ROCHESTER — The Nicene Creed is more than just words Catholics recite at Mass, Father Joseph Marcoux told the dozen young adults who”d gathered at Johnny”s Irish Pub for the Aug. 19 “Catholicism 101” Theology on Tap session.
Rather, the creed provides a basic summary of what Catholics believe in, and Catholics and non-Catholics alike can learn much about the faith by paying attention to the creed”s words, said Father Marcoux, sacramental minister for St. Michael Parish in Lyons, St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde and St. Patrick Parish in Savannah.
“Our creed … is the thing that binds us together,” he noted.
As they recite the Nicene Creed, Catholics reaffirm their belief in one triune God as well as their commitment to one holy, catholic and apostolic church.
“One meaning that we”re united. Holy means set apart. Not that (Catholics) are better than anybody else, but they”re different. I”m not better than any other Christian, but I”m different and I”m called to live differently,” Father Marcoux said.
The Catholic Church is catholic with a small “c” because it”s universal, and it”s apostolic because Jesus” Apostles spread the faith after his death, and that faith continues to spread today.
“Did you know that bishops are apostles, successors of the Apostles?” he asked. “Not a light title.”
The pope is another well-known Catholic figure, but even so, there still are many misconceptions about his position, Father Marcoux added. One of the most persistent misunderstandings is about the teaching of papal infallibility.
“A lot of people think that everything that trickles out of the pope”s mouth is infallible. That”s not true,” Father Marcoux noted.
A pope can only speak infallibly — or without error — when he is formally teaching on matters of faith and morals, and he must preface his statement by announcing that he”s about to make an infallible statement, Father Marcoux said, noting that only four infallible statements have ever been made thus far. The first one was about the teaching of papal infallibility itself, he added.
The pope may be the most easily recognizable member of the Catholic Church”s hierarchy, but he”s not the only member, Father Marcoux said. The hierarchy also includes archbishops, bishops, deacons and priests.
“The hierarchical system is very Roman Catholic, but how we worship is very Roman Catholic, too,” he said. “Our liturgy is what makes us Roman Catholic. The celebration of the sacraments and how we do it is what separates us from other Christian folks.”
The sacraments are physical rituals that make use of such tangible items as bread, wine, water and oil. These earthly items and symbols ground the sacraments and help us understand them and grasp their meaning and significance, Father Marcoux said. Similarly, relics and other church artifacts help us understand the connection between the human and divine elements of the faith.
“The fact that we have relics and bones and stuff grounds us in this understanding of the divine meeting the human, the human meeting the divine,” he explained.
EDITOR”S NOTE: Anna Palo, director of Women”s Ministry at Artisan Church, and Sue Howard, pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Rochester, will talk about Jesus and human freedom at the next installment of Theology on Tap, which will take place Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at Johnny”s Irish Pub, 1382 Culver Road, Rochester. For more information on Theology on Tap, call 585-328-3228, ext. 1218.