August 21, 2019

The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. #1

CATHOLIC CHURCH: 1-4 Marks of the True Church:

The City has provided 2 previous essays on the Catholicity of the Church. The one True Church instituted by Christ, who proclaims from the beginning & now #846 “Outside the Church there is NO Salvation.” And in St Athanasius Creed in the very first sentence he states first and foremost that is quoted here: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. Contrary to some who erroneously believe Nostra Aetate (“in our time”) negated this truth by Vatican II, about other beliefs throughout the world. With this introduction, City brings to you, the following words of the Early Fathers on the meaning of CATHOLIC. First, among them St. Augustine.

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is a Doctor of the Church.

“Wherefore, seeing that so great is the blindness of the understanding through the filthiness of sins and the love of the flesh, that even these monsters of opinions could waste away the leisure of the learned in disputation; can you, Dioscorus, or can any one gifted with an observant disposition, doubt, that any better plan could have been devised for mankind to follow truth, than that Truth itself . . . should persuade mankind to believe wholesomely, what could not as yet be understood clearly?

To His glory are we subservient, we exhort thee to believe immovably and un-changeably in Him, through whom it has been that not a few, but peoples even, who are unable to judge of these things by reason, believe them by faith. . . . Now they who, though they are not in Catholic unity and communion, pride themselves nevertheless in the name Christian, are obliged to be opposed to believers, and try to lead men as it were by reason, whereas the Lord came with this remedy especially, — to enjoin faith on the nations. But as I have said, these men are obliged to do, because they are sensible that they lie very abject indeed, if their authority be compared with Catholic authority.

Therefore do they strive, by the name, as it were, and promise of reason, to be superior to the most solid authority of the firmly established Church. For this is, as it were, the regular temerity of all heretics. But that most merciful enjoiner of faith, both by the most glorious assemblages of peoples and nations, and by the chairs themselves of the Apostles, has defended the Church with the citadel of authority. . . . Now that discipline is most proper which receives the infirm into the citadel, that, for them, thus already placed most safely, the battle may be fought with reason the most powerful.” {T. ii. Ep. cxviii. Dioscor. (Class. ii.) n. 32, pp. 510, 511./ The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 77-79}

What is the tabernacle?

“Thou shalt protect them in Thy tabernacle.” (Ps30:21)The Church of this time. … In this tabernacle, therefore, the Church will protect the faithful from the contradiction of tongues. There is a contradiction of many tongues; divers heresies, divers schisms cry aloud; many tongues contradict the true doctrine. Run to the tabernacle of God, hold fast the Catholic Church, do not withdraw from the rule of truth, and thou shalt be protected from the contradiction of tongues.” T. iv. Enar. in Ps. xxx. n. 8, p. 238. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 79

In the Catholic Church, not to mention that most sound wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it in a very small measure indeed, for they are but men, but still to know it without doubtfulness, for not quickness of understanding, but simplicity in believing, that makes the rest of the masses most safe, — not to mention, therefore, this wisdom, which you (Manichees) do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, many other things there are which most justly keep me in her bosom.

The agreement of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his Resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep (Jn 21:15-17), up to the present episcopate, keeps me here.

And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called “Catholic,” when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house. { T. viii Contr. Ep. Manichaei, Fundam. n. 5, 6, col. 268-270. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 80-81}

These, therefore, so numerous and so powerful ties of the Christian name, ties most dear, justly keep a believing man in the Catholic Church, even though through the slowness of our understanding or the deservings of our lives, truth show not herself as yet in her clearest light. Whereas, amongst you, where are none of these things to invite and keep me, there is only the loud promise of truth, which, if it be indeed shown to be so manifest as not to be able to be called into doubt, is to be preferred before all those things by which I am kept in the Catholic Church; but which, if it be only promised, and not exhibited, no one shall move me from that faith which attaches my mind to the Christian religion by ties so numerous and so powerful.

Wherefore, let us see what Manichaeus would teach me. … He begins his letter,

. . . . Now attend, if you please, with all patience, to what I am going to ask. I do not believe that this man is an Apostle of Christ. Do not, I pray you, be angry, and begin to revile. For you know what my determination is, — not to believe, without cause shown, anything advanced by you. I ask, therefore, who is this Manichaeus? You will answer, “An apostle of Christ.” I do not believe it; what next to say or do you will not know; for your promise was the knowledge of the truth, and now you would compel me to believe that of which I have no knowledge. You are perhaps going to read me the Gospel, and will try to establish the character of Manichaeus from that. But suppose you should meet with some one who does not as yet believe the Gospel, what would you do with such an one when he says to you, “I do not believe it?” I, for my part, would not believe the Gospel, unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me to it.

Those, therefore, to whom I have submitted, when saying to me, “Believe the Gospel”, why should I not submit to them when they say to me, “Do not believe the Manichaeans?” Choose which you will. If you say, “Believe the Catholics”, they warn me not to give any credit to you; wherefore, whilst I believe them, I cannot but not believe you. If you say, “Do not believe the Catholics”, it will not be right for you to force me to the faith of Manichaeus by means of the Gospel, inasmuch as I believed that very Gospel itself at the bidding (teaching) of the Catholics. But if you should say, “You have done right in believing the Catholics when they praise the Gospel, but you have not done right in believing them when they blame Manichseus”,

St Augustine, “Bishop of HIppo” CON

Do you think me so foolish, as, without reason assigned, to believe just what you choose, and to disbelieve just what you choose?

Much more justly indeed, and more cautiously do I act, if, after having once (on one point) believed the Catholics, I refuse to pass over to you; unless, not content with bidding me believe, you cause me to obtain some knowledge, and that most manifestly and most plainly. Wherefore if you are going to assign me some reasonable proof, set aside the Gospel. If you keep yourself to the Gospel, I will keep myself to those at whose bidding I have believed the Gospel; and by their command I will not believe you at all.

Now, if it should happen that you could find in the Gospel something most plain concerning the apostleship of Manichaeus, you will invalidate, in my regard, the authority of the Catholics who bid me not believe you; and, that authority invalidated, it will then be out of my power to believe even the Gospel, inasmuch as through them I had believed it: so that whatever you may adduce thence, will have no force with me. Wherefore, if nothing plain is found in the Gospel concerning the apostleship of Manichaeus, I will believe the Catholics rather than you; whereas, should you read from it something clearly in favor of Manichaeus, I will neither believe them nor you. Not them, because they have deceived me in regard of you; not you, because you produce me that Scripture which I have believed through those who have thus deceived me. But God forbid that I should not believe the Gospel!” { T. viii Contr. Ep. Manichaei, Fundam. n. 5, 6, col. 268-270. /The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 81-83 }

Showing the folly of the Manichaeans in rejecting at pleasure such texts, or portions of Scripture, as could not be reconciled with their system, he says, addressing Faustus:

  • “Art thou, then, the standard of truth?
  • Is whatsoever is opposed to thee, false?
  • But what if some other person, confounded with a madness like thine, and with thy obstinacy, come forward and say, “Nay, what sounds favorably to thee is false, and what against thee, is true?”
  • What wilt thou do, unless perhaps thou try to bring forward some other book, wherein everything read by thee may be interpreted in accordance with thy opinion?

Should thou do this, thou wilt hear him impugning not a part, but the whole, and crying out, “It is (all) false.”

  • What wilt thou do?
  • Whither turn thyself?
  • What origin, what antiquity, what series of succession wilt thou cite as a witness for the book brought forward by thee?

For even if thou attempt this, yet will it not avail thee anything; and thou see of what avails, in this matter, the authority of the Catholic Church, — an authority which is confirmed (or firmly settled) by a line of bishops succeeding, even unto the present day, each other, from those most solidly-founded chairs of the Apostles, and by the consent of so many peoples.” {T. l. xi. Contr. Fanstum, n. 2, p. 364. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 83-84}

“Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth. (Ps56:6)

Consider, I pray you, under what folly the heretics are laboring. They, cut off from union with the Church of Christ, holding a part, and letting go the whole, will not communicate with the whole world, over which the glory of Christ is spread. But we Catholics are in every nation, because we communicate with every land wherein the glory of Christ is spread.”
{T. iv. Enarr. in Psalm lvi. n. 13 (al 6), col. 764. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 300}

“Let people confess to Thee, God, let all people confess to Thee.” (Ps66)


“When we read the divine books, amidst such a multitude of true meanings, which are extracted from a few words, and (which meanings) are defended by the soundness of Catholic faith, let us by preference choose that which it shall appear certain that he meant whom we read; but if this escape us, that at all events which the context of Scripture prevents not, and which harmonizes with sound faith; but if the context of the Scripture also admits not of being thoroughly handled and sifted, at least that only which sound faith prescribes.

For it is one thing not to distinguish what the writer chiefly meant, and another to err from the rule of piety. If both be avoided, the reader obtains the perfect fruit; but if both cannot be avoided, even though the mind of the writer be doubtful (to us), it is not useless to have extracted a meaning agreeable with the sacred faith.” {T. iii. l. i. De Genes, ad Lit. n. 41, col. 222. / Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 342-343}

“When therefore we see such aid from God, so great progress and fruit, shall we hesitate
to fling ourselves into the bosom of that Church which, even by the confession of mankind, has from the Apostolic See, through successions of bishops, obtained the loftiest pinnacle of authority, the heretics barking around in vain, and condemned partly by the judgment of the very people, partly by the weight of councils, partly also by the majesty of miracles. To which Church to refuse to grant pre-eminent authority, is assuredly either the height of impiety, or of headlong arrogance.

  • For, if for the minds of men there is no certain road to wisdom and salvation, save when faith teaches them antecedently to reason, what else is it but to be ungrateful to the divine aid and help, to strive so laboriously to resist the a fore named authority?
  • And if every art, however low and easy, require a teacher or a master, that it may be acquired; what more replete with rash pride than both to refuse to learn the books of the divine mysteries (sacraments) from their proper (own) interpreters, and to seek to condemn them unknown?

Wherefore, if either my reasoning or my prayer has in any way moved you, and if, as I believe, you have a true solicitude for yourself, I pray you hear me, and place yourself, with pious faith, lively hope, simple love, under the care of good teachers of Catholic Christianity.”{T. viii. De Util. Cred. n. 35, 36 (al. xvii. xviii.), col. 129-30. / Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 343-344}

“I would not believe the Gospel, unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me,”

{T. viii. Contr. Ep. Manichaei, Fundam. n. 5, 6, col. 268-270. / Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 344}

“But I, my heart being now healed of that wound, in which a carnal feeling might have been blamed, pour forth to thee, our God, for that thy servant a far different kind of tears, flowing from a spirit shaken by the consideration of the dangers of every soul which die in Adam. Although she, having been vivified in Christ, even when not as yet released from the flesh, so lived as that Thy name is praised in her faith and manners, yet dare I not say, that, from the time that Thou regenerated her by baptism, no word has issued from her mouth against Thy precept. And it was said by the truth, Thy Son, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, thou fool, shall be guilty of Hell fire.”

And woe even to the praiseworthy life of men, if laying aside mercy, Thou examine it. … I therefore, O my praise and my life, God of my heart, having laid aside for awhile her good actions, for which I give thanks to Thee with joy, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother; hear me through the medicine of our wounds, who hung upon the wood, and who sitting “at Thy right hand make intercession to Thee for us.” (Rom8) I know that she dealt mercifully, and from her heart “forgave her debtors their debts.” Do also forgive her of her debts if she contracted any during so many years after the water of salvation. Forgive, O Lord, forgive, I beseech Thee; “enter not into judgment with her.” (Ps142) Let “mercy exalt herself above judgment.” (Jas2). . . And, I believe, Thou hast already done what I beg Thee, but “the free-offerings of my mouth accept, O Lord,” (Ps118) For she (St. Monica), the day of her dissolution being at hand, bestowed not a thought.

Let none sever her from Thy protection. Let neither the lion nor the dragon interpose himself by force or fraud; for neither will she answer that she owes nothing, lest she be convicted and obtained by the crafty accuser: but she will answer that her debts are forgiven by Him, to whom none may repay that which He, who owed nothing, paid for us. May she then be in peace with the husband, before whom to none, and after whom to none was she married. . . . And inspire, my Lord, my God, inspire Thy servants my brethren,
Thy sons my masters, whom with voice, and heart, and pen I serve, that as many as shall read these words may remember at Thy altar, Monica, Thy servant, with Patricius, her sometime husband, by whose flesh Thou didst introduce me into this life, how, I know not. May they with pious affection remember my parents in this transitory light, and my brethren under Thee our Father in our Catholic Mother, and my fellow-citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, that so, what she made her last request to me, may be granted to her more abundantly through my Confessions than through my prayers, in the prayers of many.” {T. i. L. c. n. 34-7, col. 288-90. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 186-187}

As addressed to St. Paulinus of Nola, he adds:

“In the books of Machabees, we read that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even though this were not read at all anywhere in the old Scriptures, the authority of the universal Church, which in this practice is clear, is not small, since in the prayers of the priests, which are poured forth to the Lord God at His altar, the recommendation of the departed has also its appointed place. But whether the place where the body is buried is of any benefit to the soul requires further inquiry.

[ Thus concludes:]

I do not see of what help this can be to the dead, except for this, that whilst they (the living) keep in mind the places where the bodies of those whom they love are deposited, they may, by praying, commend them to those same saints, as clients to patrons, to be aided with the Lord. Which indeed they might do, even though they might be unable to bury them in such places. . . .

When the mind therefore recollects where the body of some dear friend is buried, and there presents itself to it a place made venerable by a martyr’s name, the affection of one that remembers and that prays commends the beloved soul to that same martyr. When this affection is shown towards the dead by faithful friends, there is no doubt that it benefits those who merited, while they were living in the body, that such things should benefit them after this life. . . . Supplications for the spirits of the departed are not to be omitted; to make which for all, who have departed in the Christian and Catholic society, the Church has taken upon herself, even though their names are not pronounced, under a general commemoration, that for those who have no parents, children, or any relatives or friends to do these things, they may be done for them by their one holy mother the Church.” {T. vi. De Cura pro mortuis, n. 6 (al. iv.), col. 871. / Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 192 }

Next up City: PART 2 CATHOLIC EARLY FATHERS SAY: St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 – 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian

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