Glossary of Religious Terms
These definitions are taken from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita Religion Curriculum Guide. When written, these definitions were intended for teacher reference. Please simplify to make age appropriate.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Absolution - The words of forgiveness the priest prays over the penitent in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Actual Grace – Temporary supernatural intervention given to perform a specific good act, thought, or deed.
Actual Sin - Any thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to God’s eternal law. All actual sins are classified on the basis of this division, where sinful thoughts are essentially desires, the words may either be spoken or otherwise articulated, the deeds involve some external manifestation, and omissions are failures to do what should have been done by a person in a given set of circumstances.
Adultery - Marital infidelity, or sexual relations between two partners, at least one of whom is married to another party. The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely (CCC 2380).
Advent - The liturgical season of four weeks devoted to preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas (CCC 524).
Aeiparthenos – Greek word which means that Mary is ever-virgin; before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.
Agnosticism – In general, not knowing about religious truth; more specifically, not having rational certitude about it.
Alb - A white linen garment, reaching from the neck to the ankles with tight-fitting sleeves and held in at the waist by a cincture (girdle), worn by the ministers at Mass. It is sometimes ornamented near the hem with embroidery or other colored material, known as ‘apparels’. The alb was taken to symbolize purity, and it was customary for the celebrant to say ‘Make me white…’ while putting it on.
Ambo - The ambo is a special stand or place from where the Scriptures are read at Mass. (Also called lectern or podium)
Amice - A linen cloth, square or oblong in shape, with strings attached. It may be worn around the neck by the priest when celebrating the Eucharist, or by other ministers who wear the alb.
Anagogical – one of the deeper senses used in interpreting Sacred Scripture that detects allusions to heaven or afterlife.
Anamnesis - The “remembrance” of God’s saving deeds in history in the liturgical action of the Church, which inspires thanksgiving and praise. Every Eucharistic prayer contains an anamnesis or memorial in which the Church call to mind the Passion, Resurrection, and glorious return of Christ. (also called Memorial Acclamation or Mysterium Fidei)
Anchorites - Men who renounce the world in order to spend their lives alone in penance and prayer; women are known as anchoresses.
Angel - A spiritual, personal, and immortal creature, with intelligence and free will, who glorifies God without ceasing and who serves God as a messenger of his saving plan (CCC 329-331).
Angelus - A Catholic devotional practice performed in the early morning, at noon, and in the evening, usually, in places where the custom is generally observed, during the ringing of a bell. It consists of three verses with their responses, each followed by a Hail Mary, and it concludes with a prayer.
Anointing - Anointing is the signing of a person with holy oil. Anointing is used in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and in other sacraments and rites of the Church.
Annulment - Official declaration by the Church that, for lawful reasons, a marriage was invalid and consequently null and void, i.e. a marriage never sacramentally took place.
Annunciation - The visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to inform her that she was to be the mother of the Savior. After giving her consent to God’s word, Mary became the mother of Jesus by the power of The Holy Spirit.
Anointing of the Sick - One of the seven sacraments administered by a priest to a baptized person in danger of death because of illness or old age, though prayer and the anointing of the body with the oil of the sick. The proper effects of the sacrament include a special grace of healing and comfort to the Christian who is suffering infirmities of serious illness or old age, the forgiving of the person’s sins, and the possibility of physical healing (CCC 1499, 1520, 1523, 1526-32).
Apologetics - The theological discipline that deals with the reasons for believing God and accepting the faith presented by the Christian Church; a defense of Catholicism by the use of logic, Scripture, and Church teaching.
Apologist - One who writes or speaks in defense of Christian beliefs and practices.
Apostle - A term meaning one who is sent as Jesus was sent by the Father, and as He sent His chosen disciples to preach the Gospel to the whole world (CCC 857).
Apostles Creed - A statement of Christian faith developed from the baptismal creed or “symbol” of the ancient Church of Rome, the see of St. Peter, first of the Apostles. The Apostles’ Creed is considered to be a faithful summary of the faith of the Apostles. See prayers.
Apostolate - The activity of the Christian which fulfills the apostolic nature of the whole Church by working to extend the reign of Christ to the entire world (CCC 863). The specific work of a religious order.
Apostolic - One of the four attributes of the Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed. Refers to the Catholic faith as having been received through the apostles; apostolic succession from Peter to the current pope.
Apostolic Succession - The handing on of apostolic preaching and authority from the Apostles to their successors the bishops through the laying on of hands, as a permanent office in the Church (CCC 77, 861).
Archangels - A chief or ruling angel. The term occurs twice in the New Testament (Jude 5:9; I Thessalonians 4:16) and has two Catholic meanings. In its wider sense an archangel is any angel of higher rank. More strictly, though, archangels are those angelic spirits who belong to the eighth of nine choirs of angels. As distinct from guardian angels, archangels are messengers of God to men. Three archangels are specifically mentioned in the Bible: Tobit 12:6, 15; John 5:1-4; Luke 1:26-38; Revelation 12:7-9.
Arianism - A fourth-century heresy propagated by Arius denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. Following views which gnostics had popularized, he regarded the Son of God as standing midway between God and creatures; not like God without a beginning, but possessing all other divine perfections, not of one essence, nature, substance with the Father and therefore not like him in divinity.
Articles of Faith - Those revealed truths which have a specific and proper identity, yet are broad enough to include other revealed truths so as to form a unified body of Christian doctrine.
Ascension - The entry of Jesus’ humanity into divine glory in God’s heavenly domain, forty days after his resurrection (CCC 659, 665); one of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
Asceticism – A type of religious order that emphasizes self-denial and poverty. Its object is the attainment of Christian perfection.
Atheism – The denial in the theory and/or practice that God exists. Atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion required by the first commandment of the law. (CCC 2124-2125)
Attributes - Characteristics that are associated with a saint or other figure that help identify them or the manner of their martyrdom.
Baptism - The first of the seven sacraments, and the “door” which gives access to the other sacraments. Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins, because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification. The rite of baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water, or pouring water on the head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (CCC 977, 1213, 1275, 1278).
Baroque – A style of ecclesial architecture that developed during the Counter-Reformation; this style is identified as busy-looking, ornate, and highly decorated.
Barrel vault – In ecclesial architecture, a type of ceiling shaped like a half barrel which requires thick walls for support.
Basilica – A specific type of church architecture; specifically, a lengthy oblong edifice, rectangular in shape with an apse (a dome or arched ceiling) at one end. Also, a church or cathedral accorded certain ceremonial rights by the pope.
Beatitudes - The teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount on the meaning and way to true happiness (Mt 5. 3-12; Lk 6. 20-26) (CCC 1716).
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - A Eucharistic devotion in the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite that takes place in the context of adoration. In its traditional form, a priest, vested in surplice, stole, and cope, places on the altar the consecrated Host in the monstrance, and then incenses it. Benediction occurs when the priest lifts the monstrance containing the Host and blesses the congregation.
Bible –Sacred Scripture; the books that contain the truth of God’s revelation and were composed by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament and the New Testament are the two main parts of the Bible (CCC 105).
Bishop – One who has received the fullness of the Sacrament of the Holy Orders, which makes him a member of the Episcopal college and a successor of the Apostles. He is the shepherd of a particular church entrusted to him and the head of a diocese. (CCC 1557; cf. 861, 886)
Blessed Sacrament - The Blessed Sacrament is a name given to the Eucharist, especially the consecrated elements reserved in the tabernacle for adoration or for the sick (CCC 1330).
Byzantine Liturgy or Rite - The liturgy of the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church. The Byzantine Rite differs from the Latin rite not in profession of faith, the seven sacraments, or in hierarchical unity, but in its approach to theology, spirituality, liturgy, church law, and in particular cultural and linguistic differences.
Canon Law - The rules which provide the norms for good order in the visible society of the Church. Those canon laws that apply universally are contained in the Codes of Canon Law. The most recent Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983 for the Latin Church and in 1991 for the Eastern Church.
Canon - The official list of books of the Bible commonly accepted by the Church as sacred and of divine authorship.
Cardinal (moral) virtues - Four pivotal human virtues that will govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith (CCC 1805, 1834). See appendix A.
Cassock - The long garment (usually black) worn by the clergy.
Catacombs - A subterranean cemetery consisting of galleries or passages with side recesses for tombs.
Catechesis - An education of children, young people, and adults in the faith of the Church through the teaching of Christian doctrine in a unified and systematic way to make them disciples of Jesus Christ (CCC 5, 426-427).
Catechumenate - The formation of those in preparation for their Christian initiation that aims at bringing their conversion and their faith to maturity within the ecclesial community; a period of Christian development in RCIA.
Catholic - One of the four marks of the Church, taken from the Nicene Creed. The Church is catholic or universal both because she possesses the fullness of Christ’s presence and the means of salvation, and because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the entire human race (CCC 750, 830).
Celibacy - The state or condition of those who have chosen to remain unmarried for the sake of the kingdom of heaven in order to give themselves entirely to God and to the service of his people. In the Latin Church, celibacy is obligatory for priests and bishops. In some Eastern Churches, celibacy is a prerequisite for bishops only; priests may not marry after they have been ordained (CCC 1579, 1580).
Censer - A vessel suspended by chains used for burning incense at solemn Mass, Vespers, Benediction, processions, and other important services of the Church. It is now commonly called the thurible.
Chalice – The consecrated cup, made of precious materials, used to hold the Blood of Jesus during the Mass.
Charity (love) - The theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (CCC 1822) (See Appendix A).
Chastity - The moral virtue which, under the cardinal virtue of temperance, provides for the proper living of one’s sexuality in the context of his or her vocation (CCC 1832, 2337). It is also a Fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Appendix A).
Chasuble - The colored outermost garment worn by bishops and priests in celebrating the Eucharist. Its color depends upon the liturgical season or specific memorial, feast, or solemnity celebrated that day.
Cherubim - One of the choirs of angels.
Ciborium - A vessel made of precious materials used to contain the Blessed Sacrament during Mass or during reposition in the tabernacle.
Cincture (girdle) - One of six liturgical vestments, it is a cord or band of cloth worn at the waist over the alb by priests, bishops, or altar servers.
Coadjutor – A bishop who assists a diocesan bishop in the rule of his diocese and in the exercise of the Episcopal power of orders. The coadjutor bishop must also be appointed the vicar general.
Community - A group of people who share something important together; another name for a religious order.
Conception - The union of an egg and a sperm resulting in the formation of a new life; the beginning of life.
Conciliarism - The theory that councils, not the pope, hold supreme authority in the Church.
Conclave – A word used to describe the meeting of cardinals to elect a pope or to the place of election, a sealed-off area in the Vatican. - - Initiated by Pope Gregory X in 1274, the process of election today is governed by the regulations issued by Popes Pius XIII, John XXIII, and Paul VI. Fifteen days after the death of a Pope, an election is held in an area cut off from all outside contacts. The cardinal camerlengo presides, assisted by three senior cardinals. The customary method of election is by secret ballot, a two-thirds majority required for election. Ballots are cast, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, until a majority is achieved. Paul VI in 1973 added several regulations: no cardinal after age 80 may take part in the conclave and the number of cardinals involved may not exceed 120. New instructions were given as to how a deadlock should be resolved: all cardinals in the conclave vote to suspend the two-thirds rule, or to delegate the election to a committee of cardinals, or to reduce the candidates to the two having the highest number of votes.
Concupiscence – Human appetites or desires which remain disordered due to the temporal consequences of original sin, which remain even after Baptism, and which produce an inclination to sin. (CCC 1264, 1426, 2515)
Confession - An essential element of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which consists in telling one’s sins to the priest. By extension, the word confession is used to refer to the Sacrament of Reconciliation itself (CCC 1455).
Confessor - A priest qualified to hear the confessions of the faithful and grant sacramental absolution. A confessor is also empowered to grant certain dispensations and to absolve from censures, according to the provisions of ecclesiastical law.
Confirmandi - All the candidates preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
Confirmation – Sacrament which completes the Sacrament of Baptism with a special outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which seal or “confirm” the baptized in union with Christ and equip them for active participation in the worship and apostolic life of the Church (CCC 1285).
Consecration – The dedication of a object, place, or person to divine service by prayer or blessing. The consecration at Mass is that part of the Eucharistic Prayer during which the Lord’s words of institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper are recited by the priestly minister, transforming the bread and wine into Christ’s body (CCC 1352, 1353).
Contrition - Sorrow of the soul and hatred for sin with resolution not to commit the sin again. Contrition is necessary for the reception of Reconciliation (CCC 1451).
Cope - A semicircular cloak worn at certain liturgical functions, such as Eucharistic processions, adoration, and Matrimony outside of a Mass, by a priest or bishop when the chasuble is not used.
Corporal - A square white linen cloth, now usually somewhat smaller than the breadth of an altar, upon which the Sacred Host and Chalice are placed during the celebration of Mass.
Council – When all the bishops of the world meet together under the authority of the Pope to consider matters affecting the whole Church.
Covenant - A solemn, binding agreement between human beings or between God and a human being involving mutual commitments or guarantees (CCC 56, 62, 66).
Creationism – The doctrine that God created reality, including the universe and the world, out of nothing.
Creed - A brief summary statement or profession of Christian faith (CCC 187).
Cruets – Two small vessels containing the wine and water required for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Crusades – Medieval military expeditions organized by the Church for the liberation of the Holy Land and the defense of Christianity.
Deacon – A third degree of the hierarchy of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, after bishop and priest. The deacon is ordained not to priesthood but for ministry and service. Deacons are ordained to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity. While the Churches of the East have always had a functioning order of deacons, in the West the permanent diaconate was reestablished by the Second Vatican council (CCC 1569, 1571)
Dei Verbum - Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council.
Deism - The theory that accepts the existence of God on purely rational grounds but denies, doubts, or rejects as incredible Christianity as a supernatural religion. Accordingly, revelation, miracles, grace, and mysteries are excluded from acceptance by what is called “the rational man.” Yet deism differs from rationalism in stressing its acceptance of a personal God and adherence to what is called natural religion, but with no recognition of a supernatural order.
Didache – A writing of the early Church (c. 100s) formally titled “The Lord’s Instruction to the Gentiles through the Twelve Apostles” which contains our earliest descriptions, outside the New Testament, of the early Church and its practices.
Diocese - A “particular church”, a community of the faithful in communion of faith and sacraments whose bishop has been ordained in apostolic succession. A diocese is usually a determined geographic area; sometimes it may be constituted a group of people of the same rite or language (CCC 833).
Disciple - (from Latin ‘to discern’) Learner; follower of Jesus Christ
Divine Office - The group of psalms, hymns, prayers, biblical and spiritual reading formulated by the Church for chant or recitation at stated times every day. Also called Liturgy of the Hours.
Divine Revelation - The self-disclosure of God and the communication of the truth about His nature and will.
Divorce - The claim that the indissoluble marriage bond validly entered into between a man and a woman is broken. A civil dissolution of the marriage contract (divorce) may be morally permissible in some cases but does not free persons from a valid marriage before God; remarriage would not be morally licit (CCC 2382).
Dogma - The revealed teachings of Christ which are proclaimed by the fullest extent of the exercise of the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. The faithful are obliged to believe the truths or dogmas contained in Divine Revelation and defined by the Magisterium (CCC 88).
Dominions - One of the choirs of angels.
Double Predestination – A belief of John Calvin that all people are predestined for heaven or hell. Catholics believe that all people are predestined for heaven; their actions may preclude them from the destiny God would like for them.
Dualism – A belief in two gods or supreme beings; a logically impossible belief.
Ecumenical Council - A gathering of all the bishops of the world, in the exercise of their collegial authority over the universal Church. An ecumenical council is usually called by the successor of St. Peter, the Pope, or at least confirmed or accepted by him (CCC 884).
Ecumenism - Promotion of the restoration of unity among all Christians, the unity which is a gift of Christ and to which the Church is called by the Holy Spirit. For the Catholic Church, the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council provides a charter for ecumenical efforts (CCC 816,820-22).
Edict of Milan – Decree issued by emperor Constantine in 311 which ended Roman persecutions and allowed Christians to worship freely.
Election(of candidates) - Part of the RCIA process.
Encyclical - A pastoral letter written by the Pope and sent to the whole Church and even to the whole world, to express Church teaching on some important matter (CCC 892).
Epiclesis – The part of a sacrament which calls down the Holy Spirit. An epiclesis is found in every sacrament, usually accompanied by a laying on of hands (CCC1105,1127).
Episcopal - Pertaining to the office of bishop, hence Episcopal consecration, the Episcopal college, Episcopal conferences (CCC883,887,1557).
Episcopos – ( from the Greek) The office itself or the tenure of a bishop; the body of bishops in a church or region.
Epistles – Books of the New Testament; usually official communications of instruction or correction sent to a church or a group of churches, written by an Apostle or sent under his authority.
Eremitical – Life of a hermit; a man or woman who practices extreme solitude.
Essenes – A Jewish-Palestinian ascetical sect. They practiced poverty, held their property in common, were celibate (although one group could marry), were devoted to prayer, reading, self-support, and frequent ritual baths. Their doctrine was similar to that of the Pharisees. John the Baptist shared many practices in common with the Essenes but was not part of their sect.
Eucharist - The sacrament of thanksgiving to God which constitutes the principal Christian liturgical celebration of and communion in the paschal mystery of Christ. The liturgical action called the Eucharist is also traditionally known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life (CCC 2177).
Eucharistic Discourse - The Bread of Life Discourse as found in John 6: 22-71.
Eucharistic Prayer - The central part of the Mass, also known as the Canon of the Mass or “anaphora,” which contains the prayers of thanksgiving and consecration (CCC 1352).
Euthanasia - An action or an omission which, of itself or by intention, causes the death of a handicapped, sick, or dying person - sometimes with an attempt to justify the act as a means of ending suffering. Euthanasia violates the fifth commandment (CCC 2277).
Evangelical counsels – Advisory directives that enable a person to imitate Jesus Christ; traditionally they include active love of enemies, poverty, chastity, and obedience. The counsels are practiced both privately and in community forms of religious life. All religious communitites (except Benedictines) take vows based on the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience; Benedictines take vows of obedience, stability, and conversion.
Evangelist – One who works actively to spread the Christian faith; specifically, the authors of the four canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (CCC 125, 120).
Evangelization - The proclamation of Christ and his Gospel by word and the testimony of life, in fulfillment of Christ’s command (CCC 905).
Examination of Conscience - Prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God. The reception of the Sacrament of Penance ought to be prepared for by such an examination of conscience (CCC 1454). See Appendix C.
Excommunication - A severe ecclesiastical penalty, resulting from grave crimes against the Catholic religion, imposed by ecclesiastical authority or incurred as a direct result of the commission of an offense. Excommunication excludes the offender from taking part in the Eucharist or other sacraments and from the exercise of any ecclesiastical office, ministry, or function (CCC 1463).
Faith – Faith is both a theological virtue given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God. In faith, a believer gives personal adherence to God and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed (CCC 26, 142, 150, 1814, 2087).
Feudalism – A term descriptive of the political and economic system of the early Middle Ages based on land tenure.
Filial Boldness - Trusting in God to answer our needs as children trust their parents (Mk 11:24) (CCC 2610).
Finger bowl and towel - Used by any person who handles the Eucharist to remove any particles from the hands.
Fornication - Sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. Fornication is a serious violation of the sixth commandment of God (CCC 2353).
Fortitude - One of the four cardinal moral virtues which ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in doing the good. Fortitude is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1808). See Appendix A..
Free will – “The power, rooted in reason and will…to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility” (CCC 1731).
Frescoes – Paintings on plaster which were popular during the Renaissance; ex. The Sistine Chapel ceiling.
General Judgment - Second coming of Christ in glory, marking the completion of salvation history, when God’s plan will be revealed. The world as we know it will end, and the eternal destiny of every person will be known.
Gifts/Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Fruits: the perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the “first fruits” of eternal glory. Gifts: permanent dispositions that make us docile to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1830, 1832). See Appendix A.
Gnosticism –Heretical belief that knowledge of salvation is only given to some, and salvation is dependent upon having this secret knowledge. Already in the first century of the Christian era there were Gnostics who claimed to know the mysteries of the universe.
Golden Rule - A (modern) name for the precept in the Sermon on the Mount: Do unto others what you would have them do to you. (Mt. 7:12) ( Lk. 6:31)
Gospel – The “good news” of God’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The four Gospels are the books written by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which have for their central object Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his life, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance (CCC 124, 514).
Grace – The free and undeserved gift that God gives us to grow in holiness and become more like Him. As sanctifying grace, God shares his divine life and friendship with us in a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that enables the soul to live with God, to act by his love. As actual grace, God gives us the help to conform our lives to his will. Sacramental grace and special graces are gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our Christian vocation (CCC 1996, 2000).
Guardian Angel - Angels assigned to protect and intercede for each person (CCC 336).
Hanukkah - The feast of the Dedication of the Temple, from the Greek enkainia meaning renewal or inauguation. The origin of the feast is given in 1 Mac. 4: 36-59.
Heaven - Eternal life with God; communion of life and love with the Trinity and all the blessed. Heaven is the state of supreme and definite happiness, the goal of the deepest longings of humanity (CCC 1023).
Hell - The state of definitive self exclusion from the presence of God, reserved for those who refuse by their own free choice to believe and be converted from sin, even to the end of their lives (CCC 1033).
Heresy - The obstinate denial after Baptism of a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith (CCC 2089).
Holy – From the Greek hagia, set apart: One of the four marks of the Church in the Nicene Creed; to be set apart for God, separate from the world.
Holy Communion – Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Holy Orders - The Sacrament by which the mission entrusted by Christ to his Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church through the laying on of hands. This sacrament has three distinct degrees of “orders”: deacon, priest, and bishop. All three confer a permanent, sacramental character (CCC 1536).
Homily - Preaching by an ordained minister to explain the Scriptures proclaimed in the liturgy and to exhort the people to accept them as the Word of God (CCC 132, 1100, 1349).
Hope - The theological virtue by which we desire and expect from God both eternal life and the grace we need to attain it (CCC 1817).
Host – The bread consecrated in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Humeral Veil - A silk shawl laid round the shoulders serving to cover the hands. It is still worn by the priest in processions of the Blessed Sacrament and at the service of Benediction.
Hypostatic Union - The union of the divine and human natures in the one divine person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (CCC 252, 468).
Immaculate Conception - The dogma proclaimed in Christian Tradition and defined in 1854, that from the first moment of her conception, Mary by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ was preserved from original sin (CCC 491).
Incarnation - The fact that the Son of God assumed human nature and became man in order to accomplish our salvation in that same human nature. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, is both true God and true man, not part God and part man (CCC 461, 464).
Indefectibility – See Matt. 16:18. A gift, a charism, given the earthy Church through the presence of the Spirit whereby the Church is preserved from destruction or total decay until the Second Coming of Christ.
Indifferentism – (religions) A term often used in reference to the view and attitude of those who hold that the differences of belief that separate different religions or sects of Christianity are of no significance
Indulgence - The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to a sin which has already been forgiven. A properly disposed member of the Christian faithful can obtain an indulgence under prescribed conditions through the help of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or plenary if it removes all punishment (CCC 1471).
Inerrancy - The attribute of the books of Scripture whereby they faithfully and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to have confided through the Sacred Scriptures (CCC 107).
Infallibility - The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church whereby the pastors of the Church, the pope and bishops in union with him, cannot definitively proclaim a heretical or incorrect doctrine of faith or morals for the belief of the faithful (CCC 92).
Inquisition - The special court or tribunal appointed by the Catholic Church to discover and suppress heresy and to punish heretics.
Inspiration – The working of the Holy Spirit, specifically in those men responsible for the Old Testament and New Testament.
Intellect – The “thinking” aspect of humans, disembodied souls, and angels. The spiritual power of cognition, knowing reality in a nonmaterial way; the faculty of thinking in a way essentially higher than with the senses and the imagination.
Interdiction - An ecclesiastical penalty barring those punished from certain sacred rites.
Jewish and Protestant Apocrypha - The part of the Greek Septuagint that is not found in the Hebrew Bible, i.e. books or part of books that were not originally written in Hebrew and most often not included in Protestant translations.
Justice - The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor (CCC 1807). See Appendix A.
Justification – The gracious action of God which frees us from sin and communicates “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:22); justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man (CCC 1987-1989).
King James - Name generally used in the U.S. for the Authorized Version of the Bible. The Authorized Version was published under the authority of King James in 1611. While literally beautiful, it is not accepted as a historically correct translation of the Bible by Scripture scholars.
Kyrie/Kyrios - Greek for Lord.
Last Supper - The last meal, a Passover supper, which Jesus ate with his disciples the night before he died. (CCC 610-11, 1329, 1340).
Lay Investiture - The appointing of clergy by lay people; not allowed in the Catholic Church.
Lectionary - The official, liturgical book from which the reader proclaims the Scripture readings used in the Liturgy of the Word (CCC 1154).
Lector - The lector is the person who reads the first and second readings at Mass. Another name for lector is reader.
Lent - The liturgical season of forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Paschal mystery (Easter Triduum). Lent is the primary penitential season of the Church’s liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer and the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert before entering the Promised Land (CCC 540, 1095, 1438).
Liberalism - Until the eighteenth century the term generally meant whatever was worthy of a free man, e.g., as applied to the liberal arts or a liberal education. This meaning is still current, but at least since the French Revolution liberalism has become more or less identified with a philosophy that stresses human freedom to the neglect and even denial of the rights of God in religion, the rights of society in civil law, and the rights of the Church in her relations to the State.
Liturgy of the Eucharist - The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the second main part of the Mass. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist we remember and share in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection through the consecration of bread and wine, whereby they become the Body and Blood of Jesus, and their distribution in communion.
Liturgy of the Word - The Liturgy of the Word is the first main part of the Mass. In the Liturgy of the Word God speaks to us through the readings from the Bible.
Love - The theological virtue by which we choose God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (CCC 1822). See Charity.
Lutheranism - Those Protestants who follow the teaching of Martin Luther.
Maccabees - Late Old Testament books (first and second) classified as deuterocanonical. Derives from Hebrew Maggabath (hammer) a nickname given to Judas Maccabee.
Magisterium - The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give as authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church’s fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals (CCC 85, 890, 2033).
Marks of the Church - The four attributes of the Church mentioned in the Nicene - Constantinopolitan creed: “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” (CCC 811) See Appendix G.
Martyr - A witness to the truth of the faith. A martyr is willing to endure sacrifice and even death to be faithful to Christ. Also, those who die for the faith before having received Baptism may also be considered martyrs. (CCC 1258, 2473)
Mass - The Eucharist or principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. It is called “Mass” (from Latin: missa) because of the “mission” or “sending” with which the liturgical celebration concludes (CCC 1332, 1088, 1382, 2192).
Matrimony(Marriage) – Sacrament consisting of a covenant or partnership of life between a baptized man and baptized woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. (CCC 1601).
Mendicants - Religious orders committed to an evangelical life of poverty. Members are required to work or beg for their living.
Messiah - A Hebrew word meaning “anointed” (CCC 436).
Modesty – A virtue which encourages purity and chastity, in one’s words, actions, dress, and sex (CCC 2521-2522).
Monastery - A place where religious dwell in seclusion.
Monasticism - The way of life, characterized by asceticism and self-denial, followed by religious who live more or less secluded from the world, according to a fixed rule and under vows, in order to praise God through contemplation and apostolic charity.
Monophysitism - The doctrine that Christ has no human nature, only a divine nature. This doctrine was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon.
Monotheism – The belief in the existence of a single God.
Monstrance - The sacred vessel which contains the consecrated Host when exposed in adoration or carried in procession.
Mortal Sin - A grave violation of the law of God that destroys the divine life in the soul of the sinner (sanctifying grace), constituting a turn away from God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will (CCC 1855, 1857).
Mystagogy - A liturgical catechesis which aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ. In a more specific sense, the catechetical period following immediately after the reception of Baptism by adults (CCC 1075).
Mystical Body – The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept. (CCC 779)
Nationalism - Patriotism to the point of conquering and intolerance toward other nations.
Natural Law – (Ex. instinctively distinguishing right from wrong) The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and evil, the truth and the lie; a body of moral principals that can be discovered through nature and do not require divine revelation to understand (CCC1954)
Nepotism – Showing favoritism because of blood or family relationship rather than merit. Applied especially to the conferral of Church offices.
Nestoriansim - A fifth-century heretical doctrine, condemned at the Council of Ephesus, that Christ is two persons, one divine and one human, and that Mary is the mother of the human half of Christ only, not “Mother of God”.
New Testament - The New Testament is the second part of the Bible. It fulfills the Old Testament and tells us about Jesus and the early Church (CCC 124, 128).
Nicene Creed - The profession of faith, common to the churches of East and West, which came from the first two ecumenical councils. (CCC 195-196).
Novena - Nine days of public or private prayer for some special occasion or intention. Its origin goes back to the nine days Mary and the disciples spent together in prayer between Ascension and Pentecost. Over the centuries, many novenas have been highly indulgenced by the Church.
Old Testament - The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible. It tells the story of God’s covenant with the Israelites. (CCC 120-121)
Oral tradition - Talking, singing, and telling stories about God and all God does for us and handing them down from generation to generation. (CCC126)
Ordo - One of several ritual books, published by the Holy See, for the administration of the sacraments or other liturgical offices.
Orthodoxy – Right teaching; Schism of 1054 over these issues including authority of pope, led to creation of Orthodox church.
Pall - (1) The small linen cloth with which the chalice is covered at the Eucharist, stiffened in its modern form by a piece of cardboard. (2) A white cloth which is spread over the coffin at funerals.
Papacy - The supreme jurisdiction and ministry of the Pope as shepherd of the whole Church (CCC 882).
Papal Inquisition - Punishment of heretics necessary to prevent contamination of the faithful
Parables – A characteristic feature of the teaching of Jesus. Parables are simple images or comparisons which confront the hearer or reader with a radical choice about his invitation to enter the Kingdom of God (CCC 546).
Paraclete - A name for the Holy Spirit. The term was used by Jesus in the New Testament to indicate the promised gift of the Spirit as another consoler and advocate, who would continue His own mission among the disciples (CCC 692).
Parousia - The glorious return and appearance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as judge of the living and the dead, at the end of time; the second coming of Christ, when history and all creation will achieve their fulfillment (CCC 1001).
Particular Judgment - The eternal retribution received by each soul at the moment of death in accordance with that person’s faith and works (CCC 1021-1022).
Paschal Sacrifice - Christ’s work of redemption accomplished principally by His Passion, death, Resurrection, and glorious Ascension, whereby “dying He destroyed our death, rising He restored our life” (CCC 1067). The paschal mystery is celebrated and made present in the liturgy of the Church, and its saving effects are communicated through the sacraments (CCC 2076) especially the Eucharist, which renews the paschal sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice offered by the Church (CCC 571, CCC 1362-1372).
Passover - A celebration of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the beginning of Israel as God’s people (CCC 1334-1340).
Paten - The dish, usually gold or silver, on which the bread is placed in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Penance - Interior penance: a conversion of heart toward God and away from sin, which implies the intention to change one’s life because of hope in divine mercy (CCC 1431). External acts of penance include fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (CCC 1434). The observance of certain penitential practices is obliged by the fourth precept of the Church (CCC 2043).
Pentateuch – Greek word, meaning “five scrolls”, given to the first five books of the Old Testament. (CCC 702).
Pentecost - The outpouring of the Spirit gave birth to the Church and the manifestation of the Christian community living and proclaiming the Gospel (CCC 726, 731, 1076). One of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
Pharisees – A party within Judaism in New Testament times composed mostly of laymen, in contrast to the sacerdotal Sadducees; calling themselves haberim, “comrades,” they were organized into societies called haburoth, “brotherhoods,” that were pledged to maintain strict ritual in accordance with the Torah and to keep separate from anyone who would not take similar vows
Plain Chant – A type of unmeasured singing without harmony; sometimes inaccurately called Gregorian chant, but plain chant is a modification of the Gregorian, introduced among the Franks in the ninth century.
Polytheism –The belief in and worship of many gods.
Powers - One of the choirs of angels.
The Praise of Folly - “A stinging attack on corruption in the Church and a passionate plea for reform” written by Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536).
Prayers of the Faithful - The last part of the Liturgy of the Word. During this prayer we pray for ourselves and for people everywhere. Sometimes called the General Intercessions.
Precepts of the Church - Positive laws (sometimes called commandments) made by Church authorities to guarantee for the faithful the indispensable minimum in prayer and moral effort, for the sake of their growth in love of God and neighbor (CCC 2041). See Appendix B.
Presbyter – A priest; the presbyterate is one of the three degrees of the Sacrament of Holy Orders (CCC 1536, 1554); presbyters or priests are coworkers with their bishops and form a unique sacerdotal college or “presbyterium” dedicated to assist their bishops in priestly service to the People of God (CCC 1554, 1562, 1567).
Primacy - First in rank. Applied to the Pope as Bishop of Rome, it is a primacy of jurisdiction, which means the possession of full and supreme teaching, legislative and sacerdotal powers in the Catholic Church (CCC 882).
Principalities – One of the choirs of angels.
Processional Cross - The cross that leads processions. (ex. Funerals, Mass. etc.).
Prodigal - The fault of being wasteful, or recklessly extravagant or spendthrift.
Prophet - One sent by God to form the people of the Old Covenant in the hope of salvation (CCC 702).
Prophetic Books - The longest of the four parts of the Old Testament: Torah, Prophetic, Historical, and Wisdom Writings (CCC 64, 120, 522, 2581).
Providentissimus Deus - An encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII (Nov.18, 1893) urging a deeper study of Sacred Scripture in view of attacks by natural scientists and rationalists.
Prudence - The cardinal virtue which disposes a person to discern the good and choose the correct means to accomplish it. (CCC 1806) See Appendix A
Psalms – A collection of prayers in the form of hymns or poetry (CCC 2585).
Purgative – Stage in spiritual development involving detachment from material world.
Purgatory - A state of final purification after death and before entrance into heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1031, 1472).
Pyx - A small, flat, gold or silver box used to carry the Blessed Sacrament to the sick.
Reconciliation – The Sacrament in which, through God’s mercy and forgiveness, the sinner is reconciled with God and also with the Church, Christ’s Body, which is wounded by sin (CCC 1422, 1442-1445, 1468).
Relativism – As an ism, a classification – an incorrect belief that reality does not contain absolutes, that all truth is dependent upon who believes it: ex. “Abortion may be wrong for you, but that does not make it wrong for me.”
Renaissance – Rebirth in arts, education, and all areas of life. The complex era of transition between Medieval and modern times.
Respect - To feel or show consideration for yourself or someone else.
Revelation – God’s communication of himself, by which he makes known the mystery of His divine plan, a gift of self-communication which is realized by deeds and words over time, and most fully by sending us His divine son, Jesus Christ (CCC 50). See Divine revelation.
Reverence - The gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to show honor and respect to God, people, and all creation.
Ribbed vault – Architectural style in which ribs that support thin stone panels that make up the roof.
Roman Catholic Apocrypha – Deuterocanonical books not found in Hebrew Scriptures but accepted by the Church as inspired: includes Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1-2 Maccabees, and certain additional parts of Daniel and Esther.
Romanesque – A style of architecture that began in the 11th century that incorporates massive vaulting and round (rather than pointed) arches.
Sacrament – An efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit (CCC 131, 774).
Sacramentals - Sacred signs which bear a certain resemblance to the sacraments, and by means of which spiritual effects are signified and obtained through the prayers of the Church (CCC 1667).
Sacred Tradition –Beliefs held by the Catholic Church not necessarily found in Sacred Scripture but handed down by work, custom, example, and oral teaching (CCC 78).
Sacrificial lamb - A symbol of Christ as the innocent lamb sacrificed for our salvation.
Sacrificial love - Total, self-giving love; agape.
Sacrilege – Profanation of or irreverence toward persons, places, and things which are sacred, i.e., dedicated to God, sacrilege against the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is a particularly grave offense against the first commandment.
Sacristan - A minister who is charged with the care of the sacristy, the church, and their contents.
Sadducees – The priestly, aristocratic party in Judaism; the Sadducees arose sometime after the Maccabean rebellion.
Saint - The “holy one” who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. The Church is called the communion of saints, of the holy ones (CCC 823, 946, 828).
Salvation - The forgiveness of sins and restoration of friendship with God, which can be done by God alone (CCC 169).
Sanctification – A second work of grace, distinct from justification, bringing deliverance from sinfulness, or inbred sin.
Sanctity - Personal holiness.
Sanhedrin - A council or senate of Jewish leaders and elders, first attested to during the reign of Anthiochus the Great (223-187 B.C.) as a kind of priestly senate.
Schism - Refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff, or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him (CCC 2089).
Scholasticism – The theology and philosophy of the Middle Ages under the influence of Aristotle and early Christian writers.
Secular - That which belongs to this life, in contrast with the sacred, which pertains to the life to come. (CCC928)
Seraphim - Angels composing the highest choir of the angelic kingdom.
Simony - The buying or selling of spiritual things, which have God alone as their owner and master. (CCC 2121)
Sin - Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God (CCC 1849, 1853, 1854).
Sinai Covenant - Agreement between God and man on Mount Sinai where the Israelites received The Law, including The Ten Commandments.
Sola Fide – Salvation by faith alone (a core teaching of Martin Luther).
Solidarity – Union with the life and wants of the poor.
Steward – caretaker or manager of God’s gifts of time, talent, and treasure.
Stole - A liturgical vestment consisting of a long strip of colored material, worn by a priest or deacon in the exercise of his ministerial duties.
Subsidiarity – Belief in Catholic social teaching that services should be provided by the agency closest to the need.
Summa Theologica - The principal doctrinal synthesis of Catholic theology that applies reason to the understanding of Church dogma and moral precepts, written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74 AD).
Synod – A meeting of bishops of an ecclesiastical province or patriarchate (or even from the whole world, e.g. Synod of Bishops) to discuss the doctrinal and pastoral needs of the Church. A diocesan synod is an assembly of priests and other members of Christ’s faithful who assist the bishop by offering advice about the needs of diocese and by proposing legislation for him to enact (CCC 887, 911). The words “synod” and “council” are sometimes used interchangeably (CCC 900).
Synoptic Gospels - The name used to indicate the first three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke because they share much of the same source materials . From Greek, meaning "seeing together”.
Tabernacle - A special place in a Church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved (CCC 1183, 1379).
Temperance - The cardinal moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasure and provides balance in the use of created good. It ensures the mastery of the will over instinct and keeps natural desires within proper limits (CCC 1809). See Appendix A.
Temple of the Holy Spirit – Another name for the human body because it contains an immortal soul, filled with grace, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 583, 797 2580).
Theological Virtues – Infused gifts given by God and centered on Him (faith, hope, and charity) (CCC 1813). See Appendix A.
Theotokos - A Greek term meaning God-bearer, or Mother of God, a central title for the Virgin Mary.
Thrones - Those angels who compose the lowest choir of the highest angelic order. Along with the Seraphim and Cherubim, they form the court of the Heavenly King.
Torah – Another name for the Pentateuch; the body of Jewish teaching that includes both sacred writings and oral tradition.
Transcendence and Immanence, God’s – Transcendence is a condition attributed to God as beyond the limitations characterizing that which is created and as beyond comprehension by any created mind; Immanence refers to a God that permanently fills the universe.
Transfiguration – The mysterious event in which Jesus, seen speaking with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, was transformed in appearance – in the sight of Peter, James, and John – as a moment of disclosure of His divine glory (CCC 554). One of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
Transubstantiation - The term used to designate the unique change of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. “Transubstantiation” indicates that through the consecration of the bread and the wine there occurs the change of the entire substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the entire substance of the wine into the blood of Christ- even though the appearances or “species” of bread and wine remain (CCC 1376).
Trinity - The mystery of one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC 232, 237, 249, 253-256).
Trope - Musical addition to the Alleluia that is specific to the feast of the day.
Unitive – Highest stage of spiritual development involving closer union of desires, soul, and prayer life with God.
Utopia - Any imaginary state whose inhabitants live under perfect circumstances; ideal commonwealths described by Plato, Bacon, and St. Thomas More in his book Utopia.
Venial Sin - Sin which does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it (CCC 1855). Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent (CCC 1862).
Vestibule - A semi-sacred space in a church where the faithful move from the outside world to the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.
Vestments - The vestments are special clothes the priest, deacon, or bishop wears to celebrate Mass and other sacraments.
Vice - A habit acquired by repeated sin in violation of the proper norms of human morality. The vices are often linked with the seven capital sins. Repentance for sin and confession may restore grace to a soul, but the removal of the ingrained disposition to sin or vice requires much effort and self-denial, until the contrary virtue is acquired (CCC 1866).
Virtue - A habitual and firm disposition to do good. The moral virtues are acquired through human effort aided by God’s grace; the theological virtues are gifts of God. (CCC 1803)
Virtues - Angels who compose the second choir of the second or intermediate order of angels. They are the ones whom God employs for the performance of stupendous works or extraordinary miracles.
Vocation - The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter (CCC 1, 358, 1700, 825, 898, 873, 931).
Works of Mercy, Corporal and Spiritual- charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily needs (CCC 2447). See Appendix D.
Yahweh - The name of God revealed to Moses from the burning bush (CCC 205).
Zealots – Those “zealous” for God and his Law
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