Catholic Apologetics - The Apostles' Creed Catholic Apologetics 

The Work of God -  Catholic Apologetics    |    Contents


"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever..." (St. John 14, 16).

The Holy Spirit is a distinct Person yet the same Lord and God as the Father and the Son. During the period of theological heresies that racked the early Church the divinity of the Holy Spirit was specifically denied, particularly by Macedonius of Constantinople, compelling the Church to add the words "the Lord, the giver of life…with the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified" to the Nicene Creed. Sacred Scripture contains ample passages which testify both to the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit and His mission of sanctification: "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit...How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5, 3-4): "Likewise the Spirit helps in our weakness…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8, 26-27); "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Eph. 4, 30).

In the language of the Church, the Son is said to be begotten of the Father, while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from a single principle. According to the understanding of the western Fathers, the Son is the mental Word of God, or God's own knowledge of Himself. The Father contemplates and knows Himself in the Word while the Word simultaneously contemplates and knows the Father. What follows from this mutual knowledge is mutual love, or the Holy Spirit. However, in all this there is nothing that is before or after, nothing that is greater or less: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternal and equal in absolutely every thing.

Sacred Scripture attributes distinct divine qualities to the Holy Spirit:

(i) Omniscience, or knowledge of all things: "for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor. 2, 10);

(ii) Omnipotence, or possession all power: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (St. Luke 1, 35);

(iii) Omnipresence, or having presence everywhere: "Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?" (Ps. 139 [138], 7).

Various names are given to the Holy Spirit: Third Person of the Blessed Trinity; the Holy Ghost; the Paraclete; the Comforter; the Sanctifier; Advocate; Gift of the Most High; Giver of Life; Spirit of Truth; Spirit of Love. Many other titles can be found in the Church's official Litany to the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit has various names, so has He appeared visibly in different forms: in the form of a dove at Our Lord’s baptism (St. Matt. 3, 16); as a shining cloud at Christ’s Transfiguration (St. Matt. 17, 5); and as tongues of fire on Pentecost Day (Acts 2, 3). It is considered that the cloud upon which Christ ascended into heaven was also the Holy Spirit.

Invisibly, the Holy Spirit actively abides and works in the souls of the Just: "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now this was said about the Spirit, which those who believe in him were to receive" (St. John 7, 38-39); "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (St. John 14, 23); "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3, 16). The Holy Spirit works in our souls to animate and fill them with the true fire of love, cleansing them from sin and making them holy and pleasing to God: "you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6, 11).

Apart from Himself, the Holy Spirit places into the soul sanctifying grace with the concomitant infused theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the infused moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety and Fear of the Lord). Saint Catherine of Siena was permitted by God to see a soul in a state of sanctifying grace and answered, "Oh! If you could but see the beauty of a soul in a state of grace, you would sacrifice your life a thousand times for its salvation…It is the image and likeness of God in that soul, and Divine grace which make it so beautiful.1

The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on Pentecost Day is considered to be so-called birthday of the Church. Beforehand, the Apostles had been weak and timid, dull and ignorant. Afterwards, armed with the gift of tongues, they fearlessly went forth and proclaimed Christ in all languages: "...All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2, 4). The effects of their preaching were immediate and dramatic. St. Peter in one sermon alone converted three thousand: "And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved" (Acts 2, 41; 47).

In this way we witness the beginnings of that visible society of men known as the Catholic Church; and it is by virtue of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles will strengthen and govern the Church: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you" (St. John 14, 26); "Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20, 28). Until the end of time the Catholic Church will be protected by the Holy Spirit, enabling it to withstand all crises, so that "the gates of Hades will not prevail."

The Fathers:

Athenagoras of Athens, Supplication for the Christians 10 (C. 177 AD):

"The Holy Spirit also, who works in those who speak prophetically, we regard as an effluence of God, flowing out and returning like a ray of the sun. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear those called atheists, who speak of God the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and who proclaim Their power in union and Their distinction in order?"

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 4, 7, 4 (C. 180 AD):

"[The Father] is ministered to in all things by His own Offspring, and by the latter’s Likeness: that is, by the Son and by the Holy Spirit, by the Word and by the Wisdom, whom all the angels serve and to whom they are subject."

Tertullian, Against Praxeas 25, 1 (Post 213 AD):

"The Father and the Son are distinguished by what is proper to each. He promises to send the Paraclete also, for whom He will ask the Father, after He has ascended to the Father; and He calls the Paraclete ‘another.’ How it is that He is ‘another’ we have already explained. Further, He says, ‘He will receive of what is mine,’ just as He Himself had received from the Father. Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three who, though coherent, are distinct one from another. These three are one, and yet not one: for ‘I and the Father are one’ was said in regard to their unity of substance, but not in regard to a singularity of number."

St. Hilary of Poitiers, The Trinity 2, 29 (Inter 356 - 359 AD):

"Concerning the Holy Spirit, however, I ought not remain silent, nor yet is it necessary to speak. Still, on account of those who do not know Him, it is not possible for me to be silent. However, it is not necessary to speak of Him who must be acknowledged, who is from the Father and the Son, His sources. Indeed, it is my opinion that there ought be no discussion about whether He exists...I think, however, that the reason why some remain in ignorance or doubt about this, is that they see this third name, that by which the Holy Spirit is named, applied frequently also to the Father and to the Son. But there need be no objection to this, for both Father and Son are spirit and holy."

St. Athanasius, Four Letters to Serapion of Thmuis 1, 24 (C. 359-360 AD):

"We are all said to be partakers of God through the Holy Spirit. ‘Do you not know,’ it says, ‘that you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone ruins the temple of God, him will God ruin; for it is holy, this temple of God, which is just what you are.’ If the Holy Spirit were a creature, there could be no communion of God with us through Him. On the contrary, we would be joined to a creature, and we would be foreign to the divine nature, as having nothing in common with it...But if by participation in the Spirit we are made partakers in the divine nature, it is insanity for anyone to say that the Spirit has a created nature and not the nature of God."

Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):

Christ the Lord, speaking of the Holy Ghost, says: He shall glorify me, because he shall receive of mine. We also find that the Holy Ghost is sometimes called in Scripture the Spirit of Christ, sometimes, the Spirit of the Father; that He is one time said to be sent by the Father, another time, by the Son, - all of which clearly signifies that He proceeds alike from the Father and the Son. He, says St. Paul, who has not the Spirit of Christ belongs not to him. In his Epistle to the Galatians he also calls the Holy Ghost the Spirit of Christ: God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, He is called the Spirit of the Father: It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):

No. 688: The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

- in the Scriptures he inspired;

- in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;

- in the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;

- in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us into communion with Christ;

- in prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;

- in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;

- in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;

- in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation.


No. 689: The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God. Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.



"…you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim. 3, 15).

The Holy Catholic Church is the society of the redeemed, the visible Kingdom of God upon earth, comprising all baptized persons who believe and profess the teachings of Jesus Christ, and who at the same time are in communion with His representative, the Pope of Rome.

Just as there is only one God, one Lord and one Baptism, so is the Church "one and unique as a sacrament…a sign and instrument of unity…with the center of unity given to us by Christ in the service of Peter" 1

It is upon the rock of St. Peter and his successor, the Pope of Rome, that the stability of the Church rests: "you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (St. Matt. 16, 18-19). Distinct controversy surrounds this passage, with many denying that Christ intended to make Simon Peter the rock on which to build His Church, or that Simon Peter was given authority of any significance. Without giving an exhaustive response, it is necessary to take note of the following facts:

  1. The name Simon in the language of the Jews meant "reed blowing in the wind." Such a name signifies weakness and instability. Yet on first beholding Simon Our Lord changed his name to Cephas: "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)" (St. John 1, 42). Cephas and Peter both mean rock. The significance of this name change cannot be ignored. It was to contrast what Simon Peter was before he met Our Lord to what he would become afterwards, that is, the firm rock on which Our Lord would build His Church;
  2. In many other verses throughout the Scriptures we find Simon being specifically called Cephas, or rock: 1 Cor. 1, 12; 1 Cor. 3, 22; 1 Cor. 9, 12; 1 Cor. 15, 5; Gal. 2, 7 & 11 & 14;
  3. If Simon Peter was given no office of significance, why did Our Lord bestow upon him the keys of the Kingdom of heaven to bind and loose?: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (St. Matt. 16, 19). No office held or bestowed upon man has been of such significance; and who upon earth today can legitimately claim to possess such power and authority except for St. Peter's successor?;
  4. The discourse related in St. John 21, 15 contains the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise to build His Church upon Simon Peter. It is in this episode that Our Lord asks Simon Peter whether he loves Him "more than these" and then after extracting Simon Peter's three-fold affirmation of love charges him to "Feed my lambs," "Feed my sheep," that is, tend to the spiritual needs of all the other members of Christ's Church.

The Kingdom of God upon earth, being a hierarchical institution, comprises those who are to command and teach, and those who are to obey and be taught. The first comprise the bishops and priests; the second, the laity. The authority to command and teach is directly from God Himself: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (St. Matt. 28, 19-20); "Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20, 28). This hierarchy, however, does not exclude legitimate forms of collaboration between clerics and the laity. In most countries today it is principally the laity who undertake tasks such as catechizing and numerous lay groups have been formed in union with the clergy with the aim of influencing all levels of society with Christian principles. Furthermore, the laity no less than clerics are called to holiness and to preach Jesus Christ as Lord in word and deed.

Despite the fact that the Catholic Church is one and a center of unity She possesses within Her bosom many and different Oriental Rites which are nevertheless in communion with the See of Peter. The Church "holds in great esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and discipline of Christian life of the Oriental Churches, because they are resplendent in their venerable antiquity and because in them is present the Tradition from the Apostles through the Fathers."2

Sacred Scripture lays upon all the strict obligation to hear and receive the teaching of the Church:

(i) "…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (St. Matt. 18, 17);

(ii) "Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me" (St. Luke 10, 16);

(iii) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me" (St. John 13, 20);

(iv) "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (St. John 20, 21);

(v) "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account" (Heb. 13, 17).

(vi) "…you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim. 3, 15).

The mission of the Apostles to govern and teach was not to end with them, but was to be continued by their successors to the end of time: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (St. Matt. 28, 20). To believe that the written New Testament replaced the authority of the Apostles after the death of St. John is to believe erroneously that the Church founded by Christ changed in Her essence. Further, the Scriptures themselves show that the Apostles handed on their office through the laying of hands to subsequent generations as their successors: Acts 13, 2; 1 Tim. 4, 14; Tit. 5 - 10.

The Church must possess four "marks" in order to be truly the Church of God: One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic.

We proclaim one Church because Christ came on earth to establish not a number of churches, but only one Church: "...and on this rock I will build my Church" (St. Matt. 16, 18); "So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (St. John 10, 16). She must be one, for "every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls" (St. Luke 11, 17).

The Church must be holy, having an all-holy Founder, and being designed to lead all to holiness: "in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind, yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5, 27).

The Church must be catholic, because She must teach all nations, and carry on Our Lord’s work to the end of time: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (St. Matt. 28, 19-20).

The Church must be apostolic, for Her doctrines and traditions must be those of the Apostles, and Her bishops must come down from the Apostles in an unbroken succession.

These four distinctive marks are found fully united only in the Holy Catholic Church. Elements of sanctification and truth are found in varying degrees in the other Protestant denominations and these objectively constitute the basis of a certain communion. However, this communion is imperfect due to the rejection of many different articles of Catholic belief, as well as the adherence to other inconsistencies and contradictions which lead many to be "tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4, 14).

Every person who professes the Catholic Faith belongs to the "Body and Soul" of the Church. Adult non-Catholics who have been rightly baptized, and who are in good faith and in a state of grace, belong to the "Soul" of the Church.

All baptized persons, then, who are in error through no fault of their own, and who in all sincerity seek after the truth and attempt, according to the best of their knowledge, to do God’s will, and even those who, though not baptized, are invincibly ignorant of the True Church, but who have an implicit desire of submitting to Her, are united to the Soul of the Church. They even share in many of Her graces, but are deprived of countless other spiritual aids exclusive to the Catholic Church.

However, where a person outside the Body of the Church knows of Her and Her claims to be the Truth, or has the opportunity of knowing Her, but through indifference and neglect fails to procure this knowledge, his rejection or ignorance becomes culpable, and he is responsible to God for his neglect, etc.

When, therefore, a Catholic uses the words "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," he professes that Jesus Christ has established a visible and infallible teaching Church, ruling with Divine authority, speaking in the Name of Her heavenly Founder, and destined to endure for all time. We must believe and obey Her, for She is in truth the One Ark of Salvation for all.

The Fathers:

The So-Called Second Letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians 14, 2 (C. 150 AD):

"I presume that you are not ignorant of the fact that the living Church is the body of Christ. The Scripture says, ‘God made man male and female.’ The male is Christ, and the female is the Church. Moreover, the Books and the Apostles declare that the Church belongs not to the present, but has existed from the beginning. She was spiritual, just as was our Jesus; but He was manifested in the last days so that He might save us. And the Church, being spiritual, was manifested in the flesh of Christ."

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 3, 4, 1 (C. 180 AD):

"When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers. That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth...In the Church, God has placed apostles, prophets and doctors, and all the other means through which the Spirit works; in all of which none have any part who do not conform to the Church. On the contrary, they defraud themselves of life by their wicked opinion and most wretched behavior. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God, there the Church and every grace."

St. Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 7, 17, 107, 3 (Post 202 AD):

"From what has been said, then, it seems clear to me that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one; and in it are enrolled those who, in accord with a design, are just...We say, therefore, that in substance, in concept, in origin and in eminence, the ancient and Catholic Church is alone, gathering as it does into the unity of the one faith which results from the familiar covenants, - or rather, from the one covenant in different times, by the will of the one God and through the one Lord, - those already chosen, those predestined by God who knew before the foundation of the world that they would be just."

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to all His People 43, (40), 5 (251 AD):

"There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering."

Lactantius, The Divine Institutions 4, 30, 1 (Inter 304-310 AD):

"It is therefore, the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth; this, the domicile of faith; this, the temple of God. Whoever does not enter there or whoever does not go out from here, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation...Because, however, all the various groups of heretics are confident that they are the Christians, and think that theirs is the Catholic Church, let it be known: that is the true Church, in which there is confession and penance, and which takes a salubrious care of the sins and wounds to which the weak flesh is subject."

Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):

This Church was founded not by man, but by the immortal God Himself, who built her upon a most solid rock. The Highest himself, says the Prophet, hath founded her. Hence, she is called the inheritance of God, the people of God. The power which she possesses is not from man but from God.

Since this power, therefore, cannot be of human origin, divine faith can alone enable us to understand that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are deposited with the Church, that to her has been confided the power of remitting sins, of denouncing excommunication, and of consecrating the real body of Christ; and that her children have not here a permanent dwelling, but look for one above.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):

No. 771: "The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men." The Church is at the same time:

- a "society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;

- the visible society and the spiritual community;

- the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches."

These dimensions together constitute "one complex reality which comes from a human and a divine element":

Contents     |    Next

Catholic Apologetics - The Work of God

 The Work of God - index

Catholic Apologetics - The Apostles' Creed