Apologetics 101- When was the term “Catholic” first used?

Apologetics is the art of defending your faith.  It sounds like its related to the word “apologize,” but it is not.  Early Christian writers who defended their faith were called apologists – hence the term apologetics!

My eldest son and I had a nice, long talk last night.  He told me that a couple of his non-Catholic friends occasionally read my blog.  I wondered what they must think of what I write.  Some of it is generic, but much of it is uniquely Catholic – what you’d expect from a blog called “Catholic Working Mom,” right?

I thought I’d do a series of posts with these readers in mind – explaining why Catholics believe what we do and from where we get our beliefs and practices.  I will admit that if I were on the outside looking in, with limited knowledge about Catholicism, I would probably think that some of the things Catholics do are strange, to say the least.  In writing these apologetic posts, I hope to dispel some of the myths about the Catholic faith.

Let’s start at the beginning.  Catholics believe that our “religion” dates back to Jesus Christ Himself.  When He chose Peter to lead His church on earth, in effect, Christ made him our first “pope.”  “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:18.  We call Pentecost the “birth of the Church” when Christ, who had ascended into heaven sent the Holy Spirit to help the apostles in their ministry.  Catholics believe that their church is the one that Jesus created.

You may say, hmmm, but Jesus didn’t use the term “Catholic” back then.  In the bible, the church was simply called “The Church.” “Christian” was the name used for those who followed Christ.   At that time, all Christians were united – there were no different sects or groups.  In fact, we remained united until the reformation in the late 1500’s – long, long after Jesus had died and was resurrected.   In 107, Ignatius of Antioch, in his farewell letter, (before being martyred) he made the first written mention of the “Catholic Church.”  He wrote, “Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church.”  “Catholic” means universal – extending to the entire world.

Where do we get our beliefs from?  We get them from two places:  Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  What does this mean?  This means that we hold the bible and tradition in very high esteem – both coming from God – a single deposit of faith  –  “Divine Revelation.”  I’ll explain this in detail tomorrow.




About danardoyle

I am a Catholic, working wife and mother. I have three children ages 14, 20 and 27. I am extremely busy, as you can imagine. I aim each and every day to put God first in my life, to teach my children the Faith, to be a supportive spouse, keep the house in order, and do my job outside of the home well, too. That's an impossible task - without Divine intervention! Here, I hope to share my triumphs and struggles with other working moms in the same boat. I will share the tools I have discovered to making it all work - most days!
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2 Responses to Apologetics 101- When was the term “Catholic” first used?

  1. Dear Catholic working mom,

    Great idea.

    As a FYI however we didn’t remain “united” until the reformation. The Great eastern Schism took place I think in 1010 AD and continues through the present times.

    God Bless you!

    • danardoyle says:

      I meant that all Christians were Christians – We didn’t have Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc. I wasn’t even thinking about the break between Catholics. Am I understanding what you are trying to say? Help me, Patrick. Thanks:)

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