Know Your Mother Church

Today is the feast of St. Josaphat of Polotsk, and not only in the Latin Churches but also in the Eastern. He died trying to bring part of the Orthodox Church into union with Rome.

So in Celebration here is a Run Down of the History of your Mother Church:

In the year 33 A.D., Jesus Christ suffered, died and was buried. Three days later He rose from the dead, and from this He established His Church. Ten days after His ascension the Holy Spirit descended upon His Apostles.

These Apostles were given the task to go out into the world and be “fishers of men”  (Matthew 4:19).

To get an idea of where all these men went and ended up, here is a list of the Apostles and where they were put to rest by means of martyrdom or old age.

List of Apostolic Travel

  • Saint Jude.  Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia.
  • Saint Thomas traveled to India to preach to the Jewish community there as well as Hindus. Tradition teaches he was put to death in Mylapore, India by husbands who were jealous because their wives were converting to a new faith.
  • Saint Bartholomew is believed to have been killed in Albanopolis, Armenia (the Albanian region is generally thought to be more present-day Azerbaijan or northern Caucasus rather than the present-day nation-state of Armenia). Tradition holds he converted the king of Armenia to Christianity but was killed by the king’s pagan brother in a royal power play.
  • Saint Philip. Little is known for sure but tradition holds Saint Philip was crucified in the Greek city of Hierapolis, present day Turkey.
  • Saint James the Lesser. Most traditions hold that Saint James was killed in the year 62 at Jerusalem by being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple, then stoned and beaten with clubs and fuller’s mallets, while praying for his attackers.
  • Saint James the Greater is the only apostle who’s death is recorded in the Bible (Book of Acts) and believed to be the first apostle to die (besides Judas). He was killed by a sword in Jerusalem
  • Saint Andrew was killed on the orders of the local Roman governor in Patras, Greece. He was killed on a X-shaped cross.
  • Saint Peter was killed in Rome during the Nero persecutions. He was crucified upside-down, per request, so not to have his own crucifixion be like Jesus’.
  • Saint John was the only apostle to die peacefully. He died in the Greek port city of Ephesus, Turkey where he lived his last years in exile.
  • Saint Simon the Zealot. Moses of Chorene writes that Saint Simon the Zealot was martyred at Weriosphora in Caucasian Iberia (roughly where Georgia, Turkey, and Armenia meet up).
    • One tradition holds Saint Simon was sawed into half in Suanir, Persia.
    • Some traditions hold Saint Simon was crucified in Samaria.
    •  Some say he was killed in Beirut.
  • Saint Matthew has a long running tradition that says he died in Ethiopia because he refused to marry royalty.
  • Saint Matthias, the replacement of Judas Iscariot, is recorded by Nicephorus to be buried at the Roman fort of Gonio in Adjara, Georgia.

Now, one can see that the church had been spread out thin all across the world, from Egypt to Ethiopia to Rome to Jerusalem.  As a result of these many different traditions came about resulting eight liturgical Rites. “The liturgical traditions or rites presently in use in the Church are the Latin (principally the Roman rite, but also the rites of certain local churches, such as the Ambrosian rite, or those of certain religious orders) and the Byzantine, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean rites. In “faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1203.

After this, the traditions of the Catholic Church, that they established by sanctifying the many cultures of the people while being Divinely Inspired by the Holy Ghost, grew and battled heresy while entirely remaining in full communion (*ignore ArianismNestorianism, the Iconoclasm for this article) despite the many different liturgical traditions and rites and growing pains that young churches will always go through (even Christ’s Church). And this lasted until the formal split called the schism occurred. This took place between the Eastern Church centered in Constantinople and the Western Church centered in Rome. Trouble between the two had been brewing for centuries because of cultural, political, and theological differences, until in 1054 Cardinal Humbert was sent to Constantinople to try and reconcile the latest flare up… Didn’t end well, he wound up excommunicating the patriarch. This immediately presented the problems including the disagreement on whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. The split only grew worse from there, centering mostly on whether to except the authority of the Pope and Rome. AHH! But what is a rite?

SIDENOTE FOR ST. JOSAPHAT: More than five centuries later, in what is now known as Byelorussia and the Ukraine but what was then part of Poland-Lithuania, an Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev and five Orthodox bishops decided to commit the millions of Christians under their pastoral care to reunion with Rome. Josaphat Kunsevich who was born in 1580 or 1584 was still a young boy when the Synod of Brest Litovsk took place in 1595-96, but he was witness to the results both positive and negative.

What is a Rite?

A Rite represents an ecclesiastical, or church, tradition about how the sacraments are to be celebrated. Each of the sacraments has at its core an essential nature which must be satisfied for the sacrament to be confected or realized. This essence – of matter, form and intention – derives from the divinely revealed nature of the particular sacrament. It cannot be changed by the Church. Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as interpreted by the Magisterium, tells us what is essential in each of the sacraments (2 Thes. 2:15).

When the apostles brought the Gospel to the major cultural centers of their day the essential elements of religious practice were inculturated into those cultures. This means that the essential elements were clothed in the symbols and trappings of the particular people, so that the rituals conveyed the desired spiritual meaning to that culture. In this way the Church becomes all things to all men that some might be saved (1 Cor. 9:22).

There are three major groupings of Rites based on this initial transmission of the faith, the Roman, the Antiochian (Syria) and the Alexandrian (Egypt). Later on the Byzantine derived as a major Rite from the Antiochian, under the influence of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. From these four derive the 8 Rites we have today and from those we have the over 20 churches that make up the Catholic Church.

What are the Eight Rites?

On the Western front two came about:

  1. The Latin Rite encompasses the Primatial See of the world and one of the five Patriarchal Sees of the early Church (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). Founded by St. Peter in 42 AD it was consecrated by the blood of Sts. Peter and Paul during the persecution of Nero (63–67 AD). It has maintained a continual existence since then and is the source of a family of Rites in the West. Considerable scholarship (such as that of Fr. Louis Boyer in Eucharist) suggests the close affinity of the Roman Rite proper with the Jewish prayers of the synagogue, which also accompanied the Temple sacrifices. While the origin of the current Rite, even in the reform of Vatican II, can be traced directly only to the 4th century, these connections point to an ancient apostolic tradition brought to that city that was decidedly Jewish in origin.
  2. The Ambrosian Rite. The Rite of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy, thought to be of early origin and probably consolidated, but not originated, by St. Ambrose. Pope Paul VI was from this Roman Rite. It continues to be celebrated in Milan, though not by all parishes.

On the Eastern front six different Rites came about:

  1. The Antiochian/Syrian Rite, The Church of Antioch in Syria (the ancient Roman Province of Syria) is considered an apostolic See by virtue of having been founded by St. Peter. It was one of the ancient centers of the Church, as the New Testament attests, and is the source of a family of similar Rites using the ancient Syriac language (the Semitic dialect used in Jesus’ time and better known as Aramaic). Its Liturgy is attributed to St. James and the Church of Jerusalem.
  2. The Rite of Constantinople or Byzantine Rite. The Church of Constantinople became the political and religious center of the eastern Roman Empire after the Emperor Constantine built a new capital there (324–330) on the site of the ancient town of Byzantium. Constantinople developed its own liturgical rite from the Liturgy of St. James, in one form as modified by St. Basil, and in a more commonly used form, as modified by St. John Chrysostom. After 1054, except for brief periods of reunion, most Byzantine Christians have not been in communion with Rome. They make up the Orthodox Churches of the East, whose titular head is the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Orthodox Churches are mostly auto–cephalous, meaning self–headed, united to each other by communion with Constantinople, which exercises no real authority over them. They are typically divided into Churches along nation lines. Those that have returned to communion with the Holy See are represented among the Eastern Churches and Rites of the Catholic Church.
  3. The Alexandrian/Coptic Rite. Church of Alexandria in Egypt was one of the original centers of Christianity, since like Rome and Antioch it had a large Jewish population which was the initial object of apostolic evangelization. Its Liturgy is attributed to St. Mark the Evangelist, and shows the later influence of the Byzantine Liturgy, in addition to its unique elements.
  4. The Armenian Rite. Considered either its own Rite or an older version of the Byzantine. Its exact form is not used by any other Byzantine Rite. It is composed of Catholics from the first people to convert as a nation, the Armenians (N.E. of  Turkey), and who returned to Rome at the time of the Crusades. Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians. The liturgical language is classical Armenian. The 350,000 Armenian Catholics are found in Armenia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Ukraine, France, Romania, United States and Argentina. Most Armenians are Orthodox, not in union with Rome.
  5. The Maronite Rite. Never separated from Rome. Maronite Patriarch of Antioch. The liturgical language  is Aramaic. The 3 million Maronites are found in Lebanon (origin), Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Australia.
  6. The Chaldean Rite. Babylonian Catholics returned to Rome in 1692 from the Nestorian heresy. Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. Liturgical languages are Syriac and Arabic. The 310,000 Chaldean Catholics are found in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and the US.

In addition, once a greater foundation for Rites came about afterwards and sometimes simultaneously “Churches” came about. Now the term Church is very important. In the creed we say we believe in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. This is referring to the mystical Body of Christ as a whole. However, with that Body there are many bodies of cells creating organs. This is probably the best way to understand the Church and Her 22 separate churches. They are all together Catholic, but separate traditions of preforming the same Catholicism. This needs more explaining:

3 Meanings for the Word Church:

  1.  Particular Church. An assembly of the faithful, hierarchically ordered, both in the entire world –  theCatholic Church, or in a certain  territory. To be a sacrament (a sign) of the Mystical Body of Christ in the world, a Church must have both a head and members (Col. 1:18).  The sacramental sign of Christ the Head is the sacred hierarchy – the bishops, priests and deacons (Eph. 2:19–22). More specifically, it is the local bishop, with his priests and deacons gathered around and assisting him in his office of teaching, sanctifying and governing (Mt. 28:19–20; Titus 1:4–9). The sacramental sign of the Mystical Body is the Christian faithful. Thus the Church of Christ is fully present sacramentally (by way of a sign) wherever there is a sign of Christ the Head, a bishop and those who assist him, and a sign of Christ’s Body, Christian faithful. Each diocese is therefore a particular Church.
  2. Ritual Churches. Represent an ecclesiastical tradition of celebrating the sacraments. They are generally organized under a Patriarch, who together with the bishops and other clergy of that ritual Church represent Christ the Head to the people of that tradition. In some cases a Rite is completely coincident with a Church. For example, the Maronite Church with its Patriarch has a Rite not found in any other Church. In other cases, such as the Byzantine Rite, several Churches use the same or a very similar liturgical Rite. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church uses the Byzantine Rite, but this Rite is also found in other Catholic Churches, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches not in union with Rome.
  3. Universal or Catholic Church. This spread over the entire world. It is identified by the sign of Christ our Rock, the Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter (Mt. 16:18). To be Catholic particular Churches and ritual Churches must be in communion with this Head, just as the other apostles, and the Churches they founded, were in communion with Peter (Gal. 1:18). Through this communion with Peter and his successors the Church becomes a universal sacrament of salvation in all times and places, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).

And Here is a Map of the Catholic Church:

Link is



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