Ask a Carmelite: Isn’t It Enough to Believe in Jesus?

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Dear Sister,

Do I really have to believe all the other things the Catholic Church teaches?

Dear Friend,

I do realize that the idea of ‘believing all that the Catholic Church teaches’ sounds excessive and even authoritarian to many ears, but it must be remembered that the Church has never asked – much less required – irrational nor blindly credulous faith. The Gospels themselves were written to give believers and ‘seekers’ an orderly and rational foundation for their faith (see Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30-31).  Respect for the rightful place and activity of the intellect in seeking ever deeper understanding of the content of the faith is one of the preeminent glories of the Church. Faith that seeks understanding has been the Catholic model from the beginning and through 2,000 years of unremitting intellectual work of the highest caliber. The teaching credentials of the Church more than deserve a fair hearing even from a strictly ‘natural’ and ‘rational’ point of view.

But there is a far more compelling reason to investigate the Church’s claim to authoritatively represent Christ and His doctrine in the world. Compelling, that is, if one claims to ‘believe in Jesus’ as you apparently do – for how can anyone believe in Jesus without also believing Jesus? All the time.  About everything.  Even when He says things that the current culture and its ‘disciples’ may not be comfortable with:

“He who hears you hears Me; and he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16).   

These strong words immediately follow Jesus’ commissioning of “a further seventy-two” disciples sent out to preach His message. In the same passage, Jesus also excoriates the nearby towns for their lack of belief.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you ….”  (Matthew 28:18-20).

In reality, it is the Church in her role as teacher which has prolonged and extended the knowledge of Jesus’ life, ministry and teachings for twenty centuries to the present time. The only reason you or I know anything at all about Jesus of Nazareth is because the Apostles did indeed carry out their commission to teach and administer the sacraments in His name and authority.

He could have done things differently – He could have written a book and left that behind for people to investigate and ‘believe’ – but He didn’t. Instead He chose not just disciples (followers/learners) but ‘apostolos’ (messengers, ‘those who are sent out’). While it is true books were later produced and collected in the New Testament – that very collection of Christian documents contains the teaching of the early Church from Jesus, and about Jesus.  Even the ‘table of contents’ in your  New Testament (the ‘canon’ of scripture) is also a fruit of the Church’s charism to teach revealed truth and discern revealed truth.

This charism of truth as it might be called is outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in no. 889-892, but all of this flows clearly and necessarily from Jesus’ promise to His apostles and their successors:

“I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall everything I have told you.” (John 14:25-26).

What it really comes down to is – do we merely believe in Jesus – in some sense we determine for ourselves (‘Jesus on my terms’!), or, do we believe Jesus – all the time, about everything?


Send your questions for Sister to asksister@integratedcatholiclife.org.

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To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography in the left-hand sidebar and visit their website (link provided at the bottom of the bio).

They publish a beautiful print magazine, Spirit of Carmel, and we encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and subscriptions to the Spirit of Carmel.

If you are able to help them, please click on the image of their magazine to visit their subscription and donation page.

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Grace Helena, OCD, Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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