What do Catholic Christians believe?
Becoming a Catholic
People wishing to discover more about Catholicism can address themselves to a Catholic priest, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, visit the Vatican website, etc. Below, you will find the two Creeds of the Church: the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, which set out the principle beliefs of Catholics.
There are four subsections:
a brief outline about the Christian view of God,
a brief outline about the Catholic Church,
a brief introduction to the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church,
additional information about the mass (the principal sacrament).
Catholics are first and foremost, Christians. We believe that God revealed Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ (which is where the name Christians derives from). However God has also revealed Himself to be a Trinity of Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The mystery of the Trinity may well be unfathomable and is certainly difficult to explain. God is three persons, but there is only one God.
When God acts upon creation, all three Persons of the Trinity are understood to have acted, but the Church understands that certain effects of the action remind us more of one divine Person than another and so the Church ascribes particular effects to each divine Person.
We therefore speak of the Father as Creator, of the Son, the Word of God, as our Saviour or Redeemer, and of the Holy Spirit, who is the love of God, as our Sanctifier.
The Catholic Church
The Church is founded on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. During His lifetime, Jesus Christ gathered many followers to Him.
In particular, He chose an inner circle of twelve disciples, called the apostles. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the twelve apostles. Catholics believe that the apostles (and their successors, the bishops of the Church) were given their authority by Jesus (Matthew 18: 18).
The founding of the Church was completed with the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
The Seven Sacraments of the Church
The Catholic life is nourished by prayer and the sacraments. The sacraments celebrate the triumph of Christ over sin, death and the world, through His passion, death and resurrection.
Christ’s resurrection is a triumph over death which is shared by all Christians and gives our lives new meaning.
The relationship between God and us is personalised in Christ. It is through Christ that God speaks to us. The Church sees its sacramental ministry as the continuation of Christ’s ministry.
Although God is always present, sacraments are special times at which we know the way in which God is present.
Christ laid hands on the sick, so does the Church, both the physically sick (Anointing of the Sick) and the spiritually ‘sick’ who feel the need to reconcile with God (Reconciliation). Both of these sacraments are prominent in Lourdes.
The three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are known as the sacraments of initiation as they bring us into the Christian life.
When adults are baptised in the Catholic Church they receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist at the same time (normally the Easter Vigil).
The sacrament which incorporates us into the Body of Christ, the Church, it is the sacrament of new life. Through baptism we are made one with the risen Lord and enter into His risen life (Romans 6:4) Baptism can never be repeated because it binds a person to God forever. It is possible to lose one’s faith, but not one’s baptism. Baptism binds one to God and to all other baptised persons.
The sacrament by which a baptised person receives the seal of the Holy Spirit. God gives them the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). The deepened presence of the Holy Spirit, given to one through this sacrament is intended to sustain us in a life of adult Christian witness and service to others.
This sacrament is the centre of our relationship with God. It is the source from which all the other sacraments derive their power; but equally all the other sacraments are orientated towards it. The Eucharist is both sacrifice and sacrament. It unites one with God and sends us forth to proclaim the Good News. As the third of the sacraments of initiation its role is to remind us of Christ’s promise that we shall share in His glory in heaven (John 6:54-56). Through the Eucharist we share in Christ’s death and in His resurrection.
Marriage is the sacrament which seals a man and a woman’s vocation to live together. The Church believes that the love of a married couple, reflects the love of Christ. The relationship between Christ and His Church is referred to as marriage (Ephesians 5:32).
This sacrament is conferred upon the men who exercise the priestly role of Christ within the Church. It has three degrees: episcopate (bishops), presbyterate (priests) and diaconate (deacons). Normally in the Latin Catholic Church, Holy Orders are only conferred upon celibate men, although permanent deacons may be married men.
Bishops posses the fullness of this sacrament. They are ordained bishops by other bishops. Bishops are the successors of the apostles and this unbroken chain of ordination is known as the apostolic succession. They are the shepherds of their flock and the head of the particular Church (diocese) entrusted to them. They administer the sacraments of the Church. Collectively, all the bishops as successors of the apostles are responsible for the apostolic mission of the whole Church.
Priests share in all aspects of a bishop’s ministry except ordination. They exercise their ministry in communion with their bishop and are dependent on him.
Deacons can be of two types. The diaconate is conferred by the bishop as the first stage in ordination for those men who go on to the priesthood. However since the Second Vatican Council the order of deacon has been revived and men may be ordained as permanent deacons. These men will not normally go on to be ordained as priests. Deacons assist priests and bishops, they cannot celebrate the Eucharist or the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick.
Reconciliation (often known as Confession)
In this sacrament a baptised Catholic who has sinned receives God’s healing forgiveness and is reconciled with the Church community. This sacrament is intended to heal the sinner and the Church both of whom suffer when sin is committed. Jesus tells us of the joy that this brings (Luke 15:10).
Anointing of the Sick (which was known as the Last Rites)
The purpose of this sacrament is the restoration of health, but it is often given to people in danger of death (hence the old term of the Last Rites). The sacrament of the anointing of the sick helps a person who is ill to share more fully in the cross of Christ and so prepare them to share more fully in Christ’s Resurrection. The purpose of the sacrament is to heal a sick person physically and spiritually (James 5:14-15).
The Mass, as the sacrament of the Eucharist is most commonly known, is the most important of the seven sacraments.
The Mass is a commemoration of Christ’s death on the cross for us. It is the sacred action by which God gives Himself to us, and through which we give glory to Him through our brother and Lord, Jesus Christ. When we celebrate the Eucharist we call effectively into our lives the presence of Christ’s body and blood, which alone reconciles us to the Father. At Christ’s command we celebrate the memory of what He did for us. We thank Him for His sacrifice and we joyfully celebrate the Eucharist whilst we wait for Him to come again in glory. In the Eucharist we, the Church, the Body of Christ, share with God and with one another in a unique way. It sanctifies us, unites us to God, and sends us out to proclaim Christ’s saving power to the world. The Eucharist is also the pledge that we share not only in Christ’s death but also in His resurrection.
In one action it telescopes all time, past, present and future: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
The structure and texts for mass can be found in missels, etc, below is a very brief outline:
The Order of Mass:
Penitential Rite or Rite of Sprinkling
Liturgy of the Word
Allelulia or Gospel Acclamation
Profession of Faith (Creed)
Prayer of the Faithful
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Preparation of the Altar and Gifts
Procession with Gifts
Prayer over the Gifts
The Eucharistic Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer
The Rite of Peace
Breaking of Bread (and the Lamb of God)
Preparation for Communion
Invitation to Communion
Prayer after Communion