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Subject The Catholic Church is "the Church" of apostolic times, and I'll prove it to you heathens
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As mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, it is true that the followers of Christ early became known as "Christians" (Acts 11:26). The name Christian, however, was never commonly applied to the Church herself. In the New Testament itself, the Church is simply called "the Church." There was only one. In that early time there were not yet any break-away bodies substantial enough to be rival claimants of the name and from which the Church might ever have to distinguish herself.

Very early in post-apostolic times, however. the Church did acquire a proper name - and precisely in order to distinguish herself from rival bodies which by then were already beginning to form. The name that the Church acquired when it became necessary for her to have a proper name was the name by which she has been known ever since - the Catholic Church.

The name appears in Christian literature for the first time around the end of the first century. By the time it was written down, it had certainly already been in use, for the indications are that everybody understood exactly what was meant by the name when it was written.

Around the year A.D. 107, a bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch in the Near East, was arrested, brought to Rome by armed guards and eventually martyred there in the arena. In a farewell letter which this early bishop and martyr wrote to his fellow Christians in Smyrna (today Izmir in modern Turkey), he made the first written mention in history of "the Catholic Church." He wrote, "Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" (To the Smyrnaeans 8:2). Thus, the second century of Christianity had scarcely begun when the name of the Catholic Church was already in use.

Thereafter, mention of the name became more and more frequent in the written record. It appears in the oldest written account we possess outside the New Testament of the martyrdom of a Christian for his faith, the "Martyrdom of St. Polycarp," bishop of the same Church of Smyrna to which St. Ignatius of Antioch had written. St. Polycarp was martyred around 155, and the account of his sufferings dates back to that time. The narrator informs us that in his final prayers before giving up his life for Christ, St. Polycarp "remembered all who had met with him at any time, both small and great, both those with and those without renown, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world."

We know that St. Polycarp, at the time of his death in 155, had been a Christian for 86 years. He could not, therefore, have been born much later than 69 or 70. Yet it appears to have been a normal part of the vocabulary of a man of this era to be able to speak of "the whole Catholic Church throughout the world."

The name had caught on, and no doubt for good reasons.

The term "catholic" simply means "universal," and when employing it in those early days, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna were referring to the Church that was already "everywhere," as distinguished from whatever sects, schisms or splinter groups might have grown up here and there, in opposition to the Catholic Church.

The term was already understood even then to be an especially fitting name because the Catholic Church was for everyone, not just for adepts, enthusiasts or the specially initiated who might have been attracted to her.

Acts is the next book after the Gospels and is the book which tells the history of the early Chruch. The word "Apostolic" is in the first chapter. The book of Acts even tells us that the earliest believers were called "Christians." Others, like St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, noted that the early "Christians" called their Church "Catholic".

So, you see, the Catholic Church is "the Church" founded by Christ and handed down by the great commission to the Apostles: "as the father has sent me so I send you."

It doesn't matter how evil or sinful certain members of the Catholic Church have been or will be, the fact remains that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ. There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against the Catholic Church. When Freemason institutions are distant memory and piles of ash, the Catholic Church will still remain.
by Kenneth D. Whitehead
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