1. Positive understanding of the person. Catholicism insists that the human person is essentially good, ever more graced than sinful. Indeed, we are capable of dreadful sin and destruction, but this is not what first defines us. When the radical reformers insisted that the human condition is totally corrupt (Calvin more than Luther), the Catholic Church rejoined that the divine image was never lost to us, even in the Fall of Adam and Eve.
2. Committed to community. Catholicism has consistently taught that God creates us as communal beings, making us responsible for and to each other—even beyond the grave. Because the bond of baptism is never broken, we can pray to the saints and for the souls. This communal emphasis of Catholicism is also the foundation of its social ethic that emphasizes every citizen’s responsibility to the common good of the whole society.
3. Sacramental outlook. The Catholic faith sees all of God’s creation as essentially good. Catholicism has never condemned dancing, singing, celebrating, good food, or alcohol. Yes, anything can be abused, but all is a gift of God. This graciousness of life in the world finds its high point in the sacramental principle that is so core to the Catholic faith.
4. Catholics cherish Scripture and Tradition. The Council of Trent (1545–63) reaffirmed the centrality of sacred Scripture as “the norm of norms” for Christian faith. But it reiterated that Christian Tradition is also a “fountain” of divine revelation. This was Catholicism’s way of insisting that the Holy Spirit is ever present with the Church, helping to deepen our understanding and to address new questions and circumstances with the wisdom of Christian faith.
5. Catholics embrace holistic faith. Christian faith demands our whole being—head, heart, and hands. There is no aspect of our lives from which our faith can be excluded.
6. Commitment to justice. Christian faith demands that disciples oppose unjust social structures and work to ensure justice for all. Like God, God’s people should side with the poor and oppressed, favoring those to whom justice is denied.
7. Universal spirituality. Catholic spirituality can be summarized as “putting faith to work”—allowing Christian faith to permeate every aspect of daily life.
8. Catholics are catholic. To be catholic calls a community to welcome all people, regardless of their human circumstances. Parochialism and closed-mindedness are against the Catholic faith.
9. Devotion to Mary. Since the beginning of the Church, Mary has held pride of place in the communion of saints. Yet our turning to Mary is also based on a human instinct. Remembering how she interceded with Jesus at the wedding in Cana, if Mother Mary intercedes for us, how can Jesus decline?
Adapted from “Nine Things that Make Us Catholic” by Thomas Groome
(Catholic Update, September 2004, C0409A). To order, visit Liguori.org or call 800-325-9521.