The Catholic Church - Basics for RCIA Students
What is the Church?
Defining the Church can be difficult. From a basic definition, a church is a building where people come to worship and participate in religious services. But, the Church is so much more than that. The Church is not a building with four walls. The Church does not have stained-glass windows and large statues. It does not have a physical address. The Church goes beyond anything that we can see.
So, what is the Church? Simply put, it is the body of believers in communion with Christ. On a larger scale, every Christian is a member of the Church, regardless of denomination, religious preferences, or credos. We may not all agree on how to practice our faith, but we share a common belief that Christ is our Savior. It is made up of Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, and more. We may label ourselves with one particular faith or another, but we have one common God.
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church is the largest of the Christian denominations. It is also one of the oldest. The roots of the Church go back to the beginning of Christianity. Over the years, it has grown into an organization filled with tradition. The Catholic Church has influenced the world through its sharing of the Gospel and the guidance it gives to its believers. No other organization in the world has had the impact that the Catholic Church has had.
What leads someone to the Catholic Church? Many are raised believers by their parents. Others may marry into the Church. But, in the larger world, many become Catholics through the evangelistic efforts of the Church through its missionaries. The Catholic Church has continued to grow throughout the centuries because of its mission to share the message of Christ to all who will hear it. No matter how someone comes to the Church, they eventually stay because of the fellowship, life-changing traditions, and love that they find here in the Church.
Bringing Down the Walls
People come from all walks of life. Our choice of denomination can be based on a number of factors. We may choose our denomination based on our parents and ancestors. We may choose our denomination because of who we marry. Regardless of why we make that choice, we need to see beyond our own views. As the larger body of believers, Christians must see beyond our choice of denomination and learn to share in God's grace. We may not agree on everything, but we at least agree on One thing.
The analogy that I often use is to imagine the Christian church as fruit. Now, I am not saying that we are all "fruity." Instead, I am saying that we all share a common belief. Apples, oranges, bananas are all examples of fruit, just as Catholics, Protestants, and Non-denominational Christians are all Christians. When asked if they are Christian, and many Catholics respond, "No, I'm Catholic." Unfortunately, this may not be the correct response. As Catholics, we may not see eye-to-eye with other denominations, but we are still Christians. It is time to put that narrow view behind us.
Unified together, there is no limit to the reach of the Church. Let's put denominational differences behind us so that we can accomplish the greater good in the name of Christ. We may practice our faith differently, but we have common goals. All Christians wish to share love with the lost, help the poor, pray for the sick, and spread the message of Christ. Together, we must unite in these common purposes. Only then can we effectively share Christ with the world.