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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

February 13, 2009

Case Studies on the Marks of the Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium in describing the four marks of the Church and their place in the Church:

"This is the sole church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." These four characteristics, inseperably 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 her who calls her to realize each of these qualites (CCC, 811).

Listed below are some case studies related to the four marks of the Church. For each situation, have the students list as many possible realistic responses to the dilemma as they can. Encourage them to be as specific as possible in describing each response. Have them discus ways in which each response underscores or ignores the four marks of the Church.

1. There is a significant disagreement over the style of worship at your parish. One group thinks that worship should be just as it always has been, the other believes that worship should be "modernized" to attract people who do not come to church. What do you think?

2. The majority of people in the parish believe that a new building project is necessary; however a significant minority feels that the Church should use its money to help the poor. What do you think?

3. The parish youth group is organizing several sports' teams. Youth have to try out for the teams and some youth may be cut from the teams. There are many in the parish who believe that Church-sponsored things should be open to everyone who wants to join them. There is a loud call for developing rules to govern the formation of every new group within the Church. What do you think?

4. There are three very distinct cultural groups at your parish. There is a strong push for three distinct worship services and for separate organizational structures to respond to the needs of each group. What do you think?

5. There is no standard pattern of sitting, standing, and kneeling at your parish for worship. It has become the practice for everyone to do whatever they want and are most comfortable with. Some people are complaining that the lack of unity distracts them from worship. What do you think?

6. There are several new Bible study groups being started in your parish. Some feel that anyone who wishes to start a Bible study group should be able to do so and advertise it in the bulletin. Others feel that only those Bible studies which meet certain criteria and are lead by certain people whould be allowed to meet under the auspices of the Church. What do you think?

7. Your parish has been assisting at a local soup kitchen for many yearas. The use of the soup kitchen has grown tremendously and the space it is in is not longer adequate. Your parish has been approached to see it it would be willing to open its parish hall two days a week as a soup kitchen. The parish is divided between those who feel it would be sinful to refuse and those who feel that opening a soup kitchen in the church would bring in an "undesirable element" into the neighborhood, making the neighborhood less safe and unfairly reducing the property values for those people (primarily parishioners) who had invested their lives in this neighborhood. What do you think?

8. Your parish is divided over what standards should exist for those who teach religious education, serve as sponsors, lectors, or eucharistic ministers. Some feel that any baptized Catholic who is committed enough to go through the training and "do the job" should be accepted. Others feel that only those of "impeccable moral character" should be accepted. What do you think?

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