The theme for this annual event is 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church'. This is one of the early formulas for describing the Church that Jesus established. So as Catholics we understand there are four marks or characteristics of the Church.

It has a unity in it because it is united to Jesus. When Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches,"... he wasn't saying I am one of many vines or there are many vines, but one vine. In 1 Corithians, Chapter 12, where St. Paul describes the Church, he says there is one body and many members, so that unity we have in Christ is specific to the Church itself. This is what we mean by one.

This does not refer to the holiness of the individual members, although some of the members of the body are indeed very holy; some, however, are not. It refers to the holiness of Jesus that permeates and pervades the body the way the sap from the vine permeates all the branches. And in the same way, as the blood that is flowing through the body animates and vivifies all the members of the body. In that sense the holiness of Jesus is always present and always extensive in the body of Christ, and that we recognize that holiness in the Church.

Now the word Catholic can be understood in both of two ways. One way, in the sense of universality in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 28, in the great commission of verse 19 and 20 specifically, Jesus tells the apostles to go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations. Now that phrase, Catholic, actually comes from two Greek words which means for the whole, and that's one of the biblical monuments you might say, for that universality or catholicity of the Church. It's for all people, in all times, and in all places. It's not just for a certain race of people, or for a certain region of the world, or a certain country, or ethnic group.

Catholic can also be understood in a more strict capital C Catholic sense, which is with the specific Church with its structure and teachings that Jesus established. We see this for example in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who around the year 107 was on his way to Rome to be martyred, and in the seven Epistles that he wrote. One was to St. Polycarp and six to the different churches where he speaks in a very matter-of-fact way in which he refers to the church as the Catholic Church. In these same letters we also encounter him teaching, for example, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He also warns the believers that if you should meet somebody that doesn't confess what we believe, about the Eucharist, that it is the flesh of Jesus that suffered for our salvation, than you should avoid that person. His point was, and he explains it in his letters, somebody who would not believe that, did not receive his teaching from the Apostles, as he himself was a protege of the disciple, John. So we therefore see one example of the Captital C Catholicity, and that he was not just speaking genericly about a loose confederation of like-minded believers. So that term catholic should be understood in both the small c, universal sense, and the capital C, in the strictly speaking Catholic sense.

This simply means that the Catholic Church, extends in an unbroken line of succession, back to the Apostles themselves and its ministry is apostolic. It celebrates valid sacraments, primarily the Holy Eucharist, and also has valid Holy Orders and so this unbroken line between the present and the past is apostolic as far as it goes through the bishops and back to the 12 apostles.

This is the response from a question posed to Patrick Madrid on his radio show as to what the meaning of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church means. Patrick Madrid (born 1960) is an American Catholic author, radio host, apologist, the host of several EWTN television and radio series, and was the publisher of Envoy Magazine.