Traditionally, there are 4 "Marks" of the Church. These 4 marks tell us about the character and nature of what the Church is. The Catechism describes them in this way:
811 "This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.
So, the four marks are:
- One - Christ founded only one Church, which subsists within the Catholic Church.
- Holy - Because she is wedded to Christ, the Church is Holy.
- Catholic - The Church is universal.
- Apostolic - The Church is founded upon, and comes from, the Apostles.
Yet, there are more "marks" that St. Robert Bellarmine came up with. He lived from 1542 - 1621 and he was a Cardinal, Bishop, and later made a Doctor of the Church. He lived during the time of many of the Protestant Reformers and thus, he was battling against some of the false understandings of the Church by coming up with these additional "marks".
Here are St. Robert Bellarmine's 15 Marks of the Church:
- Catholicity - the Church's name, Catholic, universal, and worldwide, and not confined to any particular nation or people
- Antiquity - in tracing her ancestry directly to Jesus Christ
- Duration - constant duration in lasting substantially unchanged for so many centuries
- Extensiveness - extensiveness in the number of her loyal members
- Episcopal Succession - episcopal succession of her bishops from the first Apostles at the Last Supper to the present hierarchy
- Doctrinal Agreement - doctrinal agreement of her doctrine with the teaching of the ancient Church
- Unity - union of her members among themselves and with their visible head the Roman Pontiff;
- Holiness - holiness of doctrine in reflecting the sanctity of God
- Efficacy - efficacy of doctrine in its power to sanctify believers and inspire t hem to great moral achievement
- Holiness of Life - holiness of life of the Church's representative writers and defenders
- Glory of Miracles - the glory of miracles worked in the Church and under the Church's auspices
- Prophetic - the gift of prophecy found among the Church's saints and spokesmen
- Opposition that the Church - the opposition that the Church arouses among those who attack her on the very grounds that Christ was opposed by his enemies
- Unhappy End - the unhappy end of those who fight against her
- Temporal Peace and Earthly Happiness - the temporal peace and earthly happiness of those who live by the Church's teaching and defend her interests