- Introduction of the religion
The Catholic Church was instituted by Jesus Christ. The word “Catholic” means “universal” (Norman, 2007). “Love Godand love your neighbor” (Mark:12:29-31, The New American Bible). These phrases sum up the teachings of Jesus Christ which Catholics make as their guide as they live their lives following Jesus. At present, the Catholic Church is headed by Pope Francis from the Vatican. The pope is the vicar of Jesus here on earth. The leaders of the Catholic Church are the bishops and priests. They are tasked to spread the teachings of Christ and manage parishes, vicariates, and dioceses which are located all over the world in places where Catholics form communities. Catholics believe in the Holy Trinity. Central to the Catholic faith is the belief of Jesus as God the son who came down to earth and sacrificed his life so that man would be saved from sin. Catholics believe in saints who have lived their lives as witnesses to their faith and can therefore intercede for man. Catholics also believe in Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus, and prays for her intercession as well.
The beginnings of the Church is considered by Catholics to have officially started when Jesus looked at Simon and told him “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means rock), and upon this rock, I will build my church”(Matthew 16:18). With these words, Jesus gave a promise to Peter that “the church would be built” and he entrusted the responsibility of leading it to Peter (Stewart, 2008, p.31). Simon Peter is one of the 12 apostles of Jesus who continued teaching about the Gospel even after the death of Jesus. Catholics believe in Apostolic succession – the authority to teach which is passed on to the leaders of the Church. The bishops and priests also have this authority of sanctifying and teaching which can be traced back to the authority given by Jesus to the apostles (Stewart, 2008).
The Roman Catholic Church believes that the church means a community of believers and that it is an active, vibrant and growing church. The doctrines of the Catholic church are passed by its leaders to address the call of the times. There has been major changes in the Catholic Church, one of which are those promulgated in the Second Vatican Council. Catholics all over the world also face challenges from its members and elders. However, as a community of believers, it has strived to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Method of interview – Online, via Skype
- Interview summary
The person interviewed is a Catholic all her life. She was born to Catholic parents, thus she was baptized into the Catholic Church when she was still a baby, at seven months old. All her siblings and relatives are also Catholics. Their Catholic faith also began when they were children. The interviewee studied in a Catholic school run by nuns, where Religion was one of the subjects from Elementary to High School. Prayers are said before and after each class and she participated in school activities like mass every Sunday and every first Friday of the month. In the religion classes, she was taught about the Catholic faith and she learned about the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Teachings of the Catholic Faith
Jesus Christ is at the center of the Catholic faith. Practicing the Catholic religion means following the teaching of Christ. A Catholic believes in the Trinity—three persons in one God. A Catholic believes in God the Father, God the Son or Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. She prays to God and believes in the intercession of the saints. The interviewee has learned the Sacraments that Catholics received at various points in their lives. She has already received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance and Holy Communion. In baptism, the child receives the baptismal grace and this is completed by the sacrament of confirmation. Confirmation is a renewal of the promise of following Christ and rejecting evil which is made at baptism. In baptism, the parents and godparents are the ones making the promise in behalf of the child, but in confirmation it is already the child making the promise on his own behalf. Confirmation is received when the child is already a teenager or a pre-teenager. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed” (Vatican, 1997). The interviewee makes it a point to confess once a month. After she has told the priest her sins and utters the act of contrition as a proof of her being sorry for the sins, she prays. Then she receives the Sacrament of Penance. She is not married, thus she could not have the Sacrament of Matrimony. However, if she intends to get married, she can still marry someone who is not in the Catholic faith. The husband she chooses is not obligated to convert to the Catholic faith because members of faith are accepted. As regards the sacrament of the Holy Orders, the interviewee is not male, thus she is not she is not eligible for the priesthood. Priests are considered representatives of Christ in the parishes. Finally, the Sacrament of Holy Unction is given to all Catholics on their deathbed.
Every time Catholics participate in the mass they receive the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. The interviewee receives the “body and blood of Christ” every time she goes to mass. The symbols for the body and blood are the bread and wine during Holy Communion. In some churches, the attendees would be able to receive the bread only but in other churches, they can dip the bread in the wine. According to Stewart (2008), “Catholics consider it one of the mysteries of faith that in the Eucharistic celebration the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ” (p.27). The presence of Christ is made evident in the mass.
Beliefs rooted in the Bible
One of Jesus’ teaching is “helping the least of my brothers.” Thus, Catholics are expected to show compassion to the weak, the sick, the imprisoned, and the least of one’s brothers. The Eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12) is delivered by Jesus Christ during the Sermon of the Mount and these teachings enumerate the ways by which a person can attain the Kingdom of God. The merciful, meek, clean of heart, peacemakers, and persecuted for the sake of justice are expected to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
The interviewee relates that she is part of a basic ecclesial community who meets weekly at 7:00 pm every Wednesday to pray and share their reflections about the Bible passages. In doing this, they are able to increase their spiritual strength. The members also visit their neighbors who are sick physically.
Forgiveness is emphasized in the Roman Catholic faith. The Bible, particularly in the gospels show the virtue of forgiveness. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus was asked how many times should someone forgive another person and He answered that a person should forgive not once or seven times but “seventy times seven times” (18:21-35). The teachings of the Catholic church in every religion class has always given importance on the value of forgiveness. Catholics are encouraged to forgive others because this is a way of showing one’s love for that person. Forgiveness is difficult especially if someone has hurt someone so much but doing so is the Catholic way. In the Sacrament of Penance, God forgives the sins of man. A person receives penance when he/she is truly sorry for his/her mistakes and sincerely asks forgiveness from God. Thus, in the Catholic community there is the common saying that if God can forgive, why not human beings? In the interviewees weekly Bible sharing, they would pray and ask forgiveness from God. They would also strive to ask forgiveness from the other people that they have hurt knowingly or unknowingly. One other function of their group is to invite other neighbors to pray with them and reflect about the bible passages so that the latter would find spiritual strength.
The sanctity of marriage is given importance in the books of the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (19:6). The virtues of charity, fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance also have their Biblical justifications in the Bible. The books of Leviticus and Colossians give importance to justice. What is written in the Bible are clearly applicable to the modern man such as the verse that says “Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15) The virtue of prudence are found in the book of Proverbs; faith in the Letters of Paul to the Romans and Galatians; hope in the books of Hebrew and Tmothy; and passages about charity are in the Gospels of John and Matthew as well as in the letters of St Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, and Colossians.
Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:23)
Another passage says:
Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates and hey sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leadersthis letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. (Acts 15:22-23).
The first passage highlight the authority of the leaders of the church while the second passage indicate that believers of Jesus from all over the world are brothers and those who are leading these different communities are likewise brothers because they all comprise the church.
- Comparing and contrasting with another religion
Roman Catholicism and Islam are major religions in the modern world. Both have been established centuries ago and practice a history of religious traditions. Both religions believe in a true God, the creator and maker of heaven and earth. Both religions have important books in which they base their beliefs. Catholics have the Bible while adherents of Islam have the Quoran. Both books mention the prophets and both recognize the importance of Mother Mary. In both religions, fasting is very important. Providing for those in need is also part of the doctrines of both religions. One of the symbols of Roman Catholics is the rosary, a similar symbol is used by Moslems in the form of the prayer beads.
The main differences between Catholics and Moslems pertain to their beliefs about God and Jesus. For the Moslems, there is only one true God. He is an all powerful God, the Creator and maker of life. Meanwhile, the Catholics believe in the Holy Trinity. This means that there are three persons in one God. The three persons are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God the Son for the Catholics. According to the Apostle’s Creed of the Catholics, Jesus “came down from heaven, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again”. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a core principle of the Roman Catholic faith because by dying on the cross, Jesus saved man. Moslems, however do not consider Jesus a God. He is mentioned in the Quoran, not as a God or a Messiah but only as one of the prophets. Another difference between Moslems and Catholics relate to marriage. In the Catholic faith, when a man and a woman receive the Sacrament of Marriage, they remain married until death. There is no divorce in the Roman Catholic faith. Once married, a man or woman cannot take another spouse. In Islam, a man can take more than one wife, as long as he has the capacity to provide for his family and children.
The interviewee is an active Catholic. She has received the sacraments and she regularly prays to God for strength and graces. She believes that following the teachings of Jesus will make her a living witness of the Gospel. Despite the presence of other religions, she remains faithful to the Catholic faith. The Roman Catholic Church holds the Bible as a very important source of its principles. Bible passages provide guidance in the aspects of faith as well as in everyday life such as virtues of faith, hope, charity, temperance, prudence, and justice. The Bible also emphasizes the sanctity of marriage and the value of forgiveness. The interviewee has told the interviewer that she strives to love God with all her heart and to love others too.
Norman, E. R. (2007). The Roman Catholic Church: An Illustrated History. Los Angeles, LA: University of California Press.
Stewart, C. (2008). The Catholic Church: A Brief Popular History. Winona, MN: St. Mary’s Press.
Vatican. (1997). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/aposletr.htm