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If we had to choose just the single most important difference between Catholic and Protestant worldviews, it would have to be the understanding of the Church. The Catholic worldview is rooted in the conviction that the Church is first and foremost the body of Christ. Many other conclusions follow from this most important of conclusions.

On the basis of this core conviction, Catholics believe that membership in the church is integral to the spirituality of the Catholic Christian. For it is through the Church, the body of Christ, that one comes to have a relationship with Jesus, the head of the Church.

In this episode, we discuss the practical implications of this teaching which finds its expression in the Catholic belief in the communion of saints. A belief in the communion of saints finds its expression in the veneration of the saints, the request of prayers from the saints, and the assistance that the members of the Church militant can provide to the members of the church in purgatory. All of these teachings are connected to a core conviction that Christians are interconnected in the body of Christ.

This episode gives special attention to the idea that the sufferings of the members of Christ’s body can benefit the spiritual well-being of other Christians. The Apostle Paul often expressed his belief in this teaching in a variety of ways from praying for the recipients of his letters to expressing his conviction that his personal sufferings were for the spiritual benefit of the various communities he had founded (Col 1, 24). These spiritual benefits, he believed, would aid the early recipients of his letters, and presumably subsequent generations of Christians in those same communities, in their path to attaining eternal life. Even though separated by hundreds of miles from these congregations, Paul believed that his sufferings on behalf of the faith would accrue to the spiritual benefit of other members of Christ’s body. The principle supporting this belief was the conviction that all the members of the body are interconnected and because of this connection mutually support each other through their virtuous actions.

We also discuss the question whether our spiritual sufferings, even for the wrongs we have committed, can benefit the body of Christ? We answer in the affirmative. We note that it lies within God’s providence to make all things work together for good for those who love God and were called according to God’s purpose (Rom 8, 28). Catholic Christians should not lose heart as a result of their personal failures but rather should use such occasions as spiritual lessons to avoid future sin and instead to push forward to a greater love for God and neighbor.

Join us this week as we discuss the various spiritual truths that can be accrued from a correct understanding of the nature of the Church as the mystical body of Christ.

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Mayr surrounded by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost

Related Episodes

The Jewish Roots of Distinctly Catholic Practices – CHSS 56: Many of our Catholic beliefs and practices can seem odd if one does not understand their historical and theological basis. Practices such as praying for the dead, the intercession of saints, penance and the liturgy make sense when one understands the Jewish context out of which they emerged. We also discuss the role the Deuterocanonical books have had in shaping and explaining such Catholic beliefs and practices.
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