"Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
We were created to connect with God through prayer, the sacraments, scripture, and life in a faith community. “May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish you all with that is good, that you may do His will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to Him...” (Hebrews 13:20-21). Being connected to God empowers us to live holy lives and to serve His holy church. Being connected to one another provides us with the opportunity to build each other up in love and to be the body of Christ. The heart of our Catholic spirituality is the knowledge of the message of Jesus, the need to deepen our understanding of that message through catechesis and prayer, the need to learn more about the traditions and social teachings of the Church, and the Doctrines of our Church.
The Acts of the Apostles records the life of the first Christian communities and the beginnings of our Church. The Holy Spirit gave these new Christians the ability to understand God’s will and to live together in love, as evidenced in both Acts 2: 42-47 and Acts 4: 32 – 34. The early Christian community felt the manifestation of God’s presence and an empowering boldness from the Holy Spirit. They committed themselves to follow the teachings of the apostles, fellowship, Eucharist, and prayer.
The Lord seeks those of us who will open our hearts to Him and He transforms us. Simon would become Peter. Mary Magdalene would become the first witness to the resurrection. Matthew would become one of the gospel writers. Let us remember that Paul who met Jesus on the road to Damascus wrote in his letter to the Corinthians that God singles out the weak of the world to shame the strong. God used Moses to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. Moses trained Joshua when he was still very young to become the next leader of the Jewish people. Upon Moses’ death, God called Joshua to bring the Israelites across the Jordan River. Eli worked with the young lad Samuel, “who grew up in the presence of the Lord”. As Eli got older the Lord, himself, called Samuel. Scripture says that “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up and he let none of his words fall to the ground”. Learning to listen to God’s voice is an important part of spiritual growth. Some documents indicate that the evangelist “John” Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas. Through their ministry with him, he would become the author of the first gospel believed to have been written. Paul ministered to Timothy who would later become the first Bishop of Ephesus and the co-writer of Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. The writings of St. John Damascene indicate that Timothy may have witnessed the Blessed Mother’s assumption. We have all been called.
C. Ellis Nelson in his thesis, "Where Faith Begins," contends that "faith is communicated by a community of believers and that the meaning of faith is developed by its members out of their history, by their interaction with each other, and in relation to the events that take place in their lives."
The first proclamation of the Gospel in Africa dates back to apostolic times and recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40) when Philip converted the Ethiopian eunuch. It was at this time that the Apostles began to evangelize outside Jerusalem and sow the seeds for the universal Church. Christianity spread throughout North Africa, and the region featured prominently in the early Church as the birthplace of saints, popes, and cloisters. The beginning of evangelization in Europe is marked by the arrival of St. Augustine in Canterbury in 597 A.D.
According to the Dictionary of Popes - of the first 50 popes three were Africans. Victor I (189-199), our 13th pope, was an African by birth who established the celebration of Easter on Sunday. He made Latin the official language of the Church and was the first to celebrate the liturgy in Latin. Pope Victor also convened the first Roman synod for Bishops. The thirty-first pope, Pope Melchiades (311-314), signed the Edict of Milan. When Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christianity, around 312 A.D., he presented a palace and land that had been owned by the Laterani family to the Bishop of Rome. This palace would later become St. John Lateran Basilica, the 1st Catholic Church. It stands today as a symbol of the church’s victory, by God’s grace, over one of the powers that attempted to destroy it. Pope Melchiades is also known for making peace with the Eastern Emperor Maxentius and settled the Donatist controversy. Pope Gelasius (492-496), the forty-eighth pope, was born in Rome but is reported to have been of African descent. He was the first pope to have been called the “vicar of Christ”. He established the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple on February 2 as well as having authored several Mass books with many hymns, prefaces, and collects. He affirmed the importance of charity toward the poor.
Mary McLeod Bethune wrote “the greatest faith is faith in the Creator, but great also is faith in ourselves. Without faith, nothing is possible, with it nothing is impossible." When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord, he did not believe. Jesus did not abandon the disciple who doubted Him. Instead, Jesus appeared to Thomas, showed him His hands, and said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!” (John 20:27). Spiritual growth means to learn how to pray, to understand Scripture, to minister to one another, and to join together in addressing common issues. Let us nurture our faith by learning more about Catholic doctrine, history and traditions, the sacraments, the real presence, the Mass, the Councils, the saints, prayer, the Bible, the writings of great Catholic thinkers, Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Documents of Vatican II, etc. Equally important is to understand “Catholic Social Teaching” which encompasses: (1) Life and Dignity of the Human Person Solidarity, (2) Call to Family, Community and Participation, (3) Rights and Responsibilities, (4) Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, (5) Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers, (6) Solidarity, (7) Care for God’s Creation.
This section serves to spark the interest in a more in-depth look and understanding of our faith.