Assertions of the Faith
What the Church Actually Teaches...
In our time protestants, secular media, and/or atheists like to make a "straw man" of the Catholic faith. They misinterpret and then miss represent the assertions of the Catholic faith by saying "the Church teaches (insert here any eccentric claim)", however, this is unjust and improper argumentation which is usually what causes it to be inaccurate. If one is to really prove another wrong they restate their opponent's view to better understand their opponent's perspective and thereby are free to argue against their opponent with accuracy and skill. Here are some principle sources for doing so:
What we do believe? Why do we believe it?
These are the single two most important, inevitable, and unavoidable questions in anyone's life. No matter how we decide to live, if we believe anything or nothing, we answer these questions. Logically, it is best to make our decisions as seductively and not inductively as possible if we are to truly know what we think we do (epistemological systems result from what one believes constitues safe conclusions). This is to say if we do not thoroughly inform our beliefs, only will we struggle to defend them, but most critically we will not understand why we believe them ourselves. Here are some resources to help you know what Catholics actually believe and will arm you against what some think we believe and possibly even what uninformed Catholics think we believe.
How We Celebrate our Faith?
One of the clearest differences between sects of religions and religions is how we worship or engage with our beliefs. For most religions, there are principal engagements such as fasting, good works, pilgrimages, etc. For the Catholic Church, Christians are most Christ-like upon/immediately after receiving sacraments and principally the Eucharist. These sacraments all find their origin in Scripture and these moments were assimilated in Apostolic Tradition and passed down and developed ever since The Father and The Son sent the Spirit to dwell in the hearts of the Apostles. Our faith is ceremoniously encountered at every mass, the principal celebration of our faith. Moreover, it is intimately laden with what we believe and why we believe it.
What does life according to our Faith looks like?
Just as in every belief, there are so that generally assent to beliefs but do not actualize them. Saints are those that the Church is not only certain they are in heaven, but historically lived truly Christian lives on Earth. Were they sinners? Absolutley! However, we do not worship them. Neither, do we admire them or seek their intercession because of what/who they are, but rather for their example and in seeing them we see God. "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting but found difficult and hardly tried"(an uncited quote of G.K. Chesterton). Are we all sinners? Yes. Is Christian morality about seeking to be better? Yes! Ultimately the life of the Christian is bound in love and thereby all of Christian moral thought is divided into two main categories:
Love of God
Love of Neighbor (those made in the Image of God)
In both of these efforts, the Christian lives their beliefs not just in principle moments nor just conceptually as if it were only an abstract, intra-mental reality not correlated to something exterior to one's mind. On the contrary, it should invade every aspect of one's life, as love does.
What does it take to become a spouse of God?
"This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer." CCC 2558
We come to know God, we celebrated what we know, we are living it, and behold now we are to become it. Now we must "pray" and enter ever more deeply into a relationship with Him Who First loved us, "while we were still sinners". The gift of self in this relationship is fundamental, since He has loved us giving it all up for just us, we are called to do likewise. Let love given match the love received. Prayer is first an exchange between strangers, then friends, and then spouses. It begins first restrained by ourselves to words, then a change of life, and then ultimately a gift of persons. Receiving Christ's love and returning that love, when it is easy and blissful, and when it is difficult and filled with suffering.
Miscellaneous Helpful Knowledge
The Nicene CreedThis creed describes the first requirements of belief to be a Catholic in the "hierarchy of truth"
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and our salvation, [bow during liturgy] came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and became a man [rise from bow during liturgy]; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures; and ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
I believe in one holy universal and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen
St. Teresa of Avila Words of Wisdom
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
Senses of Scripture (CCC 115):
The Literal/Historical Sense is what exactly happened. Follow the rules of sound interpretation.
The Spiritual Sense, interpretation in the light of Christ. “A more profound understanding of events acquired by recognizing their significance in Christ” Example: Jesus says that He will tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days, referring to his own body. (John 2:13-22)
The Moral Sense is how scripture should impact our own way of life. Events reported in scripture should lead us to act justly.
The Analogical Sense points us towards us what’s to come. We can view events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus, the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s Anyway Poem:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.
Am I doing his will?
How can you know you are living in God’s will? This is the sign: If you are troubled about anything, that means you are not completely abandoned to God’s will. The one who lives according to God’s will is not troubled by anything. If he needs something, he surrenders it and himself to the Lord. He places it into God’s hands. If he does not get what he needs he remains calm, as though he had received it. He is not afraid, whatever happens, for he knows that it is God’s will. When he is afflicted with illness, he thinks: I need this sickness, otherwise God would not have sent it. He thus preserves peace in the body and soul. – Starets Silvan
Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s Humility List
“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
1.Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
15. Choose always the more difficult task.
"Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus. You cannot learn humility from books; you learn it by accepting humiliations. Humiliations are not meant to torture us; they are gifts from God. These little humiliations—if we accept them with joy—will help us to be holy, to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus."
Gardening the Soul
The soul is a garden. When a garden is planted the gardener knows what they want to get from the garden when it is time for harvest. The gardener plants the best fruits and vegetables. The gardener, then maintains the garden, protects it from weather that may harm it, fertilizes it, and nurtures the garden not just to harvest a large yield, but also for a beautiful array of colors and succulent taste. The gardener must also prevent growth of plants that rob the sown plants of water, nutrients, and light necessary for proper growth and yield. “The Saint is the Sinner who kept trying”- Saint Josemaría Escrivá
Precepts of the Catholic Church
1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, “and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.”
2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
This “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.”
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
“The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” See below for more about fasting & abstinence.
5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
“The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”
The 4 Cardinal Virtues
"If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage."64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.
1. Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." "Keep sane and sober for your prayers." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.
2. Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor."68 "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven."69
3. Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. "The Lord is my strength and my song."70 "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."71
4. Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety." We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
The 7 Deadly Sins
1. Sloth is often equated with laziness; but the kind of laziness that sloth is is often misunderstood. Sloth is fundamentally a sadness in the presence of eternal or spiritual goods, and ultimately God Himself. Sloth is often disguised by "workaholism," or by a "busy-ness" about temporal things that is actually a means of avoiding eternal and spiritual things, and ultimately God. Sloth is often manifested by "boredom" about attending Mass or praying, for example. Saint Thomas Aquinas calls sloth the "sin against the Sabbath."
2. Envy is a sadness in the presence of the goodness of others. Rather than move us to emulate the goodness of others, envy leads us to find a way to justify the fact that we lack the goodness that others possess. A manifestation of envy today is ethical relativism, which denies that there are any objective moral norms. This denial is intended to subvert the objective status of the goodness of others.
3. Covetousness is a disordered and excessive desire to control persons, places, or things. Contrary to generosity, covetousness manifests itself today especially in the contraceptive mentality. The contraceptive mentality is the distorted attempt to control one's own as well as another's body, including the human capacity for sexual loving and procreation. The tragic result of the contraceptive mentality -- the "sexual holocaust" of the past twenty-five years -- is the reduction of one's own and another's body to "mere dress." The contraceptive mentality has reduced woman to a merely passive receptacle of male predatory tendencies.
4. Vainglory or pride is respecting oneself or others for the wrong reasons. Pride today is often manifested in the news media when, for example, a Catholic legislator who consistently promotes a so-called "pro-choice" position is praised by the Catholic media for his or her position on welfare reform.
5. Gluttony is the excessive preoccupation with our bodies at the cost of becoming forgetful of our souls, not only in terms of excessive eating and drinking, but also in terms of excessive preoccupation with physical fitness and physical beauty.
6. Lust is the vehement disorder of sexual desires, as in the case of the so-called "homosexual lifestyle" or the widespread phenomenon of "living together." Lust reduces human sexuality to genitality. As a result, lust tends to distort human sexual genital activity into a form of recreation. Ironically and tragically, lust leads to a fear of fertility and to an animosity for children, as expressed in practices such as rape, sterilization, contraception, abortion, pornography, child molestation, adultery, and divorce.
7. Finally, anger is a mixture of sadness and hatred in the presence of what is true. (Don't be confused by the fact that "anger" is the name of a spirited emotion as well as the name of the distortion of that emotion.)
It is important to notice that five of the seven deadly sins latch onto a "part" or dimension of the soul called desire or eros, the home of the central emotion of love and the dimension of soul where we are usually "located" on a daily basis. In light of this fact, it is extremely easy to drift into sloth, envy, covetousness, gluttony, or lust.
Anger is the "cancerous growth" on the dimension of the soul called spiritedness or thumos, the home of the secondary emotions such fear. Vainglory or pride is the distortion of the dimension of the soul called mind or logos, the home of intellect and will
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