What is the essence of Catholicism?


#1

Hello, :slight_smile:

I am a recent believer in God (converting from atheism and agnosticism) and even more recently a Christian attending the RCIA program.

Because of my secular background I know very little about Catholicism. I would like to know what I can read that will summarize the whole of Catholic faith.

I would also appreciate assistance in recognizing that Catholic teaching is Truth. After a very long process of reading and thinking I am completely certain that God exists. Things become less certain when I consider why God needed to become man to save us. A bit less certain still when I think of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. And still less certain why a particular denomination of Christianity is right and another is wrong.

This is a very scary situation for me to be in. A lot of the time I find myself having a very strong faith, but there are times when I think about why God had to become man, and whether Jesus really was the Son of God. I find myself subconsciously influenced by my secular upbringing which was filled with very anti-God and anti-Catholic attitudes. :frowning:

I need help in growing in faith. I think that if I knew Catholic teaching very well and truly understood why it has to be this way and not another, my faith would grow.

I would really appreciate your responses. Especially if you used to be an unbeliever like me but then came to have faith in Christ.

Thank you! :slight_smile:


#2

from Ignatius Press, www.ignatius.com get a small book called *In the Fullness of Faith: on the Centrality of the Distinctively Catholic *by Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest Catholic minds of our time. Only 130 pages, you can read it in a couple of days, but so deep, so packed with layers of meaning, that you can read it for years.


#3

What distinguishes Catholicism from much of non-Catholic Christianity is Magisterium and Sacraments.

Magisterium: The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task is to give us an authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church’s fidelity to the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Apostles in matters of faith and morals. The Magisterium is made up of the bishops in communion with the Pope who is the successor of Peter and the Bishop of Rome.

Sacraments: The efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. The sacraments are seven in number: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance or Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.


#4

What summarizes the Catholic faith is the Apostles Creed. To dig deeper into the creed the best thing is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


#5

The short-short answer:

Belief that Jesus Christ was god and the desire to follow ALL of his teachings.


#6

I was born & raised Catholic, but found myself drifting away towards agnosticm in my young-adult years, until something turned me around and told me not to lose the most valuable gift I’d been given.

My humble attempt at “essence”:
God became man to be our savior - to save us from sin & eternal death. By God sharing our humanity, we can share in His divinity. Jesus gave us his teachings (the gospels), the sacraments (he breathed on the apostles & touched them), and the Church (the succession of the apostles, the pressence of the Holy Spirit) to guide humanity to Him, to God.

Is the Catholic Church the true church? How else could an institution last 2,000 years, especially with all the mistakes and losers that were involved in its history? Especially considering it’s beginnings - a “man” (Jesus) that preached for 3 years and was then put do death as a criminal, Peter denied he knew Jesus 3 times after Jesus was arrested, all the apostles (except one) were put to death because of their preaching.

Remember that the “Church” is all the people, not just the leaders.

There are many, many books. I’m sure you’ll get some good suggestions from the people here. Read, and pray. I hope I helped.


#7

Prayer…Pray for Gods grace… to see the truth and learn the truth and accept the truth. Only GOD can give you this, we cannot. We can only teach what has already been taught, preach what has already been perserved by Jesus. The Catholic Catechism defines the essence of Catholic theology. But it is not as EASY read. It takes time to see and digest its truth.


#8

I am just going to respond to hopefully help you to find out why Christ came down and died on the cross.

It is not that God had to send his only son down to earth to die on the cross for our sins. He could have done it any way he wanted. He could have said poof, you are all forgiven. The reason why he came down was to show us the immense love he has for us. If he did not do this we would never be able to truely understand how much God loves us. This also showed us the true meaning of love, which is sacrifice. Sacrifice is the best way to get this across.

I would say the essence of Catholicism is the love of God. Both for God and by God.


#9

I think there are already some good answers in this thread. As Todd Easton said, the sacraments distinguish Catholics a lot from other Christian faith.

I think the unity of the churches around the world under the leadership of Rome is an essential characteristic. If you read a lot of what goes on in this forum, there is a lot of dissension from Rome, which threatens that unity.

If you drive down the road, especially in the Bible-belt of the country, you will see a lot of Christian churches that advertise that they are “full gospel” churches. I think the Catholic Church is a full gospel church. Your conviction of this will grow as you look around the world, and even across this country.

This church had racial prejudices like all the other Christian churches, but as bad as that is, I think it was a local problem, not a systemic one in the whole church.

Regarding the dignity and status of women, some people will focus only on the negative aspects that they perceive, and distract you from the emphasis that the Church has always put on the importance of women, the responsibilities of marriage, and the holiness of the family. And, of course, the Catholic Church regards marriage as a sacrament – a relationship which brings blessings from God and symbolizes our very relationship with God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the documents of the second Vatican council, and the encyclical letters of Pope John Paul II are excellent places to find out what the Church is and who Catholics are.


#10

you must get rome sweet home by scott haun. it’s the best conversion book i ever read.


#11

[quote=Hermione]Hello, :slight_smile:

I am a recent believer in God (converting from atheism and agnosticism) and even more recently a Christian attending the RCIA program.

Because of my secular background I know very little about Catholicism. I would like to know what I can read that will summarize the whole of Catholic faith.

I would also appreciate assistance in recognizing that Catholic teaching is Truth. After a very long process of reading and thinking I am completely certain that God exists. Things become less certain when I consider why God needed to become man to save us. A bit less certain still when I think of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. And still less certain why a particular denomination of Christianity is right and another is wrong.

This is a very scary situation for me to be in. A lot of the time I find myself having a very strong faith, but there are times when I think about why God had to become man, and whether Jesus really was the Son of God. I find myself subconsciously influenced by my secular upbringing which was filled with very anti-God and anti-Catholic attitudes. :frowning:

I need help in growing in faith. I think that if I knew Catholic teaching very well and truly understood why it has to be this way and not another, my faith would grow.

I would really appreciate your responses. Especially if you used to be an unbeliever like me but then came to have faith in Christ.

Thank you! :slight_smile:
[/quote]

This is the most honest post that I have seen on this Forum and it deserves to be read in full, again, and again, and again!


#12

The Holy Eucharist


#13

The Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus Christ founded. This is what The Holy Scripture states that the Church is “the Pilar and foundation of Truth”. Pray to Our Lord that He gives you insight and increases you in faith. Pray as St. Paul did, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

God bless and keep you.


#14

Hermione,

Thank you for your post. I wish you all the best as you pursue the answers to your questions.

As for reading suggestions, I would echo what others have said about the Catechism. However, its size can be a bit daunting…it’s probably most useful to you as a reference source to always have handy.

Regarding good books that explore the truth of Christianity, I would recommend “Mere Christianity” and “Surprised by Joy” by C.S. Lewis, who came from an atheist background In addition, please please please read G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”. (“The Everlasting Man” by Chesterton is also very, very good)

For the Truth of Catholicsm, “My Life on the Rock”, by Jeff Cavins, is good, as is “Rome Sweet Home” by Dr. Scott Hahn> There are a lot of excellent books available at www.ignatius.com

I was an atheist myself for awhile, then a Protestant, then agnostic, and now I am finally, happily, Catholic. Atheism seemed to fly in the face of reason (Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” does a great job of illustrating this), and Protestantism was too relative: no one could agree on important, essential matters of living one’s faith, as Baptists had different ideas than Lutherans, who had different ideas than Evangelicals, and so on and on and one. Yet they all claimed the Bible as the source of their doctrines. Some denominations seemed to separate faith from reason, and I didn’t care for that—St. Thomas Aquinas was a welcome discovery.


#15

[quote=Hermione]Hello, :slight_smile:

I am a recent believer in God (converting from atheism and agnosticism) and even more recently a Christian attending the RCIA program.

Because of my secular background I know very little about Catholicism. I would like to know what I can read that will summarize the whole of Catholic faith.

I would also appreciate assistance in recognizing that Catholic teaching is Truth. After a very long process of reading and thinking I am completely certain that God exists. Things become less certain when I consider why God needed to become man to save us. A bit less certain still when I think of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. And still less certain why a particular denomination of Christianity is right and another is wrong.

This is a very scary situation for me to be in. A lot of the time I find myself having a very strong faith, but there are times when I think about why God had to become man, and whether Jesus really was the Son of God. I find myself subconsciously influenced by my secular upbringing which was filled with very anti-God and anti-Catholic attitudes. :frowning:

I need help in growing in faith. I think that if I knew Catholic teaching very well and truly understood why it has to be this way and not another, my faith would grow.

I would really appreciate your responses. Especially if you used to be an unbeliever like me but then came to have faith in Christ.

Thank you! :slight_smile:
[/quote]

May I suggest “Theology for Beginners” by Frank Sheed. I’m sure you can find it on this website. For a modest investment of your time, it will give you the big picture. And you will be more on your way than most cradle Catholics. Best wishes.


#16

JESUS, try to get to know him and what HE LOVES! Love what he loves, and you’ll know ROMAN CATHOLIC CHRISTIANITY OF THE APOSTLES…

IF YOU LOVE what he LOVES, JESUS, you GOT IT!


#17

If you want the “essence,” you should pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which should be available in your local Catholic book store. I also think Fr. John Hardon’s “A Catholic Catechism” might be a bit easier to read for the non-Catholic. “The Spirit of Catholicism” by Fr. Karl Adam is another good resource as is the three-volume, “Radio Replies,” by Frs Rumble and Carty.

Books like “The Everlasting Man,” by G. K. Chesterton, “Theology and Sanity,” by Frank Sheed, “Faith and Certitude,” by Thomas Dubay, and “The Art of Living,” by Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand are great for helping see how the Catholic Faith applies to life in general.

If you want to look On the more spiritual side. I recommend "Interior Castles by St. Teresa of Liseux (I may be mixing up my saints on this one!), “Spiritual Passages,” by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, “Answers, Not Promises,” by Mother Angelica, and “Peace of Soul,” by Fulton J. Sheen (and anything else of his that you can find!!!).

If you are ready for some really in-depth examinations of Church teaching, I highly recommend the books and tapes of Scott Hahn (available at St. Joseph Communications saintjoe.com). If you are ready to do some personal examination of the Early Church, there’s “The Faith of the Early Fathers,” edited by William Jurgens.

There are, of course, many many (many…) others! :thumbsup:


#18

Yes, Mutant, you did mix up your saints! :slight_smile: St. Teresa of Avila wrote Interior Castle while Therese of Liseux wrote The Story of a Soul. Hope this helps!

Peace,
Linda


#19

Hermione,

Welcome.

I’m a recent convert from Protestantism, so I dealt with this issue as well (albeit from a different starting point). Much of what I was learning during my conversion was so foreign that I found it deeply unsettling, to say the least. My experience has been that some of this I’ll never understand in this life, and some of it I only understood after I entered the Church. I second the recommendation to get a copy of the Catechism, and I also recommend tuning into the C.A. radio show on a regular basis and listening to the radio archives. Most of all I joyously recommend praying the Rosary every day and spending time in Eucharistic adoration, asking for the grace to understand.

Remember that God is so different than we are that it’s to be expected that we can’t fully understand his nature. When I was in RCIA I got a copy of the Summa Contra Gentiles by St. Thomas Aquinas, and his discussion of the nature of God was absolutely mind-blowing (as was the english text from the latin, it was very hard reading and gave me a headache).

Having accepted that God existed, I went through a process of determining whether or not the biblical texts were accurate historical records. One book that helped me was “Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Volume 1”, by Josh McDowell, which is a discussion of the rules of historical evidence and an application of them to the claims of Christianity. By the time I was done I had to conclude that Jesus really did do all of the amazing things attributed to him and that he is God. This all happened before I was a Catholic.

I was then drawn into a comparison of the claims of Protestantism and Catholicism, and the cornerstone was the question of authority: who, if anyone, did Jesus give the authority to teach binding doctrine? I eventually realized that unless he gave such authority to a specific individual who was empowered to appoint a successor, I would inescapably be in the position of having to arrogate that authority to myself (not a good place to be). And sure enough, scripture shows that Jesus gave such authority to the Apostles, with Peter being placed in a pre-eminent position. He told them that they would always be with them, that he would lead them into all truth, that they’d never forget his teaching, that they would never teach erroneous doctrine, that they teach with the authority of God, that the Church would remain and teach the truth every day, forever.

Then I began to read the early church fathers and compare them to the present day teaching of the Catholic Church, and the rules of evidence that I learned from McDowell led me to conclude that the early Church was the same Catholic Church that we have today.

That’s when I made the decision to submit to the teaching of the Church even if I didn’t always understand or like it. After my baptism, confirmation and first communion, it was like a well opened up inside me after I had spent my whole life in a desert - and it was wonderful!

I know that this is very intellectualised, but I’m an engineer and it worked for me. I’m finally able to let my emotions run because I know I’m in the right place and won’t be deceived.

EUCHARIST, EUCHARIST, EUCHARIST!!!


#20

[quote=Hermione] After a very long process of reading and thinking I am completely certain that God exists.

[/quote]

That’s much better than I can say for myself. Doubt still creeps in sometimes.

[quote=Hermione]Things become less certain when I consider why God needed to become man to save us. A bit less certain still when I think of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. And still less certain why a particular denomination of Christianity is right and another is wrong.
[/quote]

Welcome to the club!

[quote=Hermione]This is a very scary situation for me to be in. A lot of the time I find myself having a very strong faith, but there are times when I think about why God had to become man, and whether Jesus really was the Son of God. I find myself subconsciously influenced by my secular upbringing which was filled with very anti-God and anti-Catholic attitudes. :frowning:

[/quote]

Again, welcome to the club!!

I like what Fr. Benedict Groeschel says about this: The Faith is ruined when you try to remove mystery from it. (or something like that).


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.