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Catechism of the Catholic Church

II. THE CHURCH IS HOLY

823 "The Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as 'alone holy,' loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God." 289 The Church, then, is "the holy People of God," 290 and her members are called "saints." 291

824 United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. "All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God." 292 It is in the Church that "the fullness of the means of salvation" 293 has been deposited. It is in her that "by the grace of God we acquire holiness." 294

825 "The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect." 295 In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired: "Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state - though each in his own way - are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect." 296

826 Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it "governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification." 297

If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn't lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT'S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE - IT'S ETERNAL! 298

827 "Christ, 'holy, innocent, and undefiled,' knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." 299 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. 300 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time. 301 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ's salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. 302

828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly pro claiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. 303 "The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history." 304 Indeed, "holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal." 305

829 "But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary": 306 in her, the Church is already the "all-holy."

Notes:

289 LG 39; Cf. Eph 5:25-26.

290 LG 12.

291 Acts 9:13; I Cor 6:1; 16 1.

292 SC 10.

293 UR 3 § 5.

294 LG 48.

295 LG 48 § 3.

296 LG 11 § 3.

297 LG 42.

298 St. Therese Of Lisieux, Autobiography of a Saint, tr. Ronald Knox (London: Harvill, 1958) 235.

299 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.

300 Cf. I Jn 1:8-10.

301 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

302 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

303 Cf. LG 40; 48-51.

304 John Paul II, CL 16, 3.

305 CL 17, 3.

306 LG 65; Cf. Eph 5:26-27.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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