I’m Catholic Now!

It only recently dawned on me that I have been trying to be “catholic” since the time I became a Christian. With a lot of hesitation, I am ready to announce that I … no, we … have arrived.

I’ve been telling people for a long time that in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, the word “catholic” does not mean Roman Catholic, but universal. The early Christians referred to the “catholic” churches, which was almost identical with referring to the apostolic churches. The catholic churches were the churches formed by the apostles and remaining in unity.

That had great meaning in the first couple centuries of the church. In our modern era … not so much.

However, I read a new definition of “catholic” that I really like:

To many Fundamentalists-Evangelicals, the word catholic is simply an abbreviation for Roman Catholic. The term catholic, however, can never be the property of a denomination. In fact, as I shall show in a moment, those who use it to segregate Christians from each other are actually contradicting its very meaning! The ancient Church understood catholicity to mean wholeness, fullness, integrity, and “totality.” This is the primary meaning of the Greek word katholou (kaqolou), catholic.
     Another popular misunderstanding of the word catholic is “universal,” as in, the church which exists throughout the world. This was not at all the early Christian understanding. The Church of the first centuries used the term as a synonym for the fullness of Truth, not as a geographical description. For example, Ignatius of Antioch (the first Christian father to use the word to explain the Church) states that the Church is catholic because in her assembly, the faithful welcome the presence of Christ in all His Truth. The idea of a universal Church, understood as being constituted by all “churches” throughout the world, never occurred to Ignatius. (Bajis, Jordan. Common Ground. Chapter 10. Emphasis in original.)

To be a part of a church where “the faithful welcome the presence of Christ in all his truth” is exactly what I’ve been searching for all my adult life. It is what I have been experiencing for almost twenty years.

I realize now that being “catholic” is what I have always wanted. I have always wanted to be right in the middle of the stream of God’s Spirit as he moved in his people in this world.

I’m ready to believe I’ve found it.

The Eastern Orthodox View of Catholicity

I am not trying to define the Orthodox churches’ view here. I am just taking one part of what’s been told to me by Orthodox members and applying it to myself and to the Christians who are my near and dear relatives in Jesus and fellow members of the local body of Christ.

I wish I could remember the exact wording, but a friend spoke of the “conciliatory of churches.” This was the idea that the catholic churches—the apostolic churches—were together, joined to one another in love, and mutually watching over one another. They did not rule over one another, but they did admonish one another and keep one another on the right track.

We have entered wholeheartedly into this definition of catholicity!

We draw from every tradition we can. We test the teachers and teachings by the fruit they produce. We learn from the earliest Christian writers. We pay attention to Roman Catholic dogma, and we read about Orthodox teachings and talk to Orthodox members and priests. We study Protestant scholarship, and we love history. We want our life and teachings to be grounded in the historical church.

In doing so, we have rejected the doctrine of the primacy of the Roman bishop as unhistoric. We have rejected the claim that the authority and power of God is limited to churches who can claim a human line of bishops, one laying hands on the next from the time of the apostles.

The approach I have described above to being catholic is exactly what has led us to reject those claims.

We believe that we are entering into, growing in, and experiencing “wholeness, fullness, integrity, and totality.” We see that the result of this pursuit has been that the we, not just I or him or her, have been grounded in good works, shining such a light that the world has taken notice of us and given glory to our Father in heaven. We have tasted how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. We have fulfilled our longing to pursue the teaching of the apostles, the breaking of bread, and fellowship continually and daily.

I do believe that we can rightly claim that we are holy, catholic, and apostolic. We long for the day when all those who share that claim will also be able to share the claim that we are one.

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10 Responses to I’m Catholic Now!

  1. paulfpavao says:

    :-D.Thank you. In a sense, I am as close to Roman Catholic as I can be.

  2. Thanks for the post and the deep definition. I have found it helpful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and your other sites. I thought you were going Roman Catholic for a minute! lol.

  3. Carolyn Aleven says:

    We are truly longing for such fellowship here in Wisconsin. Someday perhaps? The group we are with has possibilities but right now there is a loan to pay so they must have the people to fill the seats. I am so glad to have found your site; to know that there is something better out there. Thank you!!!

  4. But, do you live your Christian faith, or do you limit it to mental disputations? So many “Christians” do not live their faith as that actually requires ongoing effort and personal sacrifice.

    • paulfpavao says:

      Well, I certainly hope I do what I talk about. I am certainly “giving all diligence” to walk in obedience to Jesus by living by the guidance of his Spirit.

      I can tell you that there are a couple hundred people in communion with each other in the way I described in this article. We share meals, share lives, devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, wherever we find it, and treat each other like family. We hurt when our brothers and sisters hurt, and we rejoice when they rejoice. We prefer one another, and in our unimpressive American way call nothing our own. We maintain our care and fellowship even when we are sent out to help others, whether overseas, locally, or with other mission organizations.

      There is no doubt that takes not only ongoing effort and personal sacrifice, but the ongoing intervention of God, who keeps us on course and in love with one another.

  5. Ben says:

    Hi Paul,
    Shocking indeed 🙂

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers clarification on this subject in paragraphs 830-838.

    Unity is a great test of true Catholicism.

    May God bless you!
    -Ben

  6. Jim Riege says:

    I was shocked, until I read the whole blog post. You are taking what is right, and rejecting what is wrong, from every denomination. That is a good idea. But be ready to defend yourself against denominationalists, and protestants who do not read the whole blog post.

    • paulfpavao says:

      I’m not that worried about defending myself anymore. There are people I am willing to hold a conversation with, and there are people I am not willing to hold a conversation with. I don’t care what the latter say about me.

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