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How are we to know the true Church of Christ?
Sister Lucia of Fatima quotes to Holy Scriptures to enlighten us
|Sr. Lucia of Fatima|
In her book "Calls from the Message of Fatima", published in English in 2000, Sister Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart, one of the three children to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, and now a nun at the Carmel of Coimbra, answers the question asked above. This book was originally published in Portuguese in 1997 under the title "Apelos da Messagem da Fatima". Here are excerpts from Chapter 3, "The Call to Faith":
The word of God in Sacred Scripture is a revelation which we cannot deny because — as Jesus Himself tells us in the Gospel — "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does His Works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me; or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves" (Jn 14:10-11).
We see that Jesus Christ draws our attention to His works, because what a person does bears true witness to what a person is, and confirms what a person says. Hence, when St. John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was the Messiah, or if they were to wait for another, "Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Mt 11:4-5).
As no one other than God can perform miracles, Jesus uses them to confirm His word and His power of life: "He who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (Jn 5:24).
So we see that the word of Jesus Christ is the word of God, because Jesus Christ is God, equal to the Father in all things and able to say: "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God who became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1:35).
We must know the laws of God
Jesus Christ came into the world as a Teacher in order to teach us, to guide our feet in the way of truth, justice, charity, and life. Any way other than the one He has mapped out for us is a way that leads to eternal death.
His teaching is precise and exact. But in order to carry out the word of Jesus Christ, we need to know it and to believe in Him. How can we fulfil a law if we do not know it, or if we do not believe in the One who promulgated it? Hence, it is necessary to acknowledge the person of Christ.
In the world, there are unfortunately many people who believe themselves wise, but who know little or nothing about the laws of God. Sadly, moreover, people often argue against these laws, not because they know them well, but because they see in them an obstacle to their own disordered passions, to their lack of justice and charity. And yet, it is the laws of God that we should all be most anxious to know, as it is through them that we shall be either saved or condemned.
There are others who do, in fact, know the laws of God but who interpret them to mean quite the opposite of what Christ said, believing, in this way, that they are justifying the disorderliness of their own disorderly conduct; they thereby cause great harm to themselves and to their neighbour whom they deceive by their bad example, their outlook, and their misleading words. They are like those about whom Jesus Christ said: "Let them alone. They are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Mt 15:14).
Beware of blind guides
Hence, we must be on our guard where they are concerned. By applying the rule that Jesus Christ gave us, we can know them by their fruits: "For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Lk 6:43-45).
This is the guiding principle given to us by Jesus Christ: to examine the fruits of those who present themselves as our guides in the ways of life, and see whether or not they are in accordance with the teaching of the one true Church of God founded by Jesus Christ, which possesses the gift of infallibility in recognizing and declaring the truth of Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit: "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, even the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:16-17).
This promise made by Jesus Christ to His Church gives us absolute certainly in the ways of faith which we must trend, and which have been guided by the Holy Spirit; it is the Holy Spirit who speaks to us through the mouth of the Church.
What is the true Church of Christ?
I have been asked the following question a number of times: "How are we to know the true Church of Christ?"
The theologians who study these things will be better able to answer this question than I, who am poor and ignorant. I would not even attempt to do so unless the sacred text were there to elucidate the matter for us.
St. Matthew describes how Jesus Christ, having come with His apostles into the region of Caesarea Philippi — as they crossed the lake to get there, the Master had warned them against the false teaching of the Pharisees who did not believe in Him — asked them the following question: "'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven'" (Mt 16:15-19).
That was how Jesus Christ appointed St. Peter as head and leader of His Church on earth, with all the powers to govern, direct, and instruct, under the guidance and with the abiding help of the Holy Spirit; and it was for this reason that the Divine Master gave him the gift of "infallibility". If this was not the case, Jesus Christ could surely not have promised that whatever His representatives did in His name on earth would be endorsed in Heaven. We all know very well how men and women, mere creatures that they are, are subject to shortcomings and liable to make mistakes; hence it is the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to His Church by Jesus Christ that guarantees for us its infallibility:
"The word which you heard is not mine, but the Father's who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:24-26). And later on, reverting to the same subject, the Lord also said: "When the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to Me; He (...) will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 15:26; 16:13).
Thus the infallibility of the Church is guaranteed for us by the words of Christ who is the Truth: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me" (Jn 14:6). Our way is the word of Christ, entrusted to His Church, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Lucia of Fatima