MY CATHOLIC FAITH
XLVIII. The Apostles: First Bishops of the Church
To whom did Christ give the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church? –Christ gave the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church to the Apostles, the first bishops of the Church.
St. Peter was the first Head. After a miraculous escape from prison in Jerusalem, he founded his See in Antioch; here the followers of Christ were first called Christians. Peter made frequent missionary journeys through Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Asia Minor, and probably even Greece. He finally fixed his See at Rome.
St. Peter presided at the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem in the year 50 A. D. At the same time that St. Paul was beheaded, St. Peter was crucified head downwards, on Vatican Hill, Rome, 67 A. D.
St. John, the Beloved Disciple, lived at Ephesus and governed the Church in Asia Minor.
In the time of Trajan, he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil but was miraculously preserved. Later he was banished to Patmos, where he had the revelations which we call the Apocalypse. He died at the age of about 100 years, the last of the Apostles, and the only one who did not die a martyr’s death. He left his Gospel and Epistles.
St. James the Greater, St. John’s brother, labored in Judea, and according to tradition, travelled as far as Spain.
He was the first of the Apostles to be martyred being beheaded in Jerusalem in the year 44, by Herod Agrippa.
St. Matthew preached among the Ethiopians, Persians, and Parthians, and was martyred in Parthia. He wrote the first of the four Gospels.
St. James the Less was Bishop of Jerusalem. He was cast down from the pinnacle of the Temple in 63 A. D. He left one Epistle.
St. Andrew, St. Peter’s brother, preached along the lower Danube, and was crucified in Greece.
St. Thomas preached in Persia, Medea, and went as far as India. He was martyred in India, pierced with a lance at the command of the king.
St. Philip preached in Phrygia and Scythia and was crucified at Hierapolis.
St. Bartholomew preached in India, Arabia,.and Assyria. He was flayed and crucified in Armenia.
St. Simon preached in North Africa and was martyred in Persia.
St. Jude preached in Syria and was martyred in Persia. He wrote the “Catholic Epistle”.
St. Matthias, chosen to take the place of Judas, preached in Ethiopia and was martyred in Sebastopolis.
St. Paul was converted miraculously (Acts 9) in the year 34. He of all the Apostles labored the most abundantly. He wrote many Epistles.
He is called the Apostle of the Gentiles because he carried the Gospel to the pagan world. He travelled extensively and successively to Seleucia, Cyprus, Asia Minor, Phrygia, Galatia, Macedonia, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Miletus, and finally Rome. From Rome, he went to Spain and the East then returned to Rome, where he was martyred in 67 A. D.
Did Christ intend that this power should be exercised by the Apostles alone? –No, Christ intended that this power should be exercised also by their successors, the bishops of the Church.
The Apostles first preached in Judea on the very first Christian Pentecost. Then they dispersed throughout the different countries of the then known world. Everywhere they preached, baptized, and ruled the Christian communities. They were the first bishops of the Church.
“As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).
The Apostles chose men to assist them, imparting to them greater or less powers. Before leaving a place, they chose a successor with full powers (Acts 14:22).
Those who received only a small part of the powers of the Apostles were called deacons. Those given greater power were the priests. Those appointed successors to rule in the place of the Apostles were the bishops.
Christ had given the Apostles full powers to choose successors when He gave them the powers His Father had given Him (John 20:21)
It was His wish that the Apostles should have successors to continue the Church, which He said would last till the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). Without successors to the Apostles, the Church would have no rulers, and being unorganized would never have lasted.
Apostolicity of Catholic Doctrines
(Adapted from Cardinal Gibbons, “Faith of Our Fathers”)
Our Saviour gave pre-eminence to Peter over the other Apostles: “I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). “Strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). “Feed my lambs; feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
The Catholic Church gives the primacy of honor and jurisdiction to Peter and to his successors.
Other Christian communions deny Peter’s supremacy over the other Apostles.
The Apostolic Church claimed to be infallible in her teachings. “When you heard and received from us the word of God, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
The Catholic Church alone, of all the Christian communions, claims to exercise the prerogative of infallibility in her teaching. Her ministers always speak from the pulpit as having authority, and the faithful receive with implicit confidence what the Church teaches, without once questioning her veracity.
Denying that such a gift is possessed by any teachers of religion. The ministers advance opinions as embodying their private interpretation of the Bible. Their hearers are expected to draw their own conclusions from the Bible.
Our Saviour enjoined and prescribed rules for fasting: “When thou dost fast, anoint thy head and wash thy face so that thou mayest not be seen by men to fast” (Matt. 6:17). The Apostles fasted before engaging in sacred functions: “They ministered to the Lord, and fasted.” “When they had appointed presbyters for them in each church, with prayer and fasting, they commended them to the Lord” (Acts 14:22).
The Church prescribes fasting to the faithful at stated seasons, particularly during Lent.
A Catholic Priest is always fasting when he officiates at the altar. He breaks his fast only after he says Mass. When Bishops ordain Priests they are always fasting, as well as the candidates for ordination.
Protestants have no law prescribing fasts, though some may fast from private devotion. They even try to ridicule fasting. Neither candidates for ordination, nor the ministers who ordain them are ever required to fast on such occasions.
St. Peter and St. John confirmed the newly baptized in Samaria. “They laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17)
Every Catholic Bishop, as a successor of the Apostles, likewise imposes hands on baptized persons in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which they receive the Holy Ghost.
No denomination performs the ceremony of imposing hands except Episcopalians, and even they do not recognize Confirmation as a Sacrament.
Our Saviour and His Apostles taught that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ: “Take and eat; this is my body … All of you drink of this, for this is my blood” (Matt. 26:28). “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the sharing of the blood of Christ? And the bread that we break is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?” (1 Cor. 10:16).
The Catholic Church teaches, with our Lord and His Apostles, that the Eucharist is truly and indeed the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.
The Protestant churches; condemn the doctrine of the Real Presence as idolatrous, and say that, in partaking of the communion, we receive only a memorial of Christ.
The Apostles were empowered by our Saviour to forgive sins: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23). “God,” says St. Paul, “hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 7:10,11)
The Bishops and Priests of the Catholic Church, as the inheritors of Apostolic prerogatives, profess to exercise the ministry of reconciliation and to forgive sins in the name of Christ.
Protestants affirm on the contrary, that God delegates to no man the power of pardoning sin.
Regarding the sick, St. James gave this instruction: “Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
One of the most ordinary duties of a Catholic Priest is to anoint the sick in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. If a man is sick among us he is careful to call in the Priest of the Church that he may anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
No such sacrament as that of anointing the sick is practiced by any Protestant denomination, not withstanding the Apostle’s injunction.
Of marriage, our Saviour said: “Whoever puts away his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if the wife puts away her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11,12). And again St. Paul said: “To those who are married, not I, but the Lord commands that a wife is not to depart from her husband, and if she departs, that she is to remain unmarried … And let not a husband put away his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10,11).
Literally following the Apostle’s injunction, the Catholic Church forbids the husband and wife to separate from one another; or, if they separate, neither of them can marry again during the life of the other.
The Protestant churches, as is well known, have so far relaxed this law of the Gospel as to allow divorced persons to remarry, during the lifetime of those they have divorced.
Our Lord recommended not only by word but by His example, to souls aiming at perfection, the state of perpetual chastity. St. Paul also exhorted the Corinthians by counsel and his own example to the same angelic virtue: “He who gives his virgin in marriage does well, and he who does not give her does better” (1 Cor. 7:38).
Like the Apostle and his Master, the Catholic clergy binds themselves to a life of perpetual chastity. The members of our religious communities for men and women voluntarily consecrate their chastity to God.
All the ministers of other denominations are permitted to marry. And far from inculcating the Apostolic counsel of celibacy to any of their flock, they more than insinuate that the virtue of perpetual chastity, though recommended by St. Paul, is impracticable.