In order to identify the Church founded by Jesus Christ, we must find the marks that only He alone could and would leave as Her identifying characteristics. We call those characteristics the marks of the Church. There are four primary marks, and they're easily identifiable.
It's true that some other churches may have one of those marks, and a few may even possess two of the marks, but there is only one Church — the one founded by Our Lord — that has all four marks. Those marks that He gave His Church are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Let's start with the mark we call "One."
Jesus never spoke of a plurality of churches, but of "My Church," when He promised Peter that He would make him the rock — the foundation of the Church He was about to establish (Matthew 16:18–19). The Church is always pictured in the New Testament as visibly one, presided over by Peter, who represents Christ, telling all men until the end of time to believe only what He and His Apostles taught, to obey His and their commands, and to worship as He had ordered (cf. John 10:16).
Christ plainly foretold that the gates of Hell would never prevail against His Church (not that Hell wouldn't try, as we clearly see today), and that He would provide for its unity by His own presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. It's granted that the private judgment of the individual naturally brings about disunity in the Church, but Christ ensured its unity by a special supernatural grace, which He asked of His Father the night before He died:
[T]hey may all be one; just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:21–23)
In all his epistles, St. Paul insists on the unity of the Church. Although he mentions individual local churches in certain cities (known as dioceses today), he teaches clearly that they are parts of the one Church in every place (I Thessalonians 1:8; I Corinthians 1:2; II Corinthians 2:14).
The Church is not a mere organization that may be divided and subdivided like a nation or a club, but a divine organism with its own inherent principle of life. It's Christ's Mystical Body, of which He is the head and all Christians are members. It's founded by one Lord, given life by one Spirit, entered into by one baptism, ruled by a united body of bishops, and has one aim — the glory of God and the salvation of men's souls (Romans 12:4–8; II Corinthians 12:12–27; Ephesians 4:3–16).
Being one is to be united, as Christ demands. We must remember that He isn't Jesus the Warm Fuzzy, but rather Jesus the Incarnate Word of God! That means we're obligated to be obedient to His Church in all matters of faith and morals. We must obey Christ through His Church on everything in the Ten Commandments and all that they imply.
Many Catholics seem to think they can pick and choose what to believe and not believe, what to obey and not obey. If what Christ through His Church demands isn't comfortable, is difficult, or doesn't feel good, they simply choose not to obey. These Catholics are typically referred to as "cafeteria Catholics." The fact is, they aren't really Catholics at all. They've voluntarily separated themselves from the Catholic Church, and their eternal souls are in grave danger.
I can actually empathize with many modern Catholics and their cafeteria attitude. Indeed, they can't be fully blamed. After all, the bishops and most priests haven't really taught the Faith in decades. This is why we see virtually no one going to confession week after week, month after month, year after year, but everybody seems to go to Communion every single Sunday. Even that's understandable since surveys clearly show that 72% of Catholics in the pew no longer believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist; they think they're just getting a piece of bread. And the reason for the lack of belief is the dumbed-down catechesis.
Of course, times they are a-changin'. As the bishops continue down their heretical and faithless path, some courageous priests and many laity are standing up to do the bishops' jobs for them by sharing the faith with Catholics as it should be shared in order to displace the faulty catechesis they've received.
Michael Voris and I had a conversation where I suggested that at least 95% of Catholics neither know nor understand the Catholic faith. Michael shot back that I was being entirely too charitable. Terry Barber told me the same thing two weeks later. I suppose what I'm saying is, you need to read these little thumbnails in catechesis every week in order to get the food your soul needs.
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Read part II of this series.