He loves her; and it was for her that he offered his life and took it up again. The relationship has implications here on earth, as the sacraments are the means of contact with the living Christ here and now; but the relationship reaches into eternity because God’s love is timeless and without end.

The relationship of Christ and his church has profound significance in the life and action of all creation because in the Paschal Mystery (the passion, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus, and sending forth of the Holy Spirit) all things have new life in and through Christ. This is the good news – the Gospel – that is the mission of the church and the center of her life.

She lives and is guided by that mission in the love of God, the Holy Spirit. She, therefore, gives witness to the truth about Jesus Christ through all ages, in all places, through all cultures and civilizations.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac, one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, and one of the key scholars of the Second Vatican Council, once noted in consideration of the church: “Everything we know about him, we learned from her.” This statement is a simply put and profound truth.

With the advancing darkness of secular relativism in our beloved country and, indeed, throughout the world, patches of growing misunderstanding of the church and deliberate attempts to narrow her significance and mission are beginning to cause confusion and even defection from the church by many otherwise faithful Catholics.

The best place to begin is by recalling the marks of the church, namely: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that these four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the church and her mission. The church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities (CCC 811).

We have come to understand through the history of humanity that we are a church of saints and sinners. This well known fact has always been used by those who are misguided to try to thwart the true mission of the church and the authentic proclamation of the Gospel.

Innuendo and half-truths can be used to throw some folks off balance. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the midst of uneasy times, where sins can be stoked into some real challenges to the basic elements of the church’s teaching in our ordinary lives. While there may be those within and without of the church who may strive to scuttle the “barque of Peter,” we know that it is uniquely defended and kept afloat by the design of God and the navigation of the Holy Spirit. Storms come and go – violent ones at that – but the church will come to safe harbor because she sails with Jesus Christ himself at the helm, and his chosen first mate, his vicar on earth, in the wheelhouse.

The daily challenge to remain faithful is one that every Catholic must face. Attempts to pull us off base, whether in the secular press or, even inside the church itself, must be resisted at all costs. Our faith is too precious a gift and our spiritual lives are too valuable for us to allow them to be taken from us without a fight.

As I have always suggested, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Discover what the Catholic Church really believes and teaches so that you can defend yourself and your church when times call for it. Don’t cave in or yield to secular gossip about situations within the church. Remain steadfast in the faith!