Week by week in the creed we say we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but too often the assent to the creed is for us simply a routine part of the liturgy or, if we even stop to think about it at all, it becomes a kind of assent to a series of mental propositions and intellectual statements.
In a sense, dogma is a series of mental propositions or intellectual statements, but it is really much, much more. It is a statement of life, not only a statement of intellectually formulated beliefs. The question therefore is not so much do I believe in the Church being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, but whether my life is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. I sometimes like to break down the word ‘believe’–drop the second ‘e’ and divide the word so it is not ‘believe’ but ‘be live’. Not so much do you ‘believe’ in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but do you ‘be live’ the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In order for this to be true I have to ask in what sense am I, as an individual, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, for if the Church as a whole is to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, then it should follow that each of her members ought, also, in their own way, and according to their own vocation and calling, to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
If I am One, therefore I am unified. I am not divided. I am not torn between the flesh and the Spirit. I am not serving two masters. I am not serving God and mammon. I am unified also in Body, Mind and Spirit. The three parts of me, like a little Holy Trinity, are functioning together as an inseparable unity. If I am One then my body is not warring against my soul and my mind is not warring against my body and soul and my soul is not warring against my body and mind. If I am One, then I am unified in motive, in purpose and in destiny. I am functioning at my optimum. I am becoming the simple, unified and whole person God created me to be.
If I am Holy, then in my life I am not just pious or prayerful or full of good deed. There is more to ‘Holy’ than that. Holiness, for me more and more, means being aware of the supernatural in life. It means that I live within the increasingly constant awareness of God’s abundant and prosperous providence. I am aware that ‘the World is charged with the grandeur of God..’ To be Holy means I am increasingly aware that all is gift. All is grace. God’s power and goodness and might and beauty are everywhere present. To be Holy is to live in that higher state of awareness where not one blade of grass, not one birdsong, not one grain of sand, not one child or old person or moment of life is empty of God’s life. So am I Holy in that sense–that I am full of the awareness of the supernatural goodness of God at every moment in every way?
What about Catholic? If I am Catholic in my own life, then my perspectives and understandings are increasingly universal. My understanding of God and life and wisdom and knowledge and insight are becoming vast and wide and deep. If I am Catholic then my vision transcends my own narrow sectarianism, my own ideologies, my own tastes, my own national or ethnic identity. My sharing in God means that my vision and my life transcend my narrow bigotries, my selfishness, my limited education and especially my liturgical or spiritual expressions. Instead of a narrow and pinched view of all things I am widening out to embrace all things and to love all things according to their worth.
Am I Apostolic? If I am Apostolic as an individual, then my life is bound up and determined by the wisdom of the Church. I live and move and breathe within the hermeneutic of continuity. In other words, I am operating within the Apostolic vision, the Apostolic teaching, the Apostolic martyrdom, the Apostolic charism, the Apostolic contact with Christ himself. To be dynamically Apostolic, is to be in touch with the Apostles. It is to thank God in the Eucharistic prayer for ‘the faith that comes to us from the Apostles.’ This is a living faith and a moment by moment experience. Being enlightened by the past so we can live positively in the present and move forward with faith and confidence into the future.
If more of us actually lived lives that were One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic the Church herself would radiate the reality that exists and would bear witness to the whole world that the Catholic Church was the One Church founded by Jesus Christ to bear his salvation to the world.