Introduction to the Catholic Faith

The Catholic religion was established by the Apostles of Jesus Christ in the Mediterranean region during the first century  The word "Catholic" (which means "embracing" or "universal") was first used to refer to the early Christian church by the bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch in the 1st century.

Catholic Religion

  • Catholicism is a Christian religion, a reformation of the Jewish faith that follows the teachings of its founder Jesus Christ.

  • Like other Christian religions as well as Judaism and Islam, it is also an Abrahamic religion, and Catholics consider Abraham as the ancient patriarch. 

  • The current head of the church is the Pope, who resides in Vatican City. 

  • There are 2.2 billion Catholics in the world today, 40 percent of whom live in Latin America. 

 

 

What Catholics Believe

Catholics believe that there is only one God but has three aspects, known as the Trinity.

The Supreme Being is the creator, called God or God the Father, who resides in heaven and watches over and guides everything on earth. He is known as the lord of heaven and earth, and referred to as almighty, eternal, and infinite in understanding, will, and perfection.

The Holy Trinity is made up of

  • God the Father, who has no origin and holds the sole power of creation;

  • God the Son (Jesus Christ), who shares the wisdom of the Father; and the

  • God the Holy Spirit, which is the personification of goodness and sanctity, arising from both the Father and Son.

The Founder of the Catholic Church was  Jesus Christ who lived and preached in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Catholics believe he was the "Messiah," the son aspect of the Trinity, who was sent to Earth and born to redeem those who sin. Important religious events which are said to have occurred in the life of Christ are a virgin birth, miracles he performed during his life, martyrdom by crucifixion, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven.

Significant Historical Figures

None of the individuals named in the Catholic religion as significant or sanctified figures have powers of creation, and as such, they are not to be worshiped, but they can be appealed to for intercession in prayers.

Mary was the mother of Jesus, a resident of Bethlehem and Nazareth. She was told by an archangel that she would give birth to Christ as a virgin, and would remain a virgin after the birth. On her death, her body went through the process known as "the assumption," becoming the Queen of Heaven.

The Apostles were the original 12 disciples of Christ: led by Peter, a Galilean fisherman who might have been a follower of John the Baptist first. The others are Andrew, James the Greater, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the Lesser, Jude, Simon, and Judas. After Judas committed suicide, he was replaced by Matthias.

Saints are people who lived an exceptionally holy life, including many martyrs from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, and afterward, are said to reside eternally with God in heaven.

The Pope is the supreme pastor for the Catholic church. The first pope was the apostle Peter, followed by Clement of Rome around the year 96.

Written Records and Authorities

The main religious document of the Catholic religion is the Bible, which Catholics believe to be the inspired word of God. The text includes the Old Testament of the Hebrew religion plus the canonical books of the New Testament as they were established in the 4th century AD. 

Commandments of the Church

The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbour.
 
The first three concern love of God, and the other seven love of neighbour.

 

2067 As charity comprises the two commandments to which the Lord related the whole Law and the prophets . . . so the Ten Commandments were themselves given on two tablets. Three were written on one tablet and seven on the other.

2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments." 

  1. I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

  5. Honour thy father and thy mother.

  6. Thou shalt not kill.

  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

  8. Thou shalt not steal.

  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods.

 

In addition, there are six chief commandments of the Catholic church. A Catholic adhering to the laws of the church must:

  1. Attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.

  2. Fast and abstain on appointed days.

  3. Confess sins once a year.

  4. Receive Holy Communion at Easter.

  5. Contribute to the support of the church.

  6. Observe the laws of the church concerning marriage.

 

 

Sacraments

The seven sacraments of the Catholic Church are

  • baptism;

  • confirmation;

  • Eucharist;

  • penance or reconciliation;

  • anointing of the sick;

  • holy orders for ordained ministers (bishops, priests, and deacons); and

  • marriage.

Prayer is an important aspect of Catholic life and there are five types of prayer performed by Catholics:

 

  • blessing,

  • petition,

  • intercession,

  • thanksgiving,

  • and praise.

 

Prayers may be directed to God or to the Saints, either individually or as a litany.

The Afterlife

Catholics believe that when a person dies, the soul lives on. Each soul faces a "particular judgment," that is to say, God determines whether she or he has lived a good life and where she or he should spend eternity. If a person has learned to perfectly love God, her soul will go straight to heaven to enjoy endless happiness. If a person loves God imperfectly, her soul will go to Purgatory, where she will be purified before (eventually) going to heaven. If a person has rejected God's love or commits a mortal sin and dies before repenting, he is condemned to the everlasting torments of hell.

Some doctrines state that there is a fourth state called "limbo" where resides a soul who has not been baptised but has not committed any personal sin.

End Times

The Catholic church believes that Christ will return to earth to save it again, announced by signs such as famine, pestilence, natural disasters, false prophets, wars, the renewed persecution of the church, and the fading of faith. The world will end with a revolt of Satan and his demons ("The Great Apostasy"), a time of great sorrows ("The Great Tribulation"), and the appearance of an Anti-Christ, who will deceive men into believing he is a man of peace and justice.

When Christ returns, the bodies of the dead will be resurrected and reunited with their souls, and Christ will make a final judgment on them. Satan and his Demons and sinning humans will be thrown into Hell; people who belong in Heaven will go there.

Feasts and Holy Days

From the earliest days of the Church, Easter has been considered the central Christian feast. Easter's date is calculated based on the phases of the moon and the spring equinox. Although there are no special rites other than going to church performed on Easter in the west, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church will often recite the Homily of St. John Chrysostom as well.

 

Prior to Easter day is a 40-day period known as Lent, which has several important days and rites.

Next in importance are the festivals at Christmas, including Advent, the 40 days before the celebrated date for the birth of Jesus Christ, as well as events afterward.

Coming 50 days after Easter and 10 days after the Ascension,

 

Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. For that reason, it is often called the "the birthday of the Church."

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