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  Our Lady has made reference to "the Church" at nine of her 30 apparitions:

  At her third approved apparition of the 16th century, in the year 1594, Our Lady began appearing at Quito, Ecuador where she made some startling comments about "the Church".  In one of the comments, Our Lady made it clear what she meant when she said the words "the Church" as follows:  "The devil will work to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every way, working with baneful cunning to destroy the spirit of their vocation and corrupting many.  Those who will thus scandalize the Christian flock will bring upon the priests the hatred of bad Christians and the enemies of the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  This apparent triumph of Satan will cause enormous suffering to the good pastors of the Church ... and to the Supreme Pastor and Vicar of Christ on earth who, a prisoner in the Vatican, will shed secret and bitter tears in the presence of God Our Lord, asking for light, sanctity, and perfection for all the clergy of the world, to whom he is King and Father."

  "Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church's enemies and do their bidding.  But when evil seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near.  They will fall and crash to the ground."

  "Then will the Church, joyful and triumphant like a young girl, reawaken and be comfortably cradled in the arms of my most dear and elect son of those times.  If he lends an ear to the inspirations of grace -- one of which will be the reading of great mercies that my Son and I have had toward you -- we shall fill him with graces and very special gifts and will make him great on earth and much greater in Heaven.  There we have reserved a precious seat for him because, heedless of men, he will have fought for truth and ceaselessly defended the rights of the Church, deserving to be called "martyr".

  "The small number of souls who will secretly safeguard the treasure of Faith and virtues will suffer a cruel, unspeakable, and long martyrdom.  Many will descend to their graves through the violence of suffering and will be counted among the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the country and the Church."

  Also, at Quito, Our Lord himself appeared and said the following:  "For in all times I have need of valiant souls to save My Church and prevaricating world.  Know, moreover, that Divine Justice releases terrible chastisements on entire nations, not only for the sins of the people, but for those of priests and religious persons.  For the latter are called, by the perfection of their state, to be the salt of the earth, the masters of truth, and the deflectors of Divine Wrath.  Straying from their divine mission, they degrade themselves in such a way that, before the eyes of God they quicken the rigor of the punishments ... ."

  At her apparitions at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, beginning in 1945 of the 20th century, Our Lady gave a message specifically for the Pope:  "I have come today to bring a special message.  Ask the Holy Father to pray the prayer, which Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, under the title 'The Lady of All Nations', has given to the world, and to lead the nations in praying it.  Tell him: Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, teach your peoples this simple yet profound prayer.  It is Mary, the Lady of All Nations, who asks this of you.  You are the shepherd of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Tend your sheep.  Know well, great threats are hanging over the Church, are hanging over the world ... ."

  Our Lady also gave this message at Amsterdam:  "The Lady of All Nations wishes for unity in the true Holy Spirit.  The world is covered by a false spirit, by Satan.  Once the dogma, the final dogma in Marian history, has been proclaimed, the Lady of All Nations will grant peace, true peace, to the world.  The nations, however, must pray my prayer, together with the Church.  They shall know that the Lady of All Nations has come as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  So be it."

  At her apparitions at Akita, Japan, beginning in 1973 of the 20th century, Our Lady said the following:  "The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops.  The priests who will venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres ... Churches and altars sacked: the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.  The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God.  The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of My sadness.  If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them ... ."

  At her apparitions at Betania, Venezuela, beginning in 1976 of the 20th century, Our Lady said the following:  "My dear little children, I am the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Reconciler of people and nations.  I come with my Son Jesus in my arms to reconcile each of you.  Forgive one another.  Love one another.  Serve one another.  Pray for the Church.  Pray for priests.  Return to the Sacraments, dear little children.  Confess your sins while the sun shines.  Sacrifice yourselves for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world.  All of you are children of God.  All are loved.  Love one another in His name.  Pray the rosary, dear little ones, that you may find the path of my Son.  Peace, little children.  Only peace."

  So, in the instances above where Our Lady was referencing the Church, she seemed to clarify what she meant by being more specific at Quito, Ecuador, when she said: the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  The four words One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic are known as the Four Marks of the Church:

1.  One (unity) - The first characteristic of the Catholic Church is her unity of liturgy, doctrine, and authority.

2.  Holy (sanctity) - Individually, members (including priests, bishops, cardinals, and even popes) are capable of sinning, but as something founded by Christ Himself to save souls, the Church as whole can't sin.  The Church as a whole is holy because she's considered the bride of Christ, and also, the Mystical Body of Christ.

3.  Catholic (universality) - Not limited to any nation, country, or culture, the Catholic Church maintains unity within diversity.  The Catholic Faith is a universal faith that transcends all boundaries.

4.  Apostolic (continuity) - Jesus founded the Church on the apostles, and the need to maintain roots is more than mere nostalgia.  Every ordained deacon, priest, or bishop can trace his orders back, ultimately, to one of the 12 apostles.

  Our Catholic Faith involves not only believing that God exists, but also believing whatever God has revealed, which is often called the deposit of faith -- the doctrines of the Church.  More concisely, we believe God's Word to include not only the written word (Scripture, or the Bible) but also the unwritten or spoken word (Sacred Tradition) as well.

  Both the spoken word and the written word come from the same source and communicate the same meaning -- the truth.  Catholics believe that God's Word reflects what is in the mind of God, and because God is all truth and all good, His word conveys truth and goodness. 

  Catholics also believe that Christ founded the Church, a necessary tradition, to safeguard and protect revelation by authentically interpreting the biblical texts.  Whatever and whenever the Bible is silent on an issue or where the meaning is ambiguous or disputed, then Sacred Tradition steps in to clarify the matter.

  The Church, founded by Christ ("I will build My Church" MT 16:18) is not superior to Scripture, but she is the steward and guardian as well as interpreter of the inspired and revealed Word of God.  The Church assumes the role of authentic interpreter not on her own but by the authority given her by Christ.  "He who hears you, hears Me" (Lk 10:16).  Also, "In truth I tell you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven" (Mt 18:18). 


  The Church makes an authentic interpretation and an authoritative decision regarding those issues that aren't explicitly addressed in Sacred Scripture, but only because Christ has entrusted her to do so.

  It is extremely important to note that the Bible, the greatest book ever written, whose author is God Himself, was developed on the authority of the Catholic Church as God intended.  It was at Church Councils at Hippo and Carthage (held 393 A.D.) that a list of authentic books was agreed upon primarily based upon divinely guaranteed, universal public revelation and Apostolic Tradition of the Church.  For the first time the New Testament was capable of being bound up into one book as we have it now. 

  Jewish tradition traces the collection of the Old Testament books to the time of Ezra (mid 5th century B.C.).  It may have been a while later before the entire "canon" was actually recognized.  When the term Canon of Sacred Scripture is applied to the books of the Bible it denotes those documents which, over a period of time, have passed the test of critical examination.  The Protestant Bible omits seven books from the Old Testament that are indeed inspired Sacred Scripture, and for twenty centuries they were accepted by the faithful as God's revelation to His people.  These seven books (Judith, Ecclesiastics, Baruch, Tobias, Wisdom, and the two books of the Maccabees) were thrown out by Martin Luther from the "Protestant Bible".  They are still in the Bible of the Catholic Church. 




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