What do Catholics believe? Do they worship Mary? Is Jesus God? What/Who is the Pope? What is the Holy Eucharist? All these and other questions will find their answer in Father Hopkins' commentary on the Westminster "Penny" Catechism, (in his view the best simple presentation of the Catholic Faith ever produced).


DO YOU KNOW YOUR FAITH?

Do you know your Faith? Could you explain - for instance- the Immaculate Conception- to your child? What if someone at work were to put you on the spot regarding the Church's teaching on marriage and divorce? Would you stammer and put the enquirer off, or could you explain confidently the teaching of the Church? And just what does
the Incarnation mean?

So many Catholics today are shaky over the essential teachings of the Church and the key points of the Christian Faith. Yet, they genuinely want to know! They want to understand. They want to be able to answer their children's questions. They want to have an answer for the Jehovah's Witness at the door.
Here, we will attempt to cater for this need. We will help you KNOW YOUR FAITH!

The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II has written:
"Every baptised person... has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life. As the twentieth century draws to a close, the Church is bidden by God and by events - to renew her trust in catechetical activity as a prime aspect of her mission.
Being a Christian means saying "Yes" to Jesus Christ, but let us remember that this "Yes" has two levels: it consists in surrendering to the word of God and relying on it, but it also means... endeavouring to know better and better the profound meaning of this word. (From "Catechise trandendae", 16.10.1979.)

MY FAITH

1. Who made you?
God made me.

2. Why did God make you?
God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him for ever in the next.

Every one of us, whether we be rich or poor, has been created individually by God. We all have a purpose and a vocation to fulfil. We all have an ultimate calling, and heavenly destiny, which we must allow nothing else to jeopardise.
God is Love. He loves us. He created us to love Him and one another. He wants us to be happy now, in this world and in heaven. How can we be truly happy? By doing His will! We do this by keeping His commandments and following the teachings of the Church. The Church, led on earth by the Pope, guides us, the "Pilgrim People of God", through our earthly journey on the way to ou heavenly home.

3. To whose image and likeness did God make you?
God made me to his own image and likeness.

What a tremendous dignity man has! God created us “little less” than himself (Ps. 8:6). He has called us to friendship with Him. He has called us to live with Him for ever in the joys of Heaven.
Every man is created in God’s image, and is, therefore, of infinite value, be he the most opulent millionaire or the poorest beggar. It is a gift of the Saints to see shining in the faces of the lowest, the handicapped, the outcast, the vilest of sinners – the eyes of Christ! (This inspired the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

4. Is this likeness to God in your body, or in your soul?
This likeness to God is chiefly in my soul.

5. How is your soul like to God?
My soul is like to God because it is a spirit, and is immortal.
6. What do you mean when you say your soul is immortal?
When I say my soul is immortal, I mean my soul can never die.

7. Of which must you take most care, of your body or of your soul?
I must take most care of my soul; for Christ has said, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”

8. What must you do to save your soul?
To save my soul I must worship God by Faith, Hope and Charity; that is, I must believe in him, I must hope in him, and I must love him with my whole heart.

Faith, Hope and Charity are known as the three “Theological Virtues”. Each is given a chapter in the Catechism. Each is a gift of God, a “supernatural” gift, that is something beyond our nature, that we are not capable of by our own power. The “supernatural” gifts enable us to reach a “supernatural” end: life with God in Heaven for ever, something we cannot achieve as a result of our own human efforts.

9. What is faith?
Faith is a supernatural gift of God, which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” – so says the old adage. And how true! Such a short step between its possession and its loss!
The Jehovah Witnesses, Evangelicals, Mormons, Pentecostalists, etc., etc. at our doors today, were Catholics yesterday. What happened for them to willingly exchange “the pearl of great price”, the road to heaven, for a bowl of excrement that leads them to hell?
All I can say is that they never had the Faith, or the Faith they had was so weak, that through their own laziness and attraction to the “good life”, they willingly gave it up to embrace man-made, man- pleasing religions.
We must do all we can never to endanger our gift of Faith, the most priceless thing we possess. We endanger our Faith by neglecting our spiritual duties (not going to Mass & Confession, not praying, etc); reading bad books, watching bad films, bad internet material & listening to programmes that attack our religion; going to non-Catholic schools (public schools included), and attending non-Catholic worship.

10. Why must you believe whatever God has revealed?
I believe whatever God has revealed because God is the very truth, and can neither deceive or be deceived.

11. How are you to know what God has revealed?
I am to know what God has revealed by the testimony, teaching and authority of the Catholic Church.

Jesus Christ Our Lord founded His Church on the Rock of Peter’s Faith (Mt. 16: 18f.), with the promise that the “gates of hell shall never prevail against it”. Our Lord made Peter and his successors the earthly leaders of the Church. They were the “popes”: (the word means “fathers”). Jesus ordered St. Peter to “Feed my lambs, … tend my sheep.” (Jn. 21: 15f.)
Peter was to be the “shepherd” of the new chosen People of God.

12. Who gave the Catholic Church divine authority to teach?
Jesus Christ gave the Catholic Church divine authority to teach, when he said, “Go ye and teach all nations.”

It is the teaching AUTHORITY of the Catholic Church, a gift of Christ its founder, that makes it different from any other form of Christianity.
The Catholic Faith is clear and precise. The Catholic KNOWS what he must believe to be saved.
The Catholic does not have to fight great intellectual battles and work out his “faith” by reason.
The Catholic Church is God’s revelation to mankind.
The Catholic Church is Christ.
Christ is the Truth.

13. What are the chief things which God has revealed?
The chief things which God has revealed are contained in the Apostles’ Creed.

14. Say the Apostles’ Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; - and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; - who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; - suffered uder Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; - he descended to the dead; on the third day he arose again; - he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty; - from thence he will come again to judge the living and the dead; - I believe in the Holy Spirit; - the Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints; - the forgiveness of sins; - the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting. Amen

“Creed” comes from the Latin “Credo”, - I believe. All Catholics are familiar with two Creeds, the “Apostles’ Creed”, printed above, and recited at Baptism and at the beginning of the Rosary; and the “Nicene Creed” recited at Mass on Sundays and important Holydays. There is a third Creed called the “Athanasian” which is rarely used nowadays, normally restricted to traditional clergy who recite it yearly on Trinity Sunday in the Breviary Office of Prime.

In the opinion of this writer, it is a shame that this Creed is so unknown not only by the laity, but also by the clergy, not least for its pointedly un-ecumenical statements. The latest most scholars date its composition is to the early 5th. century. Here follows the “Athanasian Creed”:

Whoever wishes to be saved must before all else adhere to the Catholic faith.
He must preserve this faith whole and untarnished; otherwise he shall most certainly perish forever.
Now this is the Catholic faith; that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity.
Neither confusing the persons nor distinguishing the nature.
The person of the Father is distinct; the person of the Son is distinct; the person of the Holy Spirit is distinct.
Yet the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit possess one Godhead, equal glory, and co-eternal majesty.
As the Father is, so is the Son, so also is the Holy Spirit.
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite.
The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal.
Nevertheless, they are not three eternals, but one Eternal.
Even as they are not three uncreateds, or three infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.
So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty.
And yet there are not three almighties, but one Almighty.
So also the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So too the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord.
And still there are not three Lords, but only one Lord.
For just as we are compelled by Christian truth to profess that each Person is individually God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to hold that there are three Gods or Lords.
The Father was made by no one, being neither created nor begotten.
The Son is from the Father, though not created or made, but begotten.
The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, though neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.
Consequently there is one Father, not three Fathers; there is one Son, not three Sons; thee is one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
Furthermore in this Trinity there is no “before” or “after”, no “greater” or “less”: for all three Persons are co-eternal and co-equal.
In every respect, therefore, as has already been stated, unity must be worshipped in Trinity, and Trinity in unity.
This is what everyone who wishes to be saved must hold regarding the Blessed Trinity.
But, for his eternal salvation, he must also believe in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the true faith requires us to believe and acknowledge that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and Man.
He is God, begotten of the substance of the Father before the world began; He is Man, born in the world of the substance of His Mother.
Perfect God, perfect Man, a substance composed of a rational soul and a human body.
Equal to the Father in divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity.
And, although He is God and Man, still He is only one Christ, not two.
One, not by any turning of the divinity into flesh, but by the taking up of humanity into God.
One only, not by any confusion of substance, but by the unity of His person.
For, just as the rational soul and the body form one man, so God and Man form one Christ.
He suffered for our salvation, descended to the dead, rose from the dead on the third day.
Ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God the Father all-powerful, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At His coming, all men must rise with their bodies, and must give an account of their own deeds.
And those who have done good shall go into eternal life, while those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire.
This is the Catholic faith, and anyone who does not believe it fully and firmly cannot be saved.

15. How is the Apostles’ Creed divided?
The Apostles’ Creed is divided into twelve parts or articles.

16. What is the first article of the Creed?
The first article of the Creed is, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”.

17. Who is God?
God is the supreme Spirit, who alone exists of himself, and is infinite in all perfections.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, God revealed His name to Moses as “I AM”. He is the One Who Is. Think about it. God had no beginning. He was not created as we were. He has no end. He just “is”. He exists, and all creation exists because God wills it to exist. God is perfect. He is Lord of all. It is very possible to come to belief in God by considering the world around us: the sea, the stars, the sky, the trees, the animals, ourselves: and asking: Where did it all come from? It must have started at some point. Who started it off?
The answer is God. He who is everlasting and outside of time altogether.

18. Why is God called Almighty?
God is called “Almighty” because he can do all things: “With God all things are possible”.
19. Why is God called “Creator of heaven and earth”?
God is called “Creator of heaven and earth” because he made heaven and earth and all things, out of nothing, by his word.

It is difficult for us to imagine it, but there once was a time when all there was – was God… This was before He created anything, before time was begun. There was just the three Persons of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit: nothing else! The universe of created things, visible and invisible, was brought into being by God from nothing. He did not make it. A maker needs materials. God had none. God created from nothing. God is almighty because everything else that exists was created by Him and owes its being to Him and is less than Him.
The chief of God’s enemies, the devil, is but a fallen angel, a spirit created by God who owes his existence to God and is very much less than God. The devil exists only because God allows him. He should never worry us so long as we remain God’s friends in a state of grace.

20. Had God any beginning?
God had no beginning: he always was, he is, and he always will be.

“But, Daddy, who made God?” … I am sure many of us with families with have experienced this question at some time or another! The answer is, of course, no one made God. When we think about God we must realise that there is one basic difference between Him and us: He is the Creator: we are the created. He just IS. We have a beginning: the point at which we were created. God was not created. He has always existed. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, God revealed His Name to Moses as “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). This tells us a lot. God just is. He exists, unlike us outside of time, in eternity. Eternity is a perpetual NOW!

21. Where is God?
God is everywhere.

God is the Creator of all, Who has always existed. He holds everything that He has created in being. He is in and through everything that exists. We may safely say that He is closer to us than our very souls, since He is sustaining them with life now. God pervades everything there is. This is what we mean by His “immanence”.

22. Does God know and see all things?
God knows and sees all things, even our most secret thoughts.

In the last question we noted that God is in and through all that exists. In that case He must know everything about it. Our Lord taught that “The very hairs of your head are counted.” (Mt. 10:30) There is nothing we do that God does not know about. We are never alone. If only we could be more aware of God’s presence with us at all times, even when human company may be hundreds of miles away, not only would we have no cause for fear, but we should be less ready to fall into sin.
God’s knowledge of all things is known as His “omniscience”.

23. Has God any body?
God has no body; He is a spirit.

This question might seem strange to us at first: God is outside of, yet throughout His creation. He is a spiritual being and uncreated. He is not limited by time or space as we are, by our bodies. He can never die.
“Of course God does not have a body!” You answer. But when we read about the ancient peoples in the Old Testament of the Bible, or when we consider certain religions in India, Africa, the Pacific and so on, here we will find the belief that the gods somehow take up a dwelling in a statue, a rock, a spring, a tree and so on.
Question 23 and its answer assures us that God is not limited in any of these ways.

24. Is there only one God?
There is only one God.

The Christian Faith is clear on there being only one True God. The Jews of the Old Testament were quite unique among neighbouring peoples for their “monotheism” (having one God). The Greeks worshipped many gods, as Saint Paul noted in his speech in the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 16ff.) The Pantheon (Temple for all the gods) in Rome bears witness to the Romans’ polytheism (worship of many gods).
Time and time again the Prophets had to condemn the Jews when they fell into the worship of the false gods of surrounding peoples. The First Commandment given to Moses was “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:1-3)

25. Are there three Persons in God?
There are three Persons in God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

26. Are these three Persons three Gods?
These three Persons are not three Gods: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one and the same God.

27. What is the mystery of the Three Persons in one God called?
The mystery of the Three Persons in one God is called the Blessed Trinity.

So far in our discussion of the Apostles’ Creed there has been nothing the Jews or the Moslems might disagree with. We all believe in One God. Now we come to what is one basic difference: Catholics and most other Christians believe that God is a Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the way God has revealed Himself to us.

28. What do you mean by a mystery?
By a mystery I mean a truth which is above reason, but revealed by God.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is called a mystery. There are many others in our Holy Faith, for example: the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady’s Assumption, etc.
These are theological mysteries, not mysteries in the every day sense. We normally think of mysteries as puzzles to be worked out to a solution. “Where did I put my keys?” “Who robbed the bank?” “What is the square root of 9?”
All these problems have a solution. They can be reasoned out. A theological mystery or mystery of our Faith is quite different. It is a truth beyond our reasoning, something we will never understand fully or be able to explain fully in human terms. A mystery of the Faith must be accepted as true because we believe the Church, which is Christ, to teach the truth.
The Mysteries of our Faith are revealed to us by Christ teaching through His Church. We accept them as true because Jesus tells us they are.

29. Is there any likeness to the Blessed Trinity in your soul?
There is this likeness to the Blessed Trinity in my soul that as in one God there are three Persons, so in my soul there are three powers.

30. Which are these three powers?
The three powers of my soul are my memory, my understanding and my will.

This is an attempt to come closer to an understanding of the Holy Trinity.
St. Patrick’s famous illustration using the shamrock leaf with its three parts is well known.
In Scripture we see God revealing Himself to us as the three Persons. In the Old Testament God is clearly seen as the Creator of all, the Father of His people Israel: The First Person of the Trinity. He also makes His presence felt as Spirit: the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, present in the creation “moving over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2), later on inspiring the prophets.
The Second Person of the Holy Trinity is supremely manifested in the New Testament in the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus, whom St. Thomas addresses as “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Every time we make the sign of the Cross or say the “Glory be…” we invoke the Name of the Most Holy Trinity.

31. What is the second article of the Creed?
The second article of the Creed is, “and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.”

We are now at the central belief of Christianityt: that a first-century carpenter was and is both God and man, and is our Saviour.

32. Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is God the Son, made man for us.

33. Is Jesus Christ truly God?
Jesus Christ is truly God.

Perhaps this truth of our Faith is the most difficult for modern man to accept: that the baby in the manger of Bethlehem was Almighty God. Father Faber put it beautifully in a hymn:
“He was true God in Bethlehem’s crib,
On Calvary’s Cross true God,
He who in Heaven eternal reigned,
In time on earth abode.”

34. Why is Jesus Christ truly God?
Jesus Christ is truly God because he has one and the same nature with God the Father.

35. Was Jesus Christ always God?
Jesus Christ was always God, born of the Father from all eternity.

36. Which Person of the Blessed Trinity is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

We believe that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took human flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was born as one of us. He was and is perfectly man, and perfectly God. St. John calls Him the “Word” of God:
“In the beginning was the Word” (the Second Person of the Trinity), “and the Word was with God” (the First Person of the Trinity, the Father), “and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1: 1-14)

37. Is Jesus Christ truly man?
Jesus Christ is truly man.

38. Why is Jesus Christ truly man?
Jesus Christ is truly man because he has the nature of man, having a body and soul like ours.

Today nobody seriously doubt the historical existence of the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, the one-time carpenter, then religious teacher and healer who was crucified at the request of the Jewish leadership under the Roman imperial power in the first half of the First Century.
Our Faith tells us that He was much more. He was and is God. Up until the point in time when He took flesh of His Virgin Mother He had existed eternally as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. In His glorious resurrection body He now lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

39. Was Jesus Christ always man?
Jesus Christ was not always man. He has been man only from the time of His Incarnation.

40. What do you mean by the Incarnation?
I mean by the Incarnation that God the Son took to Himself the nature of man: “the Word was made flesh”. (Jn. 1:14)