Holy Mother The Church
Is the Church Your Spiritual Mother?
I never really understood the terminology “Holy Mother the Church” until one day after taking my two young children to confession. While the kids were going to confession I spent some time in reflection. I became overwhelmed with the many things that I needed to teach my children in the limited time I have with them. When they finished their confessions and their prayers, I began to share my thoughts with them. What I understood about Holy Mother the Church was that she has always been my spiritual mother even when I was unaware of her influence in forming my conscience. If something happened to me and I couldn’t be there to mother my children in moral teachings, etc., then Holy Mother the Church through the sacraments, and her teachings would be there for them as it has been for others since the time of Christ. I realized how important it is for me to entrust my children to the Church and its wisdom. I felt the need to teach them to incline their ear to the teaching magisterium of the Church for truth and to be obedient to her authority.
I shared with my children that as a parent, there is no way I can teach them all they need to know in order to stay close to Jesus and to His Church. I don’t have the time, resources, or knowledge, to give them the documentation for truth that the Church has with its 2000-year history. There is much they will have to accept on faith and trust until they can do their own study, but for now they should know there are reasons why the Catholic Church teaches what it teaches and has guidelines to follow for spiritual growth.
I told my children, I will not always be around to help them, or to guard them from the wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing, who would water down or distort the truth from within and outside the church. They are not to follow in blind obedience those that preach a gospel that goes against Church teachings and the scriptures, or try to encourage them to do something that is sinful. Many will come and want to rob them of their FULL faith inheritance, and unless they know and trust in Christ’s headship which established the Church, they too can be led away. It will be important to remain loyal to the Holy Father and to the teachings that came to us from the apostles. The following scriptures supports this.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instruction and the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
“I am amazed that you are so soon deserting him
who called you in accord with his gracious design in Christ
and are going over to another gospel.
But there is no other.
Some who wish to alter the gospel of Christ must have confused you.
For even if we, or an angel from heaven,
should preach to you a gospel not in accord
with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him!
Whom would you say I am trying to please at this point – men or God?
Is this how I seek to ingratiate myself with men?
If I were trying to win man’s approval,
I would surely not be serving Christ!”
“Therefore, brothers, stand firm.
Hold fast to the traditions you received from us,
either by our word or by letter.”
2 Thess 2:15
“Whoever teaches in any other way,
not holding to the sound doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the teaching proper to true religion,
should be recognized as both conceited and ignorant,
a sick man in his passion for polemics and controversy.
From these come envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicious –
in a word, the bickering of men with twisted minds
who have lost all sense of truth.
Such men value religion only as a mean of personal gain.”
1 Tim 6:3-5
“Watch yourself and watch your teaching.
Persevere at both tasks. By doing so
you will bring to salvation yourself
and all who hear you.”
1 Tim 4:16
The following thoughts are more of my reflections on how important it is to have the Church as our Holy Mother. Think for a moment. Roll back the years of time to the time of the apostles, then place yourself along side with them. Now, walk forward applying the warnings of scriptures you’ve just read. You see Satan doesn’t care if you still profess to be Christian or even Catholic as long as you don’t avail yourself to all the truth or weapons Christ left for us through the Church. These weapons are to protect us from satan and his demons. Our weapons are the Church with the sacraments, scriptures, devotions, prayer, and sacramentals. We are in a battle.
There was once a saying, “If you can lead individuals away from their roots, you can lead them anywhere.” You can see clearly the results of that separation today in the body of Christ. With all the divisions in the body of Christ, we have disarmed Christians and especially our youth from defending themselves. It is similar to our country disarming itself from the weapons essential for defense. By giving our children the gift of Holy Mother the Church, our children can fight their spiritual battles with the experience and knowledge of 2000 years. If we don’t give them the Church with the sacraments, they will be left to stumble through life by trial and error to decide for themselves what is truth. This places them as their own authority and makes them more easily deceived.
We are part of a family, and we do have an inheritance of truth and blessings that we can tap into. This gift must be handed to our children and to their children’s children in order to preserve the faith of the apostles. This will also protect them from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
“Let us, then, be children no longer,
tossed here and there,
carried about by every wind of doctrine
that originates in human trickery
and skill in proposing error.”
After I shared my reflections with my children, I eagerly shared my experience with a friend. This friend not being Catholic, responded, “If you’re going to give your children to the Church, you might as well give them to the state.” I listened to this response and said, “EXACTLY! If we don’t entrust our children to the Church for their formation and teaching, they WILL be formed in conscience by the state and society.” The state and society accepts fornication, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, contraception, sterilization, occult, euthanasia, death penalty, etc. If you are not Catholic, find out what your church teaches about these issues. If you are Catholic, find out what and why the Roman Catholic Church teaches as it does.
“Our battle is not against human forces
but against the principalities and powers,
the rulers of this world of darkness,
the evil spirits in regions above.”
The word teaches us that our enemy is not each other, but the evil spirits in regions above. These evil spirits deceive and distort God’s truth and use human beings as instruments of deception and evil. Throughout history the devil has tried to raise the law of the land above the law of God. The reason there is so much distortion about the Church is because the more our children’s conscience is formed by the Church’s teaching and history, the less control Satan will have over them.
The Church teaches that the parents are the first teachers of the children. Look in the Catechism, number 2223 for more information on parental responsibility. I also pointed out to this friend, that no parent can study enough or live long enough to pass on the wisdom of 2000 years. We should make it a point to study the scriptures, and our catechism to answer questions when someone asks. Some say Catholics are the easiest to lead away from the faith because they don’t know their faith or know how to articulate it scripturally or historically to those who challenge them.
We don’t have long to live! In knowing our finality, are we willing to die and leave the Bible alone to guide our children and their children’s children? Don’t we want to leave them some writings like the Early Church Fathers and the documents of the Councils? Wouldn’t we want to leave them the teachings from the Catechism, reflections from the lives of the saints, a Catholic commentary on scripture, etc., along with the Bible? Don’t we want someone to govern our children’s understanding of the scriptures as well? Do you not want to entrust your family to a family that was in a covenant relationship with you, one that knows your heart? They can pass on to your children your faith, and how you understood it, so someone that is born 20 or 50 years from now in your family would not twist your words to mean something other than what you intended for it to mean. Isn’t this important even if it means that your love ones might reject some of your opinions? They would at least know your opinion. That is what Christ did when he left us His Church and His authority, when He said,
“I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.
I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven;
whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven”
“He who hears you hears me,
and he who rejects you rejects me.
And he who rejects me,
rejects him who sent me.”
If something should happen to you, wouldn’t you want to connect your family to a body of believers that has been around since the time of Christ? That is what Christ left us in the Apostolic Succession, the Church, called “pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15) You can get a list of all the popes from the time of Peter till today to show you that unbroken succession of leadership within the Roman Catholic Church from the Catholic Almanac. It was the Church that authorized the canon of scriptures we have today. So do we reject the hand that feeds us?
Many Christians are distorting the gospel and putting out new doctrine almost every day. I remember mentioning to someone that there should be a governing body for ALL Christians, just like our country has rules and guidelines to which businesses must be accountable. If a business is not living up to a certain moral code it could be reported to the Better Business Bureau. This business would be put on a list for consumers to check. I then realized Christ already organized a governing body, His Church, The Roman Catholic Church with a big C, to be the guardian of the apostolic faith. God has always had an earthly, visible leader of His family from Abraham to this day. Catholic Answers3 has a list of the major heresies against the apostolic faith from the beginning of Christianity. Knowledge of this list will help refute the distortion of truth.
“If your brother should commit some wrong against you,
go and point out his fault, but keep it between the two of you.
If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
If he does not listen, summon another
so that every case may stand on the word of two or three witnesses.
If he ignores them, refer it to the church.
If he ignores even the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”
Matthew 18: 15-17
Which church would you take your brother to? And if you didn’t like the response, would you take him to a different church or would you start your own? Which church was given the authority to speak for Christ? The Lord has set up this order, the Catholic Church didn’t. Trace your roots back to the time of Christ and find out faith taught in the Roman Catholic Church today.
I hope, you along with your children turn your ear to Holy Mother the Church. Many try to find fulfillment in commercialism, materialism and all the “isms” to satisfy their longings that can only be satisfied by Christ and His Church. Instead of asking your neighbor or friend what he believes on a particular subject ask, “What does the Catholic Church teach on this subject?” The Church is entrusted with the responsibility to protect and to pass on the teachings of the apostles, not to please the majority or the opinions of man.
“For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine,
but, following their own desires,
will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears.
They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables.”
2 Tim 4:3-4
Where can you find the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church? The Internet today is a good source. You can find the Catechism of the Catholic Church there, and at a Catholic Bookstore. You can find one by asking a parish secretary, or by looking in the yellow pages.
What is the Catholic Catechism? The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compilation of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. “It is to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument of ecclesial communion.” 2
The Church teaches that Scripture should be interpreted within the Church, the community of faith. It is within the Church that the scriptures can be fully and properly understood and interpreted. Scripture says that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth. (1 Tim 3:15) It has the authority and responsibility to safeguard and hand down the teachings of the apostles. Martin Luther quoted in "An Meine Kritiker" (by Johannes Jorgensen, p. 181), "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God...He also said in Epis.ad. Zwingl (ap. Balmes, p. 423), "If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of faith."
The Church in 1 Tim 3:15 cannot be interpreted as the church of all who believe in Jesus because of the many disputes among them as to what is truth. It is a specific church, THE Church the apostles were a part of and in charge of. The Councils made reference to in Luther’s quote are the councils of The Church that came to us from the apostles. At times when confusion distorted the teachings of the apostles, a council was called to clarify what is truth. The first council of the apostles was in Jerusalem 50 A.D. The first Ecumenical council was in 325 A.D and it gave us the Nicene Creed. The second one was in 381 A.D. at Constantinople with 350 bishops present. In 431 A.D. there was a 3rd council at Ephesus. The 4 th was at Chalcedon in 451 A.D. The fifth one was Constantinople II in 553 A.D., the 6 th at Constantinople again ... Fifteen councils later, the Council of Trent convening from 1545 to 1563, the First Vatican Council was in 1869-1870 and the Second Vatican Council was from 1962-1965. I believe what Luther stated, a need to return to the councils for the sake of unity of the faith is applicable for Christians today.
I would like to give you an analogy. If you were driving down a straight and narrow path and made a slight deviation in the steering wheel either to the left or to the right, it may not appear to make any difference at first until you are several miles down the road. You will find you are no longer on the path and those that follow you will not know from where you came and may not know where you are going. We need a major readjustment to get back to the path originally started. Return to Holy Mother the Church.
How does the Church become our spiritual mother?
“Mother Church” (“Mater Ecclesia”)(56), becomes a mother, since through preaching and baptism she brings forth children to a new and immortal life, who have been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God.”(57) Augustine says, “This holy and honored mother is like Mary. She gives birth and she is a virgin, from her you were born - she generates Christ so that you will be members of Christ.”(58) Cyprian of Carthage states succinctly: “One cannot have God as a father who doesn’t have the Church as a mother.”(59) And Paulinus of Nola sings of the motherhood of the Church like this: “As a mother she receives the seed of the eternal Word, carries the peoples in her womb and gives birth to them.”(60) 1
According to the vision of Paulinus of Nola, the Church is continually realized in the exchange and communication of the Spirit from one believer to another, as the generative environment of faith and holiness, in fraternal communion, unanimity in prayer, solidarity with the cross, and common witness. By virtue of this living communication, each baptized person can be considered to be at the same time a child of the Church, in that he is generated in her to divine life, and Mother Church, in that, by his faith and love he cooperates in giving birth to new children for God. He is ever more Mother Church, the greater is his holiness and the more ardent is his effort to communicate the gift he has received to others.
On the other hand, the baptized person does not cease to be a child of the Church when, because of sin, he separates himself from her in his heart. He may always come back to the springs of grace and remove the burden that his sin imposes on the entire community of Mother Church. The Church, in turn, as a true Mother cannot but be wounded by the sin of her children of yesterday and today, continuing to love them always, to the point of making herself responsible in all times for the burden created by their sins. Thus, she is seen by the Fathers of the Church to be the Mother of sorrows, not only because of persecutions coming from outside, but above all because of the betrayals, failures, delays, and sinfulness of her children. 1
Jesus delegated His voice to the disciples, the first leaders of the Church when he said,
“He who hears you hears me,
and he who rejects you rejects me.
And he who rejects me,
rejects him who sent me.”
Incline your ear and your heart to Holy Mother the Church! The Voice of Christ is heard through her teachings. Listen to, and obey ALL the teachings of the Church!
Article written by Arlene
Published to Leap of Faith on July 13, 2000
(56) Karl Delahaye, Ecclesia Mater chez les Pères des trois premiers siècles, (Paris, 1964), 128; Cf. also Hugo Rahner, SJ, Mater Ecclesia: Lobpreis der Kirche aus dem ersten Jahrtausend christlicher Literatur, (Einsiedeln, 1944).
(57) Lumen gentium, 64.
(58) St. Augustine, Sermo 25, 8: PL 46, 938: “Mater ista sancta, honorata, Mariae similis, et parit et Virgo est. Ex illa nati estis et Christum parit: nam membra Christi estis.”
(59) St. Cyprian, De Ecclesiae Catholicae unitate 6: CCL 3, 253: “Habere iam non potest Deum patrem qui ecclesiam non habet matrem.” St. Cyprian also states: “Ut habere quis possit Deum Patrem, habeat ante ecclesiam matrem” (Epist. 74, 7; CCL 3C, 572). St. Augustine: “Tenete ergo, carissimi, tenete omnes unanimiter Deum patrem, et matrem Ecclesiam” (In Ps 88, Sermo 2,14: CCL 39, 1244).
(60) St. Paulinus of Nola, Carmen 25, 171-172; CSEL 30,243: “Inde manet mater aeterni semine verbi / concipiens populos et pariter pariens.
1. Excerpts taken from Zenit, March 7, 2000 International Theological Commission - Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the past. December 1999”
2. ((2030, 2032, 2034, 2016) Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of American, Copyright @ 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.
3. Catholic Answers, P.O. Box 17490, San Diego, CA 92177
Scriptures from the New American translation. Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville Camden New York. Copyright @ Catholic Publishers, Inc., 1971.
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