office of the apostles and their descendants. The charism of clarifying that teaching and making it accessible to Catholics of subsequent generations falls to the pastors of the Church with the assistance of those whose vocation it is to provide theological insight for the Body of Christ. The process of continued clarification and investigation of the truths we have inherited is the process proper to Catholic theology.
Catholic theology is interesting in its own right and deserving of attention. However, it can easily become disengaged from the real-life experience of Catholics. Therefore, we must always ask ‘what does this particular theological point mean for how we (both collectively and individually) are to live our lives?’ How does it get incarnated? Wrestling with the question of our practical response to the theology we are learning is the provenance of Catholic spirituality, when applied to our prayer, our way of relating to God, and the spiritual practices we feel called to live by at a given period of our lives. It is the provenance of Catholic mission when applied to the call we have received to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world in which we find ourselves here and now. We seek to make sense of Church teaching in our own ongoing spiritual experience and to live in response to it as we live our lives in the real world.
Central to the experience of the Catholic faith is the person of Jesus Christ. It is the Church’s faith in him as the incarnate Son of God that means that the Catholic Church is profoundly Christian. This raises the first question that often comes up: why is the Catholic Church called Catholic if it is Christian? The simple answer to this is in the meaning of the word ‘Catholic.’ The word means ‘universal’ and denotes the mission of the Church, as the Body of Christ, of proclaiming to all people everywhere the good news of Jesus Christ. In compliance with Jesus’ instruction to go to the ends of the earth to call all people to himself (see Matthew 28:19 – 20), the Catholic Church has a universal mandate and carries out that mandate in every continent. It is this universal dimension that denotes the Christian Church as Catholic. So, we are Christian in our belief, and Catholic in our perspective and our mission.
Being Catholic involves two distinct and yet deeply related dimensions: faith and works. The primary aspect is the deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ: faith. With this at the heart of everything we are, Catholics seek to conform themselves more and more to his likeness through the action of his healing Spirit poured into our hearts and lives. While no human being can bring this about in his or her own life unaided, each of us has the responsibility to cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is seeking to bring about in us through a life of prayer, participation in the sacraments, and the decisions we make by choosing to live moral and just lives. Therefore, what we believe (faith) and what we do (works) are profoundly linked. This is because, as human beings, we are both spiritual and physical. Ignoring one aspect in preference to the other is a distortion of the Christian faith as taught by Jesus and handed on by the apostles.
To be Catholic is to be committed to an ever-deepening understanding of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives and our world as they are, cooperating with that presence so as to contribute to the bringing about of the kingdom of God that Jesus came to proclaim and initiate.