“Protestants often claim that the Church that Jesus founded was the “Christian Church,” not the Catholic Church. The biblical evidence cited for this claim is found in the Acts of the Apostles: “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11:25-26).
Many modern Christians then suppose that the Catholic Church was founded by mere men much later in Christian history.
No doubt, disciples in the early Church became known as Christians. But does this mean that their Church was not the Catholic Church? A little historical study into the church at Antioch reveals that these early Christians’ church was, indeed, the Catholic Church.
One of the things Peter did before he went to Rome was to found the church in Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time. He ordained a disciple there named Evodius to the episcopacy and appointed him the bishop of Antioch. Evodius is believed by many to have been one of the seventy disciples Jesus appointed to go ahead of him to the towns and places where he taught during his second missionary journey (see Luke 10:1). It was during Evodius’s reign as bishop of Antioch that the disciples there were for the first time called Christians. But this isn’t the end of the story!
While Paul was teaching the Christians in Antioch during Evodius’s reign, another young disciple was moving up through the ranks. His name was Ignatius, and he would later become known as Saint Ignatius of Antioch, an early Christian martyr. Ignatius was a disciple of John. Legend has it that, much earlier in his life, Ignatius was the child whom Jesus took in his arms in a passage recorded by Mark:
[Jesus] sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 11:35-37)
This legend demonstrates the great esteem his memory has enjoyed since the early centuries of the Church.
At Antioch, Ignatius was ordained by Paul, and then, at the end of the reign of Evodius, he was appointed bishop of Antioch by Peter. He reigned there for many years before his martyrdom in Rome. On his way to Rome to be martyred, he wrote several letters to fellow Christians in various locations, expounding on Christian theology. He especially emphasized unity among Christians (see John 17) and became known as an Apostolic Father of the Church.
In one of his letters (to Christians in Smyrna), he wrote, “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.” This is the earliest known written record of the term “Catholic Church” (written around A.D. 107), but Ignatius seemingly used it with the presumption that the Christians of his day were quite familiar with it. In other words, even though his is the earliest known written record of the term, the term likely had been in use for quite some time by then, dating back to the time of the apostles.
The term “Catholic Church” (Gk. katholike ekklesia) broadly means “universal assembly,” and Ignatius used it when writing to the Christians of Smyrna as a term of unity. He exhorted these Christians to follow their bishop just as the broader universal assembly of Christians follows Christ. He clearly uses the terms “Christian” and “Catholic Church” distinctly: disciples of Christ are Christians; the universal assembly of Christians is the Catholic Church.
Some might claim that Ignatius intended to use the term “Catholic Church” not as a proper name for the Church, but only as a general reference to the larger assembly of Christians. If so, then the universal assembly had no proper name yet, but “Catholic Church” continued in use until it became the proper name of the one church that Christ built on Peter and his successors.
Thus, we see that the Christians of Antioch were part of the Catholic Church. They were indeed Christian disciples, but they were also Catholic. Given the unbroken chain of succession at Antioch—from Peter (sent by Christ) to Evodius to Ignatius—if any Christian today wishes to identify with the biblical Christians of the first century mentioned in Acts 11, it follows quite logically that he must also identify with those same Christians’ universal assembly: the Catholic Church.”
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom