‘Christ’s Charge to St Peter’ Rafael Sanzio (1483-1520)

Course Description

In the Nicene Creed we profess each Sunday that we believe in “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” This necessarily means that the Church professes herself to be a divinely revealed mystery. Although the Church is in the world, it is not merely another human institution. It is a divine institution with a divine founder: Jesus Christ. For these reasons the study of the Church falls under the auspices of sacred theology and the theological discipline that studies the mystery of the Church is called Ecclesiology.

This course is designed to study the origin, nature and mission of the Church. Our initial focus will be on the Old Testament’s preparation for the coming of Christ’s Church. As we will see, the term Ecclesiology is derived from the Greek word, Ecclesia meaning the ‘called out ones,’ or ‘the assembly.’ The first time this term was used in Old Testament history was when Moses described the People of Israel as being ‘called out’ of their Egyptian Captivity during their famous Exodus. The Church therefore is the New Israel.

We will explore the nature of the Church under various titles including ‘the Sacrament of our Salvation,’ ‘the Bride of Christ,’ ‘the Mystical Body of Christ,’ and ‘the Family of God.’ In doing this we will also look at the question of the necessity of membership in the Church for salvation. This will take us into an exploration of the four attributes or marks of the Church which we profess in the Creed: Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity and Apostolicity.

Investigating these essential marks will provide us with a solid grounding for understanding the relationship of the Catholic Church with the Christian denominations, other religions, and with society in general. To accomplish this we will explore the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium (1964). Our course will conclude by looking at Mary as she is the Mother of the Church.

So join us for this illuminating course on the theology of the Church!

Course Objectives

  1. To gain a greater understanding of the mystery of the Church.
  2. To see the Old Testament roots of the Church founded by Christ.
  3. To understand the Church’s relationship with the Christian denominations, other religions, and the wider society.
  4. To grow in a love for the Church as she is Christ’s bride and our Mother.

Course Duration

6 Weeks: 12 Hours (i.e., two hours, one night a week).

Recommended Reading

Texts Recommended for Purchase by Course Participants:

Schönborn, Christoph. Loving the Church: Spiritual Exercises Preached in the Presence of Pope John Paul II. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998.

Popular Level Reading:

Journet, Charles. The Theology of the Church. Translated by Victor Szczurek. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.

Lubac, Henri de. The Splendor of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today. Translated by Adrian Walker. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996.

_________. Mary: The Church at the Source. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Schönborn, Christoph. Loving the Church: Spiritual Exercises Preached in the Presence of Pope John Paul II. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998.

Soloviev, Vladimir. The Russian Church and the Papacy. Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers, Inc., 2001.

Thornton, John F. and Susan B. Varenne (ed.). The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.

Thematic Works for this Course:

Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Homebush: St Pauls, 1994.

_________. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, New Revised Edition, vol. 1. Edited by Austin Flannery. New York: Costello Publishing Company, 1996.

Scholarly Level Reading:

Bea, Augustin. The Church and the Jewish People: A Commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. Translated by Philip Loretz. New York, Harper & Row, 1966.

Bouyer, Louis. The Church of God: Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.

Congar, Yves. The Mystery of the Temple: The Manner of God’s Presence to His Creatures from Genesis to the Apocalypse. Translated by Reginald F. Trevett. Westminster: Newman Press (Burns & Oates), 1962.

Heim, Maximilian Heinrich. Joseph Ratzinger: Life in the Church and Living Theology: Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium. Translated by Michael J. Miller. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007.

Lathrop, Gordon W. Holy People: A Liturgical Ecclesiology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.

LaVerdiere, Eugene. The New Testament in the Life of the Church. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1980.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Church, Ecumenism and Politics. Translated by Michael J, Miller. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008.

_________. The Unity of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Sullivan, Francis A. The Church We Believe In: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.

Scholarly Journal Article:

Schönbon, Christoph Cardinal. “The Kingdom of God and the Heavenly-Earthly Church.” Letter & Spirit 2 (2006): 217-234.