The Catholic Church
“Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you”
Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium (164)
Catholicism is steeped in 2,000 years of faith and devotion to Jesus Christ and his message of love and salvation for all people. The Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. As Catholics, we believe that the Catholic Church is a very special gift given to us from God and founded by Jesus Christ himself.
We also believe that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of all the gifts that Christ Jesus wishes to give to the world.
Who leads us? What is his message?
“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16
We are motivated by the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit in our mission to love one another, to serve the world and to love God. We seek to follow Jesus, and thus are Christians, or followers of Christ.
Jesus invites us to share this Good News. As Christians, we wish to share this Good News, not just in words, but through our actions and the way we live our lives. We want everybody to appreciate the message of Jesus and the importance of having a living, vibrant relationship with him.
As Catholics, we believe that as individuals and in community, we base our lives on our relationship with Jesus and in imitation of his teaching, which comes to us through the Scriptures and through the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.
What is the Catholic Church?
We believe that the Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ to continue proclaiming his message on the meaning of life and on how to live our lives to the fullest, as well as to provide opportunities for growth and love.
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”
Many people see “Church” as referring to a building, but it actually means much more. It is a community of the followers of Jesus, who accept Jesus as God, we accept Jesus became man who has come to live amongst us. These people share the same sacraments and worship together as members of God’s family.
Under the leadership of the Pope, who is the successor of Saint Peter, the person appointed by Jesus to lead his Church, the teaching of Jesus continues to be proclaimed. This role of successor of Saint Peter can be traced right back from this moment in history to the time of Jesus.
As Catholics, we strive to develop and live as an active and welcoming Catholic community where people of all ages can draw closer to God, work together to build a Christian community, and are able to offer support to each other in growing to our full God-given potential. In our lives we strive to witness to God’s love for us through the way we live our lives and through our outreach in service to one another. We are strengthened constantly through prayer and our means of worship which we call liturgy and through the community life we live. Of course, we know we are not perfect, but we are committed to begin (as often as necessary in our efforts) to live as members of God’s family.
What do Catholics believe?
With so many people in our Church, there are many different ideas about how Jesus wants us to follow him. The teaching of the Church comes to us through the sacred Scriptures and the tradition of the Church. Our pope and bishops help to safeguard the development of our tradition as we engage with new challenges and opportunities.
Over the years, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture, the Church has its Mission in the world. The Church honours and learns from those who lived particularly good lives as Jesus’ followers, some of whom we call saints. We continue to foster discipleship for each and every believer and work to live lives as the faithful disciples that Jesus wants us to be.
Of all the saints, Mary, the woman chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, is honoured in a special way, as our greatest model of what it means to be a disciple.
Being Catholic is being Christian, following Jesus Christ and gathering to share the Eucharist. We deepen our love for Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, in our prayer, in pondering the words of Sacred Scripture, in celebrating community with our fellow believers, and in reaching out the hand of friendship, healing and service to our brothers and sisters of different faiths and none.
“I BELIEVE AND PROFESS ALL THAT THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACHES, BELIEVES AND PROCLAIMS TO BE REVEALED BY GOD”
This teaching is further elaborated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is arranged in four sections which cover our main areas of life and practice:
- The Profession of faith, which reflects on the core beliefs we hold.
- The celebration of the Christian Ministry, which concerns Liturgy and especially the sacraments, which are our encounters with Christ and our connection to the Christian community.
- Life in Christ, which is about Christian living and also includes the Ten Commandments
- The final section is on Christian Prayer and its importance in our lives.
What is at the heart of our community life?
At the heart of our community life is the presence of Jesus, who promised to be with us until the end of time. For Catholics, this presence is most clear when we come together to celebrate and worship at the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist (also called Mass).
The Eucharist – source and summit of ecclesial life
1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” 136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”137
1325 “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.”138
1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.139
1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”140 (summary from the Catechism of the Catholic Church).
It is in the Eucharist that we have the closest contact with God available to us in this life. It is also the prayer that Jesus invited us to: “do this in memory of me.”
In this community prayer, which re-presents for us what Jesus did at the Last Supper and through his sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary, we have a wonderful opportunity to encounter Jesus, to pray with Jesus, to be taught by Jesus through the Sacred Scriptures, to offer our lives with the offering of Jesus himself, and the opportunity to be totally united to Him and to each other.
The Mass is the place we come together as members of God’s family at our Heavenly Father’s invitation, to spend time with him and the place where we grow as a Christian community. It is a family gathering. From the Mass, we are sent out to serve our God and our brothers and sisters, week after week, and to share the wonderful news of God’s love with all we meet. One of the gifts of the Mass is that it is available to us almost every day of the year.
We are fortunate to have other encounters available to us through the sacraments of the Church. A sacrament is always an encounter with Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Church. In the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick. (Link to Our Faith/Sacraments and Rites).
How are we organised?
There are over 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. We accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, as a direct successor of St Peter. We are divided into dioceses and parishes, with bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people helping to serve in our local area.
What are Catholics involved in?
One way to understand Catholics is to appreciate what we are involved in. Catholics support many areas of public life including education, health, scientific research, aged care, local and international aid, sport, working with indigenous people, working with those living with disability, working with those suffering from mental illness, seeking rights for workers, crisis accommodation, environmental issues, migrants and refugees, young people and families. Over 180,000 people are employed by the Catholic Church in Australia and many more volunteer in these different areas.
All people are welcome
We continually welcome and invite people into our community of faith, because it is fundamental to our faith and God wants us to live as one people and one family, his family. Every person is welcome, because every person is loved totally and personally by God.
Would you like to find out more?
If you are seeking meaning, would like to explore more about the Catholic faith, or how to follow Christ more deeply, we invite you to explore these links: