The 5th and 6th Marks of the Church

060415The Nicene Creed fittingly noted four marks of the True Church: one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. These marks identify four essential qualities and characteristics of the Church that distinguish the True Church from any false claimants. Now my surname may be “Pope,” but I surely cannot add authoritatively to this venerable list. Nevertheless, permit me a couple of “prayerful additions” to the four marks of the Church. These cannot join the official list but I humbly submit  these “marks” for your consideration to serve in a similar way in distinguishing the True Church from false claimants and giving insight into the Church’s truest identity.

The 5th Mark of the Church: She is Hated by the World. Jesus consistently taught us to expect the hatred of the world if we are true disciples.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also (John 15:18-20).

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,how much more the members of his household! (Matt 10:22-24)

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets (Luke 6:26).

One of the more painful aspects of Church life, yet one of those of which I am the most “proud,” is that we are hated very specially by the world. While it is true that some of the Evangelicals are ridiculed, few can deny that there is a very special and intense hatred for the Catholic Church, and it is widely on display. It’s never OK (nor should it be) to scorn Jews or Muslims, or to mock or attack their faith traditions. Most of the other Christian denominations (with the exception of the Evangelicals) escape the bulk of the hatred. But the Catholic Church—ah, the Catholic Church—on her it seems to be open season. We are scorned and portrayed unsympathetically in movies. Our history is misrepresented; our sins (and we do have them) are exaggerated; our teachings are called bigoted, backward, unrealistic, and out-of-date. And no matter how ugly, bigoted, and inaccurate the world’s hatred is, very few express any outrage at how we are treated and misrepresented. Try any of this on Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. and the outrage and claims of bigotry are echoed by the media (as they should be). Meanwhile, Dan Brown, et al. get to go on and on about “evil” priests and bishops; a crucifix can be submerged in urine or the Blessed Mother smeared with dung and this is praised as “art” and funded by government grants.

Now I am not complaining (though these things are certainly wrong). I am actually quite hopeful that this means we are doing something right. We are a sign of contradiction to the world and we are hated for it. We speak the truth to a world gone mad; we hold on to that “old time religion.” That we are hated puts us in good company with Jesus and the prophets and martyrs who stood with Him. If we are really doing what we should, the Church ought to experience significant hatred from the world. Being hated by the world is an essential mark of the Church, if you ask me. We do not look to be hated, nor do we seek out conflict. But in preaching Christ crucified, in preaching the whole counsel of God and not some watered-down version of it, we surely do find that hatred and conflict come to us. Some people and some denominations try to fit in with the world. They accept its ways and compromise the clear teaching of Christ. But the True Church speaks the whole truth of God in love and does not cave in to the world’s demands. The true Church, by Christ’s promise, is hated by the world and by those allied with and wedded to it. But there’s no need to fear … the sixth “mark” is here!

The Sixth Mark of the Church: She is Perduring. To perdure means to permanently endure. Here, too, Christ firmly established this principle and promise to the true Church:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matt 16:18).

There are no governments or nations that have lasted 2000 years. Very little else in this world can claim such antiquity and even if it tries, can it claim to have remained essentially unchanged in its dogma or teaching? The Catholic Church is one, even after 2000 years. We have an unbroken line of popes going back to Peter and an unbroken line of succession for all the bishops back to the Apostles through the laying on of hands. Not bad. Now consider that this is a miracle! If the Church were dependent upon human beings in order to exist and stay unified, how long do think she would have lasted? Probably about twenty minutes, tops! Our history is not without some pretty questionable moments in terms of the human elements. That the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church certainly suggests that they would try again and again. But here we are, a miracle, still standing after all these years. Christ is true to his promise to remain with us all days unto the consummation of the world. We, the human elements of the Church, may not live Christ’s teachings perfectly, but the Church has never failed to teach what Christ taught even (as now) when the world hated us for it. At times we are tepid and struggle to find our voice, but Christ still speaks and ministers even in our weakness. Yes, the Catholic Church is a miracle, the Work of Jesus Christ. And thus the sixth mark of the Church is that she perdures. By God’s grace we exhibit this sixth mark. Nations have come and gone, empires risen and fallen, eras opened and closed, but through it all we have perdured.

So there it is. I believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic, (and, if you don’t mind my adding) hated, and perduring Church.

Here’s a very interesting hip-hop song by the rapper Akalyte on these two additional “marks” of the Church.

27 Replies to “The 5th and 6th Marks of the Church”

  1. I agree with your additions, Msgr. As for the song, I’m showing my age. I’d prefer Gregorian Chant. 🙂

    1. Dear Sister Susan in Jesus:
      Imagine my situation that of my people – I am from a South Indian town – having no cultural, linguistic, artistic or musical affinities to European traditions…

  2. It’s interesting that our Lord used the analogy that “the gates of Hell shall not hold out against the Church”. It is the Church laying siege to the city and the forces of Hell are defending it.

    So the message is that Christians should not simply hunker down, comforted with the thought that the Church will endure til the Last Day, and only take action when our internal and personal matters are directly interfered with. No, Christians must go on the attack! Conquer the territory which the Devil is holding!

    1. This interpretation of the text is interesting and I do not say it is wrong. However, “gates” in the ancient world were a symbol of power. So the ancients and the Fathers of the Church understood “Gates of Hell” to refer to the power of Hell. The idea of storming Hell and taking back territory while good, would not include Hell, which God has set aside, and fixed an abyss that cannot be crossed. Please understand that I like the colorful interpretation with distinctions and the realization that the more historical interpretation is not merely to be set aside.

      1. I don’t think (and I could be wrong) the Michael H. was trying to say to set aside the historical interpretation and he can correct me if I am wrong. But, that we don’t always stand up and fight for what we should in the secular world until it actually impacts the church or us as Catholics individually. I am personally not speaking only of the radicals killing Christians in other countries; I am also speaking about abortion, gay marriage, etc. things that do matter to Catholics and should matter to others as well.

    2. Ronk, I would argue this world was not made for the devil but for humans. Satan is jealous, for when God made him, no such place was created. I have no idea if the following interpretation is right, so please take it with a grain of salt, but I (just me) think after Satan and the other fallen angels rebelled, God created Hell for them.

      So clearly the earth is a better place to be and I’m sure the devils want to possess it. Because the body of Christ exists on it, Satan cannot, because he is only a created being while Jesus Christ is Lord. Satan only exists because God allows it.

  3. Thank you, Monsignor. What you say is good and true and consoling.

  4. You’re right to say that it’s never OK to scorn Jews, because they are our elder brethren in the faith from whom Our Lord took flesh to live a Jewish life under the Law which God gave to them through Moses.

    Muslims, I’m not so sure. Those of them who are openly hostile to Christians and other non-Muslims are the foremost persecutors of Christians, enemies of the human race and blasphemers of God. They deserve all the reproof and mockery they get.

    1. We all deserve to be reproofed and mocked. Jesus took on the reproof and mockery that we and all humans deserve. Who is my brother? Even the one who knows not what he is doing, is my brother. As children of God we must pray for the conversion of all God’s creatures and for our own continual conversion.

      1. We deserve a lot worse than mere reproof and mockery. However, Islam is dangerous to human life and public security, and it is less easy to be a Muslim in good faith than it used to be.

  5. I used to make compilation CD’s that I would listen to at work with mostly rock and roll on them. I made one for one of my sisters and in one of the songs, because of a defect in the CD, the song skipped for part of it. She thought that it was part of the song, even though it was a defect in the CD. That incident made me question a lot of music that I listen to. Is supposed to sound that way or is it a defect in the CD? Musically, the video for this post made me think of that. It was neat that to the extent I could hear the lyrics, everything that I heard was orthodox.

    Objectively, everyone in the world could be Catholic. I don’t know why everyone isn’t.

  6. Sometimes I make the mistake of browsing my local news website. Anything that happens in the diocese gets a headline. Private personnel matters, this one said this, if you can write “Catholic” in the title, it will get a story. Then the comments. Negative comments from everyone from the extreme-left to the hardcore Evangelicals and Baptists. And of course, let’s not forget the lapsed Catholics, their commentary may be the most scathing of all. I think sometimes they could write a story with only one word in it, “Catholic,” and fill up a combox! This Scripture is great comfort. If this world hates us so much, we must be doing something right.

  7. Absolutely and if I may, His is a small flock made up of the most unlikely of individuals. He confounds us all, how can you not love this God we have?

  8. I can’t wait to play the rap song for my son. He was recently confirmed and will be going on a 1 week mission trip in July. I was praying mightily for him as he was on the fence of whether or not he wanted to be confirmed. He went on a 3 day confirmation retreat and somewhere during that time, his heart and mind were opened he is now fully committed to the Catholic Church.

  9. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of hip-hop/rap/whatever you want to call it, but this one had me in tears. It’s absolutely beautiful, both in its sentiments and in its musical arrangement. The musical background was the perfect setting for the stirring lyrics.

    One, holy, catholic, apostolic, hated, and perduring. Amen!

  10. I’ve always thought that if the marks of the Church were expanded (possibly upon reunion with the Eastern churches) it would wind up reading something like “the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Christian Church” with orthodoxy being added as a sort of fifth mark and “Christian” being of course the “proper specific designation” of just whose ecclesia is being referred to.

  11. I’ve always thought that if the marks of the Church were expanded (possibly upon reunion with the Eastern churches) it would wind up reading something like “the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Christian Church” because

    No, Mark, I don’t think it possible, because all such aggregations would be already inbedded in the “One”. As to the post, as always, a nice one-hour reflection. Thanks, Monsignor. God bless.

  12. And since the Church has these marks, we the faithful being incorporated into the Church by Baptism are marked to be hated but by the Grace of The HOLY SPIRIT must endure to the end and stand erect in our Faith, in our Salvation OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Thanks Monsignor, I understand.

  13. On the “5th Mark”:

    If I were not a Catholic and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, he must still be hated as he was when he was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world.

    Look for the Church that is hated by the world as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times as our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior as they sneered at our Lord because he came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil as our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible as Pilate rejected Christ because he called himself the Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as our Lord was rejected by men.

    Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions its members love as they love Christ and respect its voice as the very voice of its founder, and the suspicion will grow that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ himself. But only that which is divine can be infinitely hated and infinitely loved. Therefore the Church is divine (Radio Replies, vol. 1, preface, p. ix, slightly edited for readability).

    On the “6th Mark”:

    The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable.

    The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila…

    Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca.

    And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.

  14. Thank you monsignor.
    I’m reminded of Chesterton’s observation from The Everlasting Man in which the true Church is identified exactly by the way in which the world has rejected it, which Chesterton calls “the halo of hatred around the Church of God.”

    In the Gospel of John, Our Lord comforts us with these words, “These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

    The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will perdure until Our Lord returns in his glory.

  15. Thank you. You always lift my spirits and keep me going. So many in my family have fallen away and its the worst pain ive endured and im old.

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