Introducing Catholics: This is who we are!
Welcome! Thanks for knocking... The door is
open ... come inside ... Have a seat ...Can we
offer you a drink?... Make yourself comfortable
...Come and meet the family...? If you walked
into a hospitable home this is probably the sort
of welcome you would receive.This, too is the
spirit in which we would like to involve you in
this programme. Starting with this article, and
over the next five, we will introduce our Catholic
community to you. Introductions are always
somewhat limited. We connect with a name, a
face, we get a feel for a personality and the sort
of things they do.Over time we come to know
the person in greater depth, but an introduction
is always the first step.
Catholics are a community. A body made up of
many different people, united by a common
bond of love. Because of the enduring strength
of this bond, and the life-long commitment it
implies, one of the best ways of describing the
Catholic Church is that it is like a family. This
may come as a surprise to many people
associate different images with the Catholic
Church: organisation, government, moral
watchdog. Yet, really, at its heart, the Church is
a community of people travelling together
through life. Like every human family, we have
our ups and downs, our good times and bad.
We have a heritage from which our values and
behaviour codes have come. Our men cooperate
through a variety of roles and functions.
We have our special times of celebration, as
well as the mundane activities of day to day life.
What is different about this family like bond,
however, is that it is not based on race or blood
but on a spiritual bond of faith.
How we began...
Catholics believe in a God who is love, a God
who has created us out of love, and who
envelops each moment of our existence.
Catholics believe this loving presence of God
has been communicated to the world in an
extraordinarily tangible way through the person
of Jesus Christ, a man who walked the earth
2,000 years ago in Palestine and whose whole
life was animated by the Spirit of God. During
his short life (for he only lived to about 33 years
of age) Jesus preached a bold message of love,
of freedom from fear, apromise of life. People
experienced him as a person of extraordinary
love, bringing healing, hope and forgiveness of
sins to those who knew him. So great was his
impact among the people of his day, that the
religious and political authorities felt threatened.
So much so, that Jesus was put to death by
Jesus' followers were devastated by his death.
But then something happened beyond their
wildest dreams. Jesus was raised from the
dead! They experienced his living presence in a
whole new way. Their lives were transformed.
Their faith in God took a quantum leap. Yes,
love is stronger than death! Yes, the promise of
eternal life is true! Yes, our God is always with
us. The Spirit of God alive in Jesus had taken
hold of their lives too. They came to recognise
Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, God-withus.
They had felt themselves 'die' with Christ,
and now they experienced themselves
'resurrected'. Alive! Free! Hope-filled and open
to the promise of life - in this life and in the next.
In their excitement, Jesus followers gathered in
a little community. Together they lived a new
vision for their lives. Their joy of knowing Christ
and living in his Spirit was all consuming. They
felt his presence in the depths of their humanity.
In fact, so much so, that they came to
understand themselves as 'the body of Christ',
the people in whom the Spirit of God dwelt.
Their bond of love attracted others. Their stories
of how God had touched their lives raised hope,
questions, curiosity amongst those who would
listen. Their community grew and spread to all
parts of the world.
Despite times of great persecution and difficulty,
this experience of faith continued to be
transmitted through the ages; passed down
through word of mouth, through sacred writings,
through the traditions and practices of the
community, enlivening the hearts of each new
generation of Christians.
Faces and places in a community
Catholics come in many shapes and sizes and
colours. Their personalities may be as varied as
the faces which present them. Some faces are
familiar to you already, like those you see in the
newspapers from time to time: Pope John Paul
II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Then again, there
are Catholic faces closer to home which you will
readily recognise. Friends, work colleagues,
perhaps even your local parish priest.
But there are many others. If you went along to
a youth Mass, you might find the Church full of
teenagers expressing their faith in a raucous
and lively manner. In another parish you might
find elderly parishioners praying in a hushed
silence. Or young families juggling babies and
toddlers as they participate in worship.
But Catholics are not only found in Churches.
Meet of all they are found to ordinary homes
everywhere. In cities, in suburbia, and in the
country. The Catholic Church exists wherever
Catholics dwell. If you visited a Catholic home,
you would more than likely find a range of levels
of enthusiasm for the faith. Committed parents,
questioning teenagers. Sometimes committed
youth and sceptical parents. Like all families,
the Catholic Church has members 'going
through stages' and wrestling with Iife's
questions. They are all part of our faith family.
Catholics can be found in all cultures. If you
were to seek out Catholics in South America,
you would be part of an oppressed Church
fighting boldly for justice. Faces of pain and
determination. In Eastern Europe you would be
part of an awakening, turbulent Church, facing a
myriad of problems and possibilities arising from
political and social transitions. Faces of hope
In Asia and Africa you would encounter a fresh
range of faces and Catholic expressions.
Vietnamese Catholics have brought to our
shores an energetic religious zeal born from
hardship and persecution. Catholics like these
are helping to shape the face of the Church in
Australia. There are also Catholics with a
particular eastern flavour (like the Maronites, the
Ukranians and the Melkites) as well as those of
the 'Roman Catholic' variety. Yes, there are
many different faces to the Catholic community.
This is because the message of Jesus is for all
people, everywhere. In fact, the word 'catholic'
means universal, all-embracing. While there is
one Gospel, it can find expression wherever
people and their cultures are open to the spirit
of Jesus Christ.
The Scripture story
'The whole community of believers were one in
heart and mind. No one claimed any of their
possessions as his own; but rather they shared
all things in common. With great power the
apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the
Lord Jesus, and they were living in a time of
grace.' (Acts 4.32-33)
Putting It Simply
We Catholics are a body of people, a community,
a family with a story, a history, a purpose who
believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We
share a common vision for life, seek to live in a
spirit of love, not just a social club, not just a
group of likeminded
people, not just a welfare
agency, or a spiritual fill-up station, but a life-long
love relationship, alive in the Spirit of Christ, a
people with a mission to proclaim Jesus to the
world, share our life with others, so that the world
may believe and share our joy.
Jesus said... 'This is my commandment: love one
another as I have loved you. There is no greater
love than this, to give one's life for his friends.'
One journey with many roads
In a family, different members contribute in
different ways to a common way of life. Similarly,
in the Catholic Church, members contribute
differently through their chosen vocations. A
vocation, in the Catholic sense, is more than a
job or function, it is a calling from God, a way of
living, with specific relationships and
For many Catholics, the vocation of married life
is the way they give expression to their life of
faith. Through their commitment to their spouse
and children, the couple show what it means to
love one another with the unconditional love that
Jesus Christ offers us. Their life of union is so
profound that the Church holds up marriage as a
sign to all its members of the unity to which they
Religious orders are communities of celibate
men or women who undertake a common life
and mission. They are inspired by the charism
and example of their founder. Many Catholic
schools and hospitals have been established and
staffed by religious orders.
Apart from the religious, the Church has many
other single people. For some this is by choice.
For others, it may be due to circumstances.
Sometimes tragic circumstances, such as death
of a spouse or divorce. Single Catholics live out
their faith through their home life, their work and
their various other activities. Single people,
including single parents, are a great gift to the
Priests and bishops:
The bishops of the Church provide a unique gift
of leadership. Together with the priests of their
local Church community they undertake a role of
empowering the people of God, teaching and
leading the community at worship. Ordained to
the sacrament of Holy Orders, they embody the
presence of Christ, being a focal point of unity for
Nor must we overlook our children and youth
who, although not having made a life choice, are
considered to be equal members of the body of
Christ and who bring irreplaceable qualities and
gifts characteristic of their unique stage of fife.
Within all these vocations, there are included
countless roles and functions through which a life
of service to the Church can be expressed. But
the overriding concern is our unity in the Lord,
our love for one another as the body of Christ.
That is what makes us different from caring
groups based on humanitarian values. For
Christians, it is our love, inspired by our faith in
Jesus Christ, that makes us who we are.
Dominic's Story: Wise Advice
Persistence in prayer is a gateway to a growing
relationship with God.
'At 18, 1 was on the verge of rejecting my
religious upbringing. It just didn't make sense. I
remember a friend saying to me: "Pray for the gift
of faith". I stared at him, disbelieving that anyone
could be so stupid! "How can I pray if I don't
believe in God?!" My friend was unruffled. "How
can you believe in God if you dont pray?"
'So l did. I cant believe I did,but I prayed each
night. Simple stuff. Nothing to qualify me as a
candidate for the Benedictine monks. just a few
words like: "God, if you're really there, give me
faith ... and by the way what is it?" I felt silly, but I
kept at it, and the extraordinary thing is - it
worked! I came to experience the presence of
God in my life. In fact we're on intimate speaking
'Looking back, my friend's advice makes sense. I
mean l began talking to my wife long before I
married her. I can even remember our first
conversation. We were waiting in the cafeteria
line discussing the pros and cons of eating
breakfast (I do, she doesn't ... eat breakfast). I
guess you've got to start somewhere. Neither of
us dreamt that a year later we would be
preparing for marriage! My relationship with God
started a bit like that.' (Dominic)
Think about it. What yearnings do you
For life? For relationships?
For purpose fulfilment? For self esteem?
The word gospel means "good news". The
christian outlook is definitely an optimistic one!
What about yours? How hope-filled are you ?
How do you respond to good news and bad
news? As you go through this week, be aware of
the messages - hope-filled or pessimistic that
come your way through people and events.
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