Q. How do I know that I am in the correct church? How do I know that what the Catholic Church professes is the truth? I know that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” But my question is specific to knowing which church is the true Church.
A. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for His Church, His followers, “that they all may be one as you Father are in me and I in you.” Jesus desired to leave one Church – and only one church – to continue His work and proclaim His teachings. He is the chief cornerstone, but He also chose Peter as His vicar to lead the Church, along with the remaining 11 apostles. The leadership of the 12 apostles continues to this day in the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops who are in union with him. We believe that the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ and from the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as it fell upon the apostles, the Virgin Mary and the first Christians.
As Catholics, we profess in the Nicene Creed that Christ founded His Church to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. These are sometimes called the four marks of the Church, and they reveal how – despite the challenges of the past 2000 years – the Catholic Church remains and always will be the One Church founded by Christ himself.
When we say that the Church is one, we speak of her unity in a common profession of faith and celebration of the sacraments. Yet within this united family, there is much room for diversity. This is seen most profoundly in the different rites of the Catholic Church (such as the Byzantine rite Catholics in the Ukraine, Greece, etc.). Each has different ways of celebrating the Mass, but it is the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church is holy. This does not mean that her members are immune from sin or that scandals have not tainted the public image of the Church. However, despite the sinfulness of individuals, the holiness of Jesus Christ remains in the Church and is revealed in the lives of her saints who show us how the holiness of Christ can transform lives and produce zealous disciples of the Lord.
The Church is catholic or universal. Because Christ is forever present in His Church and has sent her to proclaim His gospel to the entire world, we can see in our own time that the Church now exists in nearly every country around the world. As such, all Catholics can call the Church their home and know that they are part of a universal family, united in a common faith.
The Church is apostolic. The foundation of our Church is on none other that of the 12 apostles. Thus, every bishop is part of an unbroken line of succession going back to the 12 Apostles. For example, we can historically trace the succession of the Popes from St. Peter to Pope Francis, showing that our leadership goes all the way back to the Apostles of Jesus Christ.