Catholic Beliefs

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND THE ORIGINAL CHURCH ESTABLISHED BY JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES DATING BACK ALMOST 2000 YEARS. DURING THIS PERIOD THE CHURCH HAS SEEN BOTH PEACEFUL AND TURBULENT TIMES ALONG WITH CONSIDERABLE CHANGE. THE CHURCH IS FOCUSED AROUND GOD AND SCRIPTURE ALONG WITH BEING RICH IN TRADITION. THIS PAGE WILL HELP PROVIDE A BASIC OVERVIEW OF THE CHURCH.

THE LAST SUPPER:
The Catholic (which means universal) Church places a high emphasis on the importance of the “Eucharist”. This is the celebration of the “Last Supper” with bread and wine as Jesus taught us to do in memory of him. Celebrating the “Eucharist is also called “communion”. Catholics are expected to celebrate communion at least once a year, but most do so on a weekly basis.

SACRAMENTS:
Celebration of the “Sacraments” is a key component of Catholicism. Sacraments are considered to be an outward sign of God’s love and grace and are as follows:
1. Baptism
2. Confirmation
3. The Holy Eucharist
4. Penance
5. Holy Orders
6. Matrimony
7. Anointing of the Sick

MASS:
Most present-day services (Masses) are in English and include the following:
– Opening prayer
– Three separate readings from the Bible
– Homily (sermon or talk by the priest) that relates to the readings or some aspect of our lives as Christians
– Christian music and hymns
– Prayers for those who are sick and special needs
– Miscellaneous prayers
– Profession of faith (statement of commitment to God and the Church)
– Collection of money donations
– The Lord’s Prayer
– Communion (celebration of the Last Supper)
– Closing prayer
Most Catholic churches have Saturday night and Sunday morning masses. Some also offer a daily mass. Children’s religious education classes are on Wednesday nights. Confessions are on Saturday afternoon.

PRAYER:
When Catholics make the sign of the cross it symbolizes the trinity and prayer in Jesus name. Some Catholics use rosaries (beads) to help them pray memorized prayers. Each bead stands for a specific prayer to be said. Catholics do not pray to statues. Some people may pray to God in front of a sculpture or painting that is biblically-oriented for inspiration. Some Catholics will pray to a saint or specific person in Heaven to assist with a specific need but in general most Catholics pray directly to God. Prayer groups are common in the church.

THE BIBLE:
Catholics believe the Bible is the story of man’s salvation which culminated in the coming of Jesus Christ. It is a book of past, present, and future history. The Bible is God’s word to man. At least three passages from the Bible are read during each mass.
Most Catholic parishes have bible study classes. These classes are common in most parishes with a variety of individual, family, and group programs available.

SALVATION:
John 3:16 which says whoever believes in Jesus will will have everlasting life. This belief is backed up and maintained by ongoing works throughout life.

TRADITION:
Over the years tradition has played an important role in the church. Much of the tradition that is celebrated or observed was not mandated by the Bible. Tradition was established over time. Tradition is used and enjoyed by most in the church as a way to assist us and help us better understand scripture and the life of Jesus. The Liturgical year which Catholics observe over the normal course of a year reviews through the life of Jesus. The liturgical year is a good example of tradition and is as follows:
• ADVENT – Expectation and preparation for the coming of Christ. The priest wears purple signifying hope in turning towards Jesus.
• CHRISTMAS – Acknowledgment of Christ coming into the world including “Epiphany” on January 6th which is the manifestation of God’s love to everyone. The priest wears white signifying joy as God has come among us in Jesus.
• LENT – A season entering into the death of Christ and surrendering ourselves to the Father. This begins “Ash Wednesday” through “Holy Thursday” and is forty days long. The priest wears violet symbolizing our need for penance and conversion.
• HOLY WEEK / EASTER TRITIUM – Celebration of the last days through new life including Palm Sunday which commemorates the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and foreshadowing his own death. The priest wears red signifying strength of the spirit of fire with life shedding of blood.
• EASTER SEASON – This is a fifty day feast celebrating new life made possible in Jesus. Included is “Ascension Thursday” remembering Christ’s return to the Father and sharing his work with his followers. “Pentecost” ends this season with Christ sending the Holy Spirit to his followers to proclaim the good news. The priest wears white signifying new life.
• ORDINARY TIME – This period unfolds the mystery of Christ’s life by recalling the events of his three year public ministry. The priest wears green signifying continual life and growth in the church.
The priest wears black at funerals symbolizing death.

THE VATICAN & CHANGE:
Jesus said, “You have to change with the times” and many positive changes are taking place in the church today. Any official changes come from the church’s primarily conservative leadership in Rome (the Vatican). Leadership on a regional level is called an archdiocese and is run by a cardinal or bishop (high priest) under the supervision of the Vatican. On the local level a priest is in charge under the supervision of the archdiocese with the assistance of a parish council elected by parishioners in that individual church. The Pope is the church leader and a ordinary man. He is very much admired, listened to, and will profess church doctrine and views. The Pope is not a prophet and does not have supernatural powers but as leader of the largest Christian church in the world does have considerable influence. When he talks a lot of people listen. There are a number of issues currently being discussed within the church including whether or not to allow priests / nuns to marry, interfaith communion with other Christian denominations, and some birth control issues.

PROPHECY AND MIRACLES:
There is a wide variety of viewpoints in the Catholic church regarding miracles and prophecy. The church does not generally jump to definite conclusions on many of these issues. Interpretation is often left to faith and the thoughts of the individual person.

MONEY:
Catholics are not required to tithe. The amount of money given to the church is left up to each individual parishioner. The church and individual parishes regularly publish how much money is collected along with where is is to be spent.

PRIESTS AND NUNS:
Typically a priest will manage an individual parish. Priests are responsible for the overall daily operation of the church they are assigned to including masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals, hearing confessions, personal / family counseling, etc. Nuns often function as teachers and usually are busy running outreach, charity, prayer, and community service programs. Priests and Nuns are full time and take vows to dedicate their life to the church and being a servant of God.

CHARITIES AND MINISTRY:
The Catholic Church donates a significant percentage of money collected for various charities including feeding / helping / medical assistance for the poor, disaster relief, education, and spreading the word of God throughout the world.

OTHER:
Catholics believe in the “Trinity” (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one). Catholics are free to attend any particular parish and mass that they wish to. Many parishes have schools ranging from elementary level through high school. There are also Catholic colleges and universities throughout the world. Catholics in general have strong feelings against abortion and euthanasia and have been politically active in recent years with regards to these issues.

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