When a co-worker recently asked me why I’m Catholic, the question took me off guard. I have good reasons for choosing this faith but none of them came to mind at that moment. This was a chance to put the faith in a positive light for an interested, yet skeptical person.
I mumbled something about the Catholic Church having a direct line to the apostles. That’s true, but it wasn’t the most cogent argument I could have offered. What I needed was an elevator speech—a short, focused explanation for why I’m a Roman Catholic.
No two people with 30 seconds on an elevator would describe their careers the same way and neither would two Catholics talk about the same faith experience. Still, I thought I’d try to come up with something clear, convincing and brief, because as was the case with my co-worker, I don’t often have people’s attention for long.
As with many faith questions, I thought the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be the best place to start. There I found the closest thing to a Catholic mission statement in one of the last lines of the Nicene Creed: “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” These are four essential marks or characteristics that Christ wants the Church to have. (CCC811-857)
The Church is One because she was founded by Christ, who restored the unity of all in one body and because the Holy Spirit brings about the communion of the faithful. So while the Church is diverse it is also united by the profession of one faith received from the apostles, one common worship—especially the sacraments—and apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
The Church is Holy since Christ (with the Father and Spirit) who alone is holy, loved her as his Bride, died to sanctify her, joined himself to her as his body and gave her the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. That’s not to say the Church is faultless because of her association with her Spouse. According to the Catechism (CCC827): “The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”
The Church is Catholic or universal because Christ is present in her and he has sent her out on a mission to the entire human race. In any part of the world, each Catholic diocese is a community of the Christian faithful in communion of faith and sacraments with their bishop ordained in apostolic succession.
The Church is Apostolic because she is founded on the apostles in three ways: 1. She is built on their foundation as the witnesses Christ chose and sent on mission. 2. With the Holy Spirit’s help, the Church keeps and passes on the apostles’ teaching. 3. She will continue to be taught, sanctified, and guided by their successors, the Pope, bishops and clergy until Christ’s return.
It would be hard to fit all of this into a quick explanation but I think it’s possible to pull together some talking points. Maybe enough to make the inquirer ask follow-up questions. There are plenty of other appealing reasons to be Catholic. If you ever find yourself on a plane rather than an elevator, with time to elaborate on being Catholic, this page offers more good arguments.
If you have another approach to this question, please share it in the comments section. The more ideas the better. My goal is to be ready next time I have an opportunity to share my faith.