What is the Church?

When you think of the Catholic Church, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A building? Your parish? The Vatican?

Understanding what the Church is can be difficult because the reality is that the Church is many things. Recently on Father Simon Says™ the Word of the Day was “Church” and Father Richard Simon explained why it is so important for Catholics to understand the nature of the Church to which they belong.

“It grieves me greatly that people don’t understand what the nature of the Church is,” Father Simon said. He noted that the English word for Churh comes from the German and Greek words meaning Christ and property.

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“The Church is the property of the Lord,” he explained. “The more proper word for it is the assembling of God’s people. It’s assembly but it means so much more than the English word assembly.”

In paragraph 752 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that when we say Church we mean many things, but all of those meanings are inseparable.

It says, “In Christian usage, the word ‘church’ designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers. These three meanings are inseparable. ‘The Church’ is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.”

Father Simon shared that it vexes him when Catholics do not realize that the Church is the entire Body of Christ and that we all belong to the Lord.

“Now, why am I vexed about this?” he asked. “Because when we talk about the Church we talk about the clergy. We say, ‘The Church oughta do this, the Church oughta do that.’ The clergy is not the Church. They are part of the Church, and I like to think a very important part of the Church, but we too are property of the Lord. The Church is not my property it is the property of the Lord.”

As Catholics, we belong to Christ and are united in and through Him. And God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11). Therefore you are as much “the Church” as the pope, as your parish priest, or as your fellow parishioners. Because we all belong to Christ and are servants of the Lord.

Father Simon noted, “The title of the Holy Father since the time of Pope Gregory is ‘servant of the servants of God.’ So bishops are the servants of God, they are the property of the Lord. The lady in the fifth pew from the back is the property of the Lord. None of us have a more exalted status in that sense than the other. Some of us have been given greater responsibility and so should be treated with certain deference or certain obedience. But even the clergy are the property of the Lord.”

Listen to the full conversation below, and tune-in to Father Simon Says weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.