Editor’s Introduction: This piece is reprinted from the Catholic Prayer Book for the Marine Corps by Rev. John J. Burke, C.S.P. The book was originally published for our fighting men in World War II and was recently reprinted by Roman Catholic Books. It is a lovely forgotten treasure of the pre-Vatican II era, having in it a wealth of important prayers, and is surprisingly lacking in any Americanist references. This article is the only bit of narrative in the book, which is mostly comprised of prayers and a short “rule of life for soldiers.” The article seems to have been written with the noble intention of making Marines into apostles.
What is your most important business in this life? — It is to save your soul. “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul,” says our Blessed Saviour (Mark viii. 36).
What must you do to save your soul? — You must follow the religion taught by Christ. “Go ye into the whole world,” He said to His Apostles, “and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be condemned” (Mark xvi. 15, 16).
How many religions did Christ teach? — Most certainly only one, for this plain reason, that He cannot contradict Himself. As St. Paul tells you, there is “one Lord” and “one Faith” (Ephes. iv. 5).
What, therefore, is to be thought of the many religions in this country? — As our Saviour taught but one religion, it must follow that all these religions are false except one , wherever that is. Hence St. Paul says, in his epistle to the Galatians (i. 8): “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a Gospel to you other than that which we have preached, let him be anathema.”
Is it not very uncharitable to say that all religions are false except one? — It is not more uncharitable than to point out the right road to one when he is on a journey, and to tell him all other roads will lead him astray.
But are you not safe in following the religion in which you were born? — From what you have been reading, it is as clear as noonday that you are not safe in following the religion in which you were born, unless it be the one true religion which Christ taught.
But how are you to find out the true religion? — You must truly and heartily repent of all the sins you have committed; you must have no other wish than to learn the will of God and to do it; you must be resolved that neither persecutions nor losses, nor worldly interest, nor anything else whatsoever, shall prevent you from doing the will of God, when you know what that will is; and you must often pray that He will teach you His holy will, saying: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts ix. 6). If you will follow this advice, you may be sure that God will hear your prayer and lead you into the right way (Luke xi. 13; Matt. vii. 7,8).
You should also look about you, and inquire which is the one true religion. You will soon find, in the New Testament, that Christ established a Church upon earth; that He built it upon a rock, and declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. xvi. 18); you will find that He gave His Church authority to teach His religion and commanded all to hear and obey it (Matt. xviii. 17; Luke x. 16; Acts ix. 6, 7; x. 5,6), that this Church cannot teach error , being “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. iii. 15), and that by following what it teaches you will be freed from all doubt and perplexity about the way to heaven, and will no longer be tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Ephes. iv. 11-15). You will find, in short, that you will be as sure of learning the religion of Christ from this Church as if you heard Him speaking to you Himself: “He that heareth you, heareth Me” (Luke x. 16).
A further examination will make clear to you that this Church is no other than that which you often truly say was the first and will be the last and which all Christians say they believe when they repeat the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” Yes, this is the Church which Christ built on a rock, which has stood for nineteen hundred years, and has triumphed over all the persecutions raised against it; this is the Church from which all other churches have separated, whilst it has always remained the same as our Saviour established it. Death! Judgment! Heaven! Hell! Eternity!