Through the Holy Spirit, Christ unifies us and makes us holy.
The marks of Christ's church are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
Natural Teachable Moments
- Before a family reunion, or when visiting grandparents or attending a get-together with extended family
- When celebrating a family tradition that your child loves
- When looking at our country's flag or that of another country
Many families have particular ways to identify themselves. For example, in Europe there is a rich tradition of crests, shields, and flags that carry a family's identifying symbols. In the Celtic world, colorful tartans identify traditional family names. In Latin American culture, the icon that unifies people and gives them a common identity is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Although she appeared in what is now the outskirts of Mexico City, she belongs not only to the Mexican people but to the entire hemisphere. Besides the Virgin of Guadalupe, Latin American people identify themselves by their respective flags and anthems.
The Catholic Church has ways to identify itself, too. Its particular characteristics are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. These four marks of the church are not characteristics that the church creates or develops or learns; they are qualities that Jesus Christ shares with his church through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the source of unity and holiness. The Catholic Church is one because of Jesus, who is its head and whose Spirit unites different people and a diversity of gifts into one body. The church is holy because of Jesus; as the church lives in union with Christ, the Holy Spirit sanctifies and guides its actions. The church is catholic (the word means “all embracing”) because its mission is to proclaim Christ to the whole world and to serve all people. And the church is apostolic because it remains faithful to the faith it received from the apostles.
How can your child see the holiness and faithfulness of the church? By the way members of the church love one another and make sacrifices to help other people in the world. Were people to look at your family as representative of the Catholic faith, what would they recognize in the way you speak, act, or relate to others? What identifying marks would they see in your family?
Starting the Conversation
Talk about any crest, symbol, traditional celebration, ritual, sign, or fabric pattern that identifies your family as coming from a particular heritage or tradition. Share its history with your child and explain why it is meaningful to you. Then brainstorm together about what your family would put on a new crest or a family website that would show the world what you value.
To Help You Pray
Begin prayer with your child by inviting him to still his heart and mind so as to focus quietly on God's presence. After praying, give him a few moments to pray silently to God in his own words. You might say something like: “Now, if you want, take a few moments to say to God whatever you'd like. You can pray this silently in your heart—and I'll be doing the same.”
A Prayer Moment with Your Child
Let's thank Jesus for the gift of his church:
Loving Jesus, thank you for creating a church
that shares in your holiness and love.
Help me to love the church
and to identify with unity and holiness, as it does.