Abbey - A large or important monastery, usually Benedictine or Cistercian.  Most abbey buildings are constructed around a quadrangle and include a novitiate, guest house, choir, conference room, infirmary, kitchen, refectory, cells, dormitory, oratory for prayer, almonry for alms distribution, cellars for storage, calefactory (warming room), locutory (parlor), and a chapter house (for meetings with the superior).


In most abbeys, the monks or nuns sleep in individual rooms, called cells, in the main building.  The cell occupied by a monk or nun is small and plain, having only a single bed, a chest of drawers, a desk and chair, a clothes closet, and some bookshelves.  Carthusian abbeys, however, provide individual cottages.


If occupied by monks the abbey is ruled by an abbot.  If by nuns, ruled by an abbess.


Each abbey is under the jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop.  A very few exceptions still exist. 


Ablution Cup - covered dish of water on the side of the tabernacle which is used by the priest, deacon or extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to wash their fingers after distributing Communion.


Absolution - The act by which a priest, acting as an agent of Christ, grants forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


Acolyte - Person who assists in the celebration of Mass.


Act of Contrition - The Act of Contrition is usually associated with the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, but Catholics should also pray it every day as part of their normal prayer life.  In it, we acknowledge our sins, ask God for forgiveness, and express our desire to repent.


Actual Grace – God’s temporary enlightenment of our mind or strengthening of our will to perform supernatural actions that help us obtain, retain, or grow in sanctifying grace.


For example, God may give us actual grace that strengthens our will to go to Daily Mass.  If we do go, our attendance and reception of the Holy Eucharist strengthens our sanctifying grace.


Actual grace with which we freely consent to cooperate is called efficacious grace, because it accomplishes God’s purpose in granting it.  Actual grace to which we freely refuse consent is called sufficient grace, because it would have been sufficient to accomplish God’s purpose.  Our decision to cooperate or not cooperate belongs to the will (CCC 2000, 2024)


Adoration - Adoration is the recognition of God’s supreme perfection, His dominion over man, and our complete dependence on Him.

Adoration is an act of the intellect and also of the will.  Catholics most often express adoration through Adoration of the Holy Eucharist, by which we acknowledge that Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament.


Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - Prayer to Christ, who is recognized as being truly present in the Sacrament of Eucharist.


Advent - The beginning of the Church Year and the four weeks leading up to and concluding with Christmas (the entire Christmas season).


Alb - A long, white garment that can be used by all liturgical ministers; it is a reminder of the baptismal garment worn when the new Christian "puts on Christ."


Alleluia Acclamation - This acclamation of praise follows the second reading and prepares the assembly for the Gospel.


Altar - A freestanding structure that serves as the main focal point of the congregation.  It is the table where Eucharistic elements are consecrated and is the center of worship.


Ambo - (Also may be referred to as pulpit) a place from where scriptures are proclaimed and homilies may be preached.  It is a main focal point of the church and a lector stands at or behind it when reading aloud.


Ambry - A recess that holds holy oils that are blessed and consecrated at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week.


Amen - The word "Amen" found in prayers is a Hebrew word meaning firm and faithful.  The literal translation is "so be it" and is used where one person confirms the words of another, and adds his wish for success to the other's vows and predictions.


Angels - The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the existence of angels is "a truth of faith" known in both Scripture and Tradition (328).

The ancient definition of "angel" is a mighty, concentrated personality standing in God's presence, ready to do his bidding instantly.

Jesus famously speaks of what we take to be the guardian angels of children.  He says the angels of these child always look on the face of God (see Matthew 18:10).  Angels took care of Jesus (see Matthew 4:2).

The Church understands angels to be spirits.  Angel means "messenger," and angels are servants of God.

Different classes of angels are mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Ephesians 1:21 and 3:10, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 11:16).  We speak of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel as archangels, because the jobs God game them to do were so important.

The Church holds that Satan is a fallen angel (CCC 391).  Jesus tells us Satan "was a murdered from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:44)


Annunciation - The Annunciation of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the pronouncement by the archangel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.


Anointing - Anointing 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.


Apocryphal - Protestants use the word "apocrypha," in a narrow sense, of those books that they exclude from their canon of Scripture, but that other Churches view as canonical and venerate as divinely inspired, written under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Using the word apocrypha (Greek: hidden away) to describe texts, although not necessarily pejorative, implies to some people that the writings in question should not be included in the Bible.


Apologetics - The science that defends the Catholic faith by showing its truth and consistency with reason.

 “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)

The ordinary use of the word apology has no relation to Catholic apologetics.  We do not “apologize” for being Catholic.


Apostle - "One sent."  The apostles were the disciples Jesus chose to be the first leaders of his followers.  Jesus chose to be the first leaders of his followers.  Jesus sent the apostles forth to preach, to baptize, and to make disciples of all people.


- Simon - Jesus renamed him Peter
- Andrew
- James the Greater
- John
- Philip
- Bartholomew
- Thomas
- Matthew
- James
- Thaddeus
- Simon the Zealot
- Judas Iscariot
- Matthias - was chosen to fill the place of Judas


Apostolic - Refers to the 12 apostles.  It also characterizes certain documents, appointments or structures initiated by the Pope or the Holy See.


Archbishop - A bishop of a main or metropolitan diocese in an ecclesiastical province. 


Archdiocese - The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province.


Ascension – The Ascension is the return of Jesus to his Father in heaven to live with him in glory.


Assembly - The people who gather to celebrate the Mass are called the assembly.


Ash Wednesday - Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent.  Ashes are placed on our foreheads as a sign of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, and as a reminder of our need to repent.


Aspergilium - A container used for sprinkling holy water.


Assembly - Those gathered to celebrate the liturgy.


Associate Priest - A priest who assists the Parish Priest in the pastoral care of a parish or parishes.


Auxiliary Bishop - A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese, to assist a residential bishop.


Back to Top



Baptism - One of the Seven Sacraments of the Christian Church; frequently called the "first sacrament," the "door of the sacraments," and the "door of the Church;" for by it we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church. 


The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin.  As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin, they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.


Baptismal Font - A receptacle for water that is used in the sacrament of baptism.


Baptismal Name - The name that a person receives at baptism. It is prescribed by the Church's newest ritual, as when the celebrant asks the parents or sponsors at infant baptism, "What name do you wish to give the infant?" According to the Church's tradition, the baptismal name "should be taken from some person whose eminent sanctity has given him a place in the catalogue of the saints. The similarity of name will stimulate each one to imitate the virtues and holiness of the Saint and, moreover, to hope and pray that the one who is the model for one's imitation will also be his advocate and watch over the safety of his body and soul" (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Baptism).


Basilica - A basilica was an early form of church building used for Christian worship.  This was especially the case in the western part of the Roman Empire after the time of Constantine (fourth century).


Today, basilica is an honorary title given to certain churches by the pope.  Rome has four major basilicas:  St. John Lateran (the pope's cathedral church), St. Peter's at the Vatican, St. Paul's Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major.  In addition, a number of churches in Rome and throughout the world are designated as minor basilicas.


Beatification - The last official step leading to the canonization of a new saint. 


Beatitudes - The solemn blessings which mark the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, the very first of Our Lord's sermons in the Gospel of St.  Matthew (5:3-10). 


Four of them occur again in a slightly different form in the Gospel of St. Luke (6:22), likewise at the beginning of a sermon, and running parallel to Matthew
5-7, if not another version of the same.  And here they are illustrated by the opposition of the four curses (24-26). 


The fuller account and the more prominent place given the Beatitudes in St.  Matthew are quite in accordance with the scope and the tendency of the First Gospel, in which the spiritual character of the Messianic kingdom -- the paramount idea of the Beatitudes -- is consistently put forward, in sharp contrast with Jewish prejudices.  The very peculiar form in which Our Lord proposed His blessings make them, perhaps, the only example of His sayings that may be styled poetical -- the parallelism of thought and expression, which is the most striking feature of Biblical poetry, being unmistakably clear. 


The text of St.  Matthew runs as follows:


- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Verse 3)

- Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land.  (Verse 4)

- Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.  (Verse 5)

- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.  (Verse 6)

- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  (Verse 7)

- Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.  (Verse 8)

- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  (Verse 9)

- Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Verse 10)


Benediction Veil - Also called the humeral veil; a long, narrow shawl-like vestment used at Benediction.


Bible - Sacred Scripture: the books which contain the truth of God's Revelation and were composed by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit (105).  The Bible contains both the forty-six books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (120).  See Old Testament; New Testament.


Bishop - A bishop, by divine institution, carries on the work of the apostles.  By reason of episcopal consecration, he shares in the three-fold apostolic function of teacher of doctrine, priest of sacred worship, and minister of church government.  Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their districts/dioceses.  In addition, bishops have a responsibility to act in council to guide the Church. 


Blessed - Beatified; proclaimed one of the blessed and thus worthy of veneration


Blessed Sacrament - The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, either at Mass or reserved in a special place in the Church.


Book of the Gospels - Contains only the Gospel readings; used on solemn occasions and is carried by the deacon, or in his absence, the reader.


Brazier - A metal pan used to hold incense.


Breaking of the Bread - The celebrant recreates the gestures of Christ at the Last Supper when he broke the bread to give to his disciples.  This action signifies that in communion, the many are made one in the one Bread of Life which is Christ.


Brother - A man dedicated to teaching, hospital work or contemplation; takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but does not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.


Burse - A square container for holding the corporal. It is selected for the liturgical color of the day. Used corporals should always be placed in the proper container for sacred cloths after Mass.


Back to Top




Candlemas - Candlemas falls on February 2, forty days after Christmas.  It's a popular name for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which recalls the day Mary and Joseph presented their child to God in the temple at Jerusalem in accordance with the law of Moses.


In 1997, Pope John Paul II added an extra layer of meaning to Candlemas by proclaiming the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord to also be the annual World Day for Consecrated Life.  Now many religious brothers, sister, and priests mark the day as a moment for renewing their vows of religious consecration and celebrating their special vocation within the Church.


Canon - Greek for rule, norm, standard, measure.  Designates the Canon of Sacred Scripture, the list of books recognized by the Church as inspired by the Holy Spirit.


Canon Law - Law enacted and promulgated by the Pope for the orderly pastoral administration and government of the Church.  The revised Code, effective November 27, 1983, consists of 1,752 canons in seven books.


Canonization - An act by which the Church declares some deceased person to be a saint, inscribing that person in the canon, or list, of recognized saints.


Cantor - Person who leads the singing during the liturgy.


Capital Vices - Capital vices also known as the Seven Deadly Sins are as follows:  pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust.  These vices can lead a person to more serious occasions of sin (grave or serious matter) such as murder (including abortion), adultery, fornication and apostasy (a total repudiation of Christian faith by one who was baptized or received into the Catholic Church).     


Capital Virtues - The seven capital virtues oppose the seven capital sins.


They are called capital because all the virtues we strive to practice are said to flow from these seven capital virtues.


The capital virtues are distinguished from the cardinal virtues.


Cardinal - An honorary title given to priests or bishops because of their important positions in the Church; Cardinals elect the new Pope.


Cassock (KASS-uhk) - A long, black garment worn by altar servers under the surplice; also worn by diocesan priests (black); monsignors (rose); bishops (violet), cardinals (red), and the Pope (white).


Catechesis (cat-UH-key-sis) - Religious instruction and formation for persons preparing for baptism and for the faithful in various stages of spiritual development.  Catechesis is an elementary form of religious instruction, typically oral, and traditionally under the guidance of a parent, pastor or priest, religious teacher, or other individuals in church roles (including a deacon, religious brother or sister, or nun) who poses set questions and prompts students (or disciples) toward understanding the answers given.


Catechetical (cat-uh-KIT-uh-kal) - Referring to catechesis.


Catechetics (cat-uh-KIT-iks) - From the Greek meaning "to sound forth," as is the procedure for teaching religion.


Catechism - Catechism is a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present.


Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, or CCC, is an official exposition of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, first published in French in 1992 with the authorization of Pope John Paul II To correspond exactly with the official text in Latin which appeared in 1997, five years later, the French text was then amended at a few points.  It has been translated into many other languages, including English, and became an instant best-seller in each. 


Catechist - One who engages in such religious instruction.


Catechumenate - "Catechumen," in the early Church, was the name applied to one who had not yet been initiated into the sacred mysteries, but was undergoing a course of preparation for that purpose.


It is the responsibility of the conference of bishops to issue statutes by which the catechumenate is regulated; these statutes are to determine what things are to be expected of catechumens and define what prerogatives are recognized as theirs (Canon 788§3)


Cathedra - The archbishop's chair.  It is the symbol of his role of chief teacher and pastor of the local church.  The word is Greek and means chair.  The word cathedral comes from cathedra, meaning, literally, chair of the bishop.


Cathedral - A cathedral is the bishop's church and the chief church of a diocese or archdiocese.  The name takes its origin from cathedra, the "bishop's chair."  The bishops of old delivered their homilies from the bishop's chair in the cathedral.


Celebrant - The person who presides over the assembly and consecrates the Eucharist.


Chalice (CHAL-is) - A cup of precious metal that holds the wine which becomes the Blood of Jesus after the consecration. All chalices should be placed in their places after Mass. If the chalices were left unpurified by the priest or deacon for some reason, they should be left out on the presentation table for purification by the priest or deacon. Never put an unpurified chalice away.


Chalice Veil (peplum) - A cloth covering used to hide the chalice and paten up to the offertory and after Communion. It is selected by the liturgical color for the service.


Charism - Charism is the Greek word used in the New Testament for "favor" or "gratuitous gift."  Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to be powerful channels of God's love and redeeming presence in the world.  Whether extraordinary or ordinary, charisms are to be used in charity or service to build up the Church (CCC 2003). 


Charity - Charity is the traditional Christian word for love, and an Act of Charity is an expression of our unselfish love for God.  While such a prayer can be as simple as "O God, I love You," the following longer prayer is a traditional version of an Act of Charity.


Chasuble (CHAZ-uh-buhl) - The sleeveless outer garment, slipped over the head, hanging down from the shoulder covering the alb and stole of the priest; it is the proper Mass vestment for the main celebrant and its color varies according to the feast. 


Green - worn during "Ordinary Time." Ordinary does not mean ordinary in the sense of common or normal.  Ordinary means counting, as in the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 


Red - worn on Passion (Palm) Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, and on the Feast Days of Martyrs, including the Apostles and Evangelists. 


White - worn during the Christmas and Easter seasons and celebration of Mary, the Angels, the Saints who were not martyrs, All Saints, Birth of John the Baptist, Chair of Peter, Conversion of Paul, and St.  John the Evangelist. 


Violet - worn during Advent and Lent


Rose - worn on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) and the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday). 


Chrism - A specially perfumed olive oil that is consecrated for use at the baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.  Chrism also is used to anoint altars and walls during church or cathedral dedications.  This is only time the consecrated oil is not used on a human being.


Chrism Mass - The Mass celebrated during Holy Week, if possible on Holy Thursday morning, by the bishop of a diocese who consecrates the sacred Chrism and other oils that will be used at liturgies in every church of the diocese throughout the year.


Church – The Church is the community of people who belong to Jesus Christ.  The Church is the People of God, the Body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.


Later the term was used for the building where Christian believers gathered for worship, especially to celebrate the Eucharist.  Church is the general term used to designate a building where Christians gather for worship.


Ciborium (si-BORE-ee-um) - A vessel used to hold the Hosts which will be used for communion; some are cup-like and others are bowl/plate like; they are also used to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.


Cincture (SINGK-sure) - A long cord used for fastening some albs at the waist; it holds the loose-fitting type of alb in place and is used to adjust it to the proper length; it is usually white, although the liturgical color of the day may be used.


College of Cardinals - Among the College of Bishops, it has been a longstanding tradition of the Church, to raise certain bishops and archbishops to the College of Cardinals. The Cardinals have traditionally been seen as the "Princes of the Church."  Because of their special devotion and holiness, they are called to assist the Holy Father in the governance of the Church. Most Cardinals are either Archbishops of the largest dioceses in their countries or regions, or the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia (the Pope's Ministers of State).


The Cardinals elect a new Pontiff when the See of Peter is vacant. To them belongs this honor and responsibility.


Communion Cups - Chalice-like vessels used at communion when the people receive from the cup; they are kept on the Credence Table and brought to the Altar at communion time.


Community of Saints - Saints are the spiritual leaders and role models of the Catholic community, those who have lived a life of great piety and sacrifice and set a shining example of pure and immaculate spirits. The first saints were martyrs — those who died for their faith.  The communion of saints is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead, those on earth, in heaven.  They are all part of a single "mystical body," with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.


Concelebrants - The priests and bishops who join the celebrant in celebrating the Mass.


Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) - Many believe CCD states for Catholic Christian Doctrine but this is incorrect. 


The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine is commonly referred to by its abbreviation, CCD, or "Catechism," and provides religious education to Catholic children attending secular schools. 


CCD attendance is considered by Vatican officials to be vital to children’s development as Catholics.  These classes not only educate children about Jesus and the Catholic faith but prepare children to receive the sacraments of reconciliation (confession), holy communion, and confirmation.


The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine also owns the copyright on the New American Bible translation, the translation most commonly used in US Catholic churches.


Confession - Part of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, not the term for the sacrament itself.


(Sacrament of) Confirmation - One of the seven sacraments of the Catholic church.  Along with Baptism and the Eucharist, it comprises one of the Sacraments of Initiation. 


The sacrament by which, through the laying on of hands, anointing with chrism, and prayer, a baptized person is strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that he can steadfastly profess the Catholic faith.


Confirmation is a sacrament through which we receive the Holy Spirit to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.  Confirmation brings an increase in the grace given at Baptism.  It makes an indelible spiritual mark, which is characterized by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Confirmation also strengthens the Christian so he or she can profess their faith openly.


Confirmation, like Baptism and Holy Orders, places an indelible character or mark on the human soul that God can see, which remains visible for all eternity.


The celebrant for confirmations of born Catholics is usually the bishop, to show recipients the importance of professing the Faith.  However, persons who have become complete in the Catholic faith as adults are usually confirmed at their parish church on Easter Vigil.  Since the bishop cannot be everywhere at once, the priest usually celebrates these Confirmations.


Confirmation is a sacrament of the living.  We must be in the state of grace to receive it fruitfully.  It is customary to receive the Sacrament of Penance shortly before receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.


Consecration – Consecration, in general, is an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use, or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies.


Consecration – Consecration, in general, is an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use, or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies.


Cope (KOPE) - A cape-like garment that is put over the shoulders and hangs to the ankles; it is open in the front and worn by a priest or deacon in processions at Benediction and in other services.


Corporal - A white linen cloth, usually with a cross in the center, used to protect any particles of the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus from falling to the altar cloth. It is always folded and unfolded so as to protect any particles from being lost. The corporal is like the body winding sheet used to hold the crucified body of Our Lord in the tomb.


Council of Trent - Council of Trent is the Nineteenth Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church.  It was convened three times between December 13, 1545 and December 4, 1563 in the city of Trent (modern Trento, Alto Adige) as a response to the theological and ecclesiological challenges of the Protestant Reformation.  It is considered one of the most important councils in the history of the Catholic Church, clearly specifying Catholic doctrines on salvation, the sacraments, and the Biblical canon.  The council standardized the Mass throughout the church, largely by abolishing local variations.  This was known as the "Tridentine Mass", from the city's Latin name Tridentum.  The council also commissioned the first Catholic catechism, the Roman Catechism.


Covenant - The solemn agreement between God and his people in which they mutually committed themselves to each other; the new and everlasting Covenant was established in Jesus Christ through his Paschal Mystery - the saving mystery of his Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension - and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.


Credence Table - The table in the sanctuary where the cruets, chalices and ciborium are kept before and after the Consecration.


Creed – A creed is a prayer that tells what we believe.


The Apostles' Creed as a statement of faith probably comes from a time shortly after the apostles.  Based on the faith of the apostles, this Creed has a threefold division that expresses belief in God as Father, God as Son, and God as Holy Spirit - it's a short summary of our basic beliefs as Catholics.


The Nicene Creed takes its name from the Council of Nicea (AD 325).  This council upheld the Church's belief in the full divinity of the Son, who was defined as "one in being with the Father."


Cremation - Cremation is not forbidden by the Church, but the scattering of ashes is.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body" (CCC 2301).  The scattering of ashes represents a denial of our Christian belief in the resurrection of the body in both its communal and individual elements.


Cross/Crucifix - An object is a crucifix only if it depicts Christ on a cross; otherwise it is a cross.


Crosier - (Pastoral Staff) An ecclesiastical ornament which is conferred on bishops at their consecration and which is used by them in performing certain solemn functions. 


Crosiers used by Western bishops have curved or hooked tops, similar in appearance to staves traditionally used by shepherds, hence they are also known as crooks.  


Cruets - The vessels containing the water and wine used at Mass.


Back to Top




Dalmatic (dahl-MAT-ik) - A loose-fitting robe with open sides and wide sleeves worn by a deacon on more solemn feasts; it takes its color from the liturgical feast as listed above.


Deacon - There are two kinds of deacons in the Catholic Church.  The transitional deacon, who is preparing for priesthood, and the permanent deacon.  Permanent deacons are ordained clergy who serve as representatives of Jesus Christ.  They are clerics and strengthened by the sacramental grace of our ordination we have as our service to the people of God, ministry of the liturgy, of the Gospel, and of works of charity.  Deacons can also provide assistance to the pastor in baptismal and/or marriage ministry.


Decanter or Flagon (FLAG-un) - The bottle- or pitcher-like vessel used to hold the wine which will be consecrated at Mass for the communion of the people; it is brought forth with the gifts.


Deuterocanonical - The deuterocanonical books are the books that Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, and Oriental Orthodoxy include in the Old Testament that were not part of the Jewish Tanakh.


The word deuterocanonical comes from the Greek meaning "second canon."  Canonization is the official acceptance of authority and standardization of a text. In Catholicism, deuterocanonical means that the canonicity of the books was definitively settled at a later date than the rest of the canon. Among Orthodox, the term is understood to mean that they were composed later than the Hebrew Bible.


Devotion - Catholic devotions are prayer forms which are not part of the official public liturgy of the Church but are part of the spiritual practices of Catholics.  Catholic devotions also include the veneration of the saints.  Examples of Roman Catholic devotions include the Rosary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the various scapulars, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Novenas to various saints, pilgrimages and devotions to the Blessed Sacrament, and the veneration of icons in the Eastern Catholic Churches, etc. 


Diocese - An ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the direction of a bishop. 


Disciple - One who follows the teachings of Jesus.


Dispensation - An exemption from Church law.


Divine Grace - The sovereign favor of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in them.  Most broadly, divine grace refers to God's gifts to humankind, including life, creation, and salvation.


More narrowly but more commonly, grace describes the means by which humans are saved from original sin and granted salvation.  This latter concept of grace is of central importance in the theology of Christianity, as well as one of the most contentious issues in Christian sectarianism


Divine Revelation - God's free gift of gradually, over time, communicating in words and deeds his own mystery and his divine plan of creation and Salvation.


Doctors of the Church -While all saints are exceptionally holy, popes bestow the honorary title Doctor of the Church to saints of exceptional wisdom and learning who have had a monumental theological or doctrinal impact on the Church.  To date, there are only 33 Doctors - 30 men and 3 women.  Saints Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great were the original four.  St. Thomas Aquinas was accorded the distinctions Doctor Angelicus and Doctor Communis for his purity of life and for clarity of thought that seemingly stretched beyond the confines of the human intellect.


Back to Top




Ecclesiastical (ee-CLEE-zee-as-tuh-cal) - Refers to official structures or legal and organizational aspects of the Church


Ecumenism (eh-KEW-meh-nizm) / Interdenominational / Ecumenical (EK-you-meh-nikal) Movement - A movement for spiritual understanding and unity among Christians and their churches.  The term also is extended to apply to efforts toward greater understanding and cooperation between Christians and members of other faiths.


Encyclical - A formal letter about doctrinal or moral teaching or another aspect of the life of the Church written by the Pope or under the authority of the Pope.


Epiclesis - In the celebration of each of the sacraments, the Church calls upon God the Father to send down his Holy Spirit to transform us more and more into the Body of Christ.  We name this prayer of invoking, or calling down, the Holy Spirit's transforming power the epiclesis.


Epiphany - Traditionally falls on January 6 that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.


Eucharist - The Eucharist is one of the Sacraments of Initiation.  The Eucharist is the sacrament of the real presence of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine.   The Eucharist is the sacrament in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  The Eucharist makes present the sacrifice Jesus freely offered for the forgiveness of sins.


Eucharistic Prayer - The prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification.  It is the center of the celebration.  During the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church believes that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. 


Encyclical - From the Greek egkyklios or kyklos, meaning a circle, this is basically a letter that is circulated among a group.  Specifically, it is a pastoral letter written by the Pope of Rome to all members and clergy of the Church. 


Evangelization - The central work of the Church for which she exists; the Church's work of sharing the Gospel with all people "so that it may enter the hearts of all [people] and renew the face of the earth."


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).


Excommunication:  Excommunication is a penalty in which a person (lay, religious or ordained) is no longer in communion with the Church or part of its hierarchy.  He or she can no longer receive the Eucharist, but a a baptized Catholic (and child of God) may still attend Mass, pray for enlightenment, and seek to understand the truth of Catholic teaching.  Excommunication is not a judgment made by the Vatican; it is automatic upon rejecting a fundamental doctrine of the Church.  One does not "get" excommunicated; one excommunicates oneself.  The Church may simply issue a statement stating that the person's actions warranted this penalty if doing so will prevent or heat any existing scandal or benefit the public.


Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist - A non-ordained man or woman that collaborates in the sacred ministry of priests, such as, to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion as needed, the ministry of Communion to the Sick and the purifying of the sacred vessels.  NOTE: The Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist is a bishop, priest or deacon. 


Back to Top




Feast Day - The calendar of saints is a traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year on the level of days by associating each day with a saint, and referring to the day as the saint's day of that saint.  This calendar system, when combined with major church festivals and movable and immovable feasts, constructs a very human and personalized yet often localized way of organizing the year and identifying dates.  It may be compared with the Roman Missal. 


Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - In 1531 the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego in the form of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  She asked him to build a church on the place where she appeared.  Her image was left on his cloak as a sign to the Bishop of Mexico.  This cloak is still venerated in Mexico.  Devotion to Mary under the title Our Lady of Guadalupe began almost immediately after she appeared to Juan Diego, Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) encouraged devotion to her, and Pope Leo XIII (1878-1905) made her celebration a memorial for the Universal Church.


Forty Hours' Devotion - Forty Hours' devotion is a parish celebration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  It is marked especially by hours of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  The forty hours run over a three-day period, often Sunday to Tuesday.


This devotion goes back to the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe.  In 1592 Pope Clement XII ordered the churches of Rome to observe it.  In the US, Saint John Neumann, Redemptorist Bishop of Philadelphia, was the first bishop to encourage this devotion.


The number forty has some connection with the approximately 40 hours the body of Jesus lay in the tomb after he was taken down form the cross.


The purpose of the devotion is prayer for peace and reparation for sun. 


Free Will - The doctrine of free will asserts that man is able to make choices according to his own will. 


Fruits of the Holy Spirit - Fruits of the Holy Spirit is the collective name for the resultant acts that follow the practice of those supernatural graces infused into the soul by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul (Gal, 5:22-23) lists them as: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modesty, and continence.  The Church includes: benignity (being kind and gentle), longanimity (patience or tolerance in the face of adversity), and chastity (abstaining from sexual relations).  These are in general the result of virtue in action and the attendant consolation and delight that come from being attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.


Back to Top




Gaudete Sunday - The third Sunday of Advent, so called from the first word of the Introit at Mass (Gaudete, i.e. Rejoice). The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of St. Martin (12 November), whence it was often called “St. Martin’s Lent"-- a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. The introduction of the Advent fast cannot be placed much earlier, because there is no evidence of Christmas being kept on 25 December before the end of the fourth century (Duchesne, “Origines du culte chrétien”, Paris, 1889), and the preparation for the feast could not have been of earlier date than the feast itself. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks, the first allusion to the shortened season being in a letter of St. Nicholas I (858-867) to the Bulgarians, and by the twelfth century the fast had been replaced by simple abstinence. St. Gregory the Great was the first to draw up an Office for the Advent season, and the Gregorian Sacramentary is the earliest to provide Masses for the Sundays of Advent. In both Office and Mass provision is made for five Sundays, but by the tenth century four was the usual number, though some churches of France observed five as late as the thirteenth century. Notwithstanding all these modifications, however, Advent still preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential seasons which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent, the middle (or third) Sunday corresponding with Laetare or Mid-Lent Sunday. On it, as on Laetare Sunday, the organ and flowers, forbidden during the rest of the season, were, permitted to be used; rose-colored vestments were allowed instead of purple (or black, as formerly); the deacon and subdeacon reassumed the dalmatic and tunicle at the chief Mass, and cardinals wore rose-colour instead of purple. All these distinguishing marks have continued in use, and are the present discipline of the Latin Church. Gaudete Sunday, therefore, makes a breaker like Laetare Sunday, about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. Of the “stations” kept in Rome the four Sundays of Advent, that at the Vatican basilica is assigned to Gaudete, as being the most important and imposing of the four. In both Office and Mass throughout Advent continual reference is made to our Lord’s second coming, and this is emphasized on the third Sunday by the additional signs of gladness permitted on that day. Gaudete Sunday is further marked by a new Invitatory, the Church no longer inviting the faithful to adore merely “The Lord who is to come”, but calling upon them to worship and hail with joy “The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand”. The Nocturn lessons from the Prophecy of Isaias describe the Lord’s coming and the blessings that will result from it, and the antiphons at Vespers re-echo the prophetic promises. The joy of expectation is emphasized by the constant Alleluias, which occur in both Office and Mass throughout the entire season. In the Mass, the Introit “Gaudete in Domino semper” strikes the same note, and gives its name to the day. The Epistle again incites us to rejoicing, and bids us prepare to meet the coming Saviour with prayers and supplication and thanksgiving, whilst the Gospel, the words of St. John Baptist, warns us that the Lamb of God is even now in our midst, though we appear to know Him not. The spirit of the Office and Liturgy all through Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the Christmas feast as well as for the second coming of Christ, and the penitential exercises suitable to that spirit are thus on Gaudete Sunday suspended, as were, for a while in order to symbolize that joy and gladness in the Promised Redemption which should never be absent from the heart of the faithful.


Written by G. Cyprian Alston. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas.


The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


Gifts of the Holy Spirit - The essential rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation occurs when the celebrant anoints the recipient with chrism and says, “Name, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”


Isaiah told us the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2):  “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”


These gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  These seven gifts, part of sanctifying grace, complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.  They make us docile in obeying divine inspirations without need for reflection but always with full consent.


The gifts of the Holy Spirit are greater than the theological and cardinal virtues.  The virtues operate to the limits of human power and volition, but the gifts bring divine assistance.


We are to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for one of these gifts.  If He gives us a gift, we may ask for another, and so on.


The practice of virtue, enabled by the gifts seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, bring us the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.


When the Church speaks of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, she ordinarily means the gifts revealed to Isaiah.  But there were also seven gifts revealed to St.  Paul.  “To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  ?All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:8).  The Holy Spirit gave these gifts to the early Christians to impart the extra graces they needed to start the Church in a dark era.


Wisdom – The gift of wisdom perfects a person’s speculative reason in matters of judgment about the truth.


Understanding – The gift of understanding perfects a person’s speculative reason in the apprehension of truth it is the gift “whereby self-evident principles are known.”


Knowledge – The gift of knowledge perfects a person’s practical reason in matters of judgment about the truth.


Counsel – Counsel is also called “Right Judgment.”  The gift of counsel perfects a person’ practical reason in the apprehension of truth and allows the person to respond prudently, “moved through the research of reason.”


Fortitude – Fortitude is also called “Courage.”  The gift of fortitude allows people the “firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil, especially with regard to goods or evils that are difficult.”


Piety – Piety is also called “reverence.”  Piety is the gift “whereby, at the Holy Spirit’s instigation, we pay worship and duty to God a out Father.”


Fear of the Lord – Fear of the Lord is also called “Wonder and Awe in God.”  This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God.  He describes the fit as a “filial fear,” like a child’s fear of offending his father, rather than a “servile fear.” that is a fear of punishment.


Gloria - Ancient hymn of praise in which the Church glorifies God.  It is used on all Sundays, except for those during Advent and Lent, and at solemn celebrations.  The text originates from the Christmas narrative in the Gospel of Luke (2:14 - "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.")


Grace - Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life (CCC 1996)


Gospel - The Gospel is the four books in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that tell the story of Christ's life and teachings.  The word Gospel usually designates a written record of Christ's words and deeds.  It is very likely derived from the Anglo-Saxon god (good) and spell (to tell). 


Back to Top




Habakkuk, Prophecy of - Consists of three chapters, in the first of which he foreshadows the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans, and in the second he foretells the doom of the Chaldeans.  The whole concludes with the magnificent psalm in chapter 3, a composition unrivalled for boldness of conception, sublimity of thought and majesty of dicition.


Holy Communion – Holy Communion is receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.


Holy See - A See refers to a diocese; the Holy See refers to the diocese of Rome.


The highest authority of the Catholic Church that is exercised by the Pope or Supreme Pontiff as the representative of Jesus Christ on earth.


Holy Spirit - The third divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, the personal love of Father and Son for each other.  Also called the Paraclete (Advocate) and Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the divine plan for our salvation. 


Holy Saturday - The day before Easter and it commemorates the time Christ spent in the tomb as well as His resurrection.  There is no Eucharist on this day. 


Holy Thursday - The day before Good Friday, begins the holiest days of Passion Week and commemorates the institution of the Eucharist by Christ at the Last Supper.  Holy Thursday is often referred to as "Maunday Thursday" which originates with the foot washing ritual where the clergy wash the feet of 13 designated individuals to commemorate Christ washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:2-15).


Holy Trinity The Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian Faith.  The word "Trinity" comes from the Latin word trinitas, which means "three" or "triad."

"The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is an invitation for us to commit to enriching our everyday relationships by promoting communion, consolation and mercy.  Our being created in the image and likeness of God in communion calls us to understand ourselves as beings in relation and to live interpersonal relationships in solidarity and reciprocal love.  The east of the Most Holy Trinity invites us to commit ourselves in the everyday events (of life), in order to be the leaven of communion, of consolation and of mercy.

God is a 'family' of three Persons who love each other so much as to form into one." (Pope Francis).


Homily - A reflection by the celebrant or other minister on the Scripture readings and on the application of the texts in the daily lives of the assembled community. 


The new Vatican instruction on the liturgy, "Redemptionis Sacramentum" ("The Sacrament of Redemption"), specifies that homilies should be "based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts."


Host - The host is the name we give to the bread used at Mass.


Hymn - A hymn is a song of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God.


Hymnal/Missalette - Contains all parts of the Mass for a specific season in the liturgical year, including instructions on when to stand, sit, or kneel.


Back to Top




IHS - Often seen on vestments, icons and other Christian items.  The emblem or monogram representing the Holy Name of Jesus consists of the three letters: IHS.  In the Middle Ages, the Name of Jesus was written: IHESUS; the monogram contains the first and last letter of the Holy Name. 


Immanence - Immanence describes the belief that God exists throughout all of creation and that humans can experience God's presence on earth.


Indelible Spiritual Mark - "The Father has set his seal" on Christ (John 6:27) and also seals us in him (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:23, 4:30).  Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible "character" imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments (CCC 698)


Indulgences - The full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven.  The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution.


Intinction - Intinction is a way of receiving holy Communion, in which the priest or extraordinary minister of holy Communion dips the consecrated host into the consecrated wine before placing it on the communicant's tongue.


Back to Top




Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, who became one of us.  Jesus is true God and true man.  By his death and resurrection Jesus saved us from our sins and reconciled us to God and to one another.


Back to Top




Kingdom of God – The biblical image used to describe all people and creating living in communion with God when Jesus Christ comes again in glory at the end of time


Back to Top




Las Posadas - Las Posadas, a 9-day novena preparation for the celebration of Christmas, begins on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve.


Posada is Spanish for "inn."  The ceremony remembers Mary and Joseph's trip to Bethlehem and their difficulty finding a place to stay.  Posadas are celebrated in many different ways, but the traditional celebration involves a group of people, the "pilgrims," going to several different houses, knowing on the door, and asking for posada.  The pilgrims sing the part of Joseph as he explains their situation and asks for a place to stay.  The people inside sing back that they have no room and that the pilgrims should just move on. 


On the last night, the people in the last house recognize that Mary is the Queen of Heaven and that the child she carries is the Savior of the World.  They invite the pilgrims inside and hold a prayer service that may include a Scripture reading or the rosary.  The celebration ends with food and singing.


Last Supper – The last Supper is the last meal that Jesus and his disciples shared together on the night before Jesus died on the cross.


Lavabo - The pitcher of water used when the priest washes his hands at the end of the offertory and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


Lectio Divina - Lectio Divina is a method of listening to Scripture.  It was practiced in monasteries throughout the Middle Ages and it has the Church's approval.  In  Oct 08, Catholic bishops recommended Lectio Divina as an easy way for Catholics to become more familiar with the Bible. 


The practice of Lectio Divina is as follows:


1.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you listen.  Then slowly read a short Scripture passage aloud.  Listen far a word or phrase that strikes you.


2.  Think about why this word is so striking at this moment.  Does this word touch your life right now?


3.  As God's help in making an important choice, or ask what the word or phrase that struck you in step 1 means in your life.


4.  Close your eyes, let go of all thoughts, and remain silent before God.


Lectionary - The book of reading used for the Liturgy of the Word. It usually contains all the biblical reading used for the three-year Sunday cycle of reading and the two-year daily Mass readings.


Lector - The Lector is the person who reads the first and second readings at mass.  Another name for lector is reader.


Liturgical Colors - Colors used in vestments and altar cloths to symbolize the various seasons and feasts of the Church. 


Liturgical Seasons - A liturgical year is an annual cycle of communal prayer and celebration.  The Church divides the liturgical year into five distinct seasons:  Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time.


The liturgical year starts on the first Sunday of Advent.  The Christmas season officially starts with the evening celebrations on December 24.  Christmas runs for more than 12 days, through the feast of the Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord, which is celebrated on either the second or third Sunday in January.


Next is Ordinary Time, which is divided into two parts.  The first part ends the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first of the 40 days of Lent.  Lent is followed by the seven weeks of the Easter season, which ends the day before we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.


On Pentecost we pick up the second part of Ordinary Time, which ends the day before the first Sunday of Advent.


Each liturgical season has distinct traditions, but they come together to help us reflect on the mystery at the heart of every liturgy no matter the season:  the saving mystery of Christ's life, death and resurrection.


Liturgy - In its original meaning, a "public work" or service done in the name of or on behalf of the people. Through the liturgy Christ our High Priest continues the work of our redemption through the Church's celebration of the Paschal Mystery by which he accomplished our salvation (1067-1069).


Liturgy of the Eucharist - The section of the celebration when the gifts of bread and wine are prepared and the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed by the celebrant, and the Blessed Sacrament is distributed to the assembly.


Liturgy of the Word - The occasion during Mass when readings from the Scriptures are proclaimed and reflected upon.  On Sundays and major feasts, there are three readings:


First reading - from the Old Testament

Second reading - from the Epistles

Gospel (Mark, Mathew, Luke or John)


Lord's Prayer (Our Father) - The prayer of petition for both daily food (which means the Eucharistic bread for Christians) and the forgiveness of sins.


(The) Lord’s Supper - The Lord’s Supper is another name for the Eucharist.


Low Sunday (Quasimodo Sunday or Dominica in albis depositis) - The Second Sunday of Easter has many names, to include Low Sunday.  In some places the theme of mercy is recognized drawing us into the Lord's bountiful mercy: John Paul II recommended the title of Divine Mercy Sunday for this day, too.


Back to Top




Magisterium - The official teaching office of the Catholic Church.


The word Magisterium comes from a Latin word that means "teaching authority."  The Magisterium is the authority of the pope - and the bishops in union with him - to teach and uphold the revelation and tradition (deposit of faith) of Christianity.


Christ entrusted the "deposit of faith" with the Church so that "it might protect the revealed truth reverently, examine it more closely, and proclaim and expound it faithfully" (Code of Canon Law, 747).


Catholics believe the Magisterium received its power through a divine commission given by Christ to Peter alone as the first of the apostles (see Matthew 16:18-19, Luke 22:32, John 21:17) and the pope is heir to Peter's responsibilities in fulfilling Christ's mandate.


Thus, when the pope exercises his teaching authority in consultation with his brother bishops and speaks infallibly an faith and moral issues, faithful Christians must accept this authority.  At other times this teaching authority is not explicitly infallible, but is does demand the submission of the will and intellect from the Christian faithful (CCC, 83-88)


Mass - The common name for the Eucharistic liturgy of the Catholic Church.  Also referred to as Eucharist, Celebration of the Liturgy, Eucharistic celebration, Sacrifice of the Mass, Lord's Supper.


A word meaning "Sent forth;": the main sacramental celebration of the Church at which we gather to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the Eucharist; the name given to the Eucharistic celebration coming from the Latin words of one of the closing dismissals, "Ite, missa est."


Memorial - A memorial is a feast day that commemorates the day a saint died.  An obligatory memorial is celebrated by every church in a diocese or country.  The memorial of Redemptorist Saint John Neumann, for example, is obligatory in the United States because he was the fourth bishop of Philadelphia.  Optional memorials are saints' days an individual priest can celebrate Monday through Saturday if he chooses.  For example, Jesuit Saint Robert Bellarmine's memorial is obligatory in Jesuit churches or in churches named for him, but it's optional everywhere else.


Mercy - Mercy is the act of not administering punishment or other penalty even when it may be appropriate according to the law.  Because of sin or separation from God, people may be considered deserving of punishment, but God shows mercy.  That is, God chooses to forgive and redeem.


God saves people according out of a mercy divine and, in gratitude, the faithful are also empowered to be merciful to others. 


Messiah - The Hebrew word messiah is translated into Greek as christos (Christ) and means "anointed one;" the Anointed One whom God promised to send his people to save them.


Mission Statement - A brief, general statement, which identifies and establishes the unique direction of a parish as it lives out the mission of the church. 


Miter (MY-ter) - A headdress worn at solemn liturgical functions by bishops, abbots and, in certain cases, other clerics.


Monk - Monks live in a monastery, follow a strict rule under a superior - like the Benedictines and the Trappists; some are priests, others are brothers.


Monsignor - A priest gets this honorary title from the Pope because of his important position in the Church.  These honors are typically awarded at the request of local bishops, most often to long-serving pastors or priests who play key administrative roles in a diocese.


Mortal Sin - Mortal sin is when we consciously and freely choose to do something grave against the divine law and contrary to our final destiny.  There are three conditions for a sin to be a mortal sin:  grave matter, full knowledge that the offense is a mortal sin, and the person must commit the offense deliberately and freely.  Moral sin destroys the loving relationship with God that we need for eternal happiness.  If not repented, it results in a loss of love and God's grace and merits eternal punishment in hell, that is, exclusion form the Kingdom of God and thus eternal death.  See Sin


If you're confused as to whether a sin is Venial or Mortal then we recommend you celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis and discuss the areas of your fife you have questions about with your confessor.


Mystagogy - After celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, the newly initiated continue their formation in the faith in the period called Mystagogy (which means “interpretation of mystery”), when they reflect on their encounter with Christ in the sacraments and learn more about their faith. This period is ongoing and essentially what all members of the Church do throughout our lives: grow deeper in faith and relationship with Christ, constantly discerning his will.


Back to Top




Natural Law - It has been a long-standing Catholic teaching that God placed a sense of right and wrong in people's hearts called the natural law:  good is to be done and evil is to be avoided.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church says natural law "expresses the original moral sense which enable man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie" (CCC 1954).


New Testament - The New Testament is the second part of the Bible.  It tells us about Jesus and the early Church.


Novena - A nine days' private or public devotion in the Catholic Church to obtain special graces.  The octave has more of the festal character; to the novena belongs that of hopeful mourning, of yearning, of prayer.  "The number nine in Holy Writ is indicative of suffering and grief" (St.  Jerome, in Ezech., vii, 24; -- P.L., XXV, 238, cf.  XXV, 1473).  The novena is permitted and even recommended by ecclesiastical authority, but still has no proper and fully set place in the liturgy of the Church.  It has, however, more and more been prized and utilized by the faithful.  Four kinds of novenas can be distinguished: novenas of mourning, of preparation, of prayer, and the indulgenced novenas, though this distinction is not exclusive. 


Back to Top



Old Testament - The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible.  It tells the story of God’s people who lived before Jesus was born.


Original Sin - By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.


Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin."


As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").


Catechism of the Catholic Church, 416-418


Back to Top




Pall (PAHL) - A square piece of cardboard or plastic which is covered by linen and used to cover the chalice.


Pallium - The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, in front and in back.  Worn by metropolitan archbishops and by the Pope himself, the pallium symbolizes authority and expresses a particular bond of union with the Roman Pontiff.  Palliums are made from the wool shorn from lambs that are blessed by the Pope on the feast of St.  Agnes.


Papal Infallibility - The doctrine that the Pope's instructions on faith and morals are not wrong because of the divine guidance he receives. 


Parable - 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.


Parish - The smallest unit of diocesan jurisdiction, by which is meant not only the church building itself, but also a geographic area around the parish, such that the entire diocese is divided into parishes.  The spiritual needs of those living in this geographical area are provided for by the parish. 


Paschal - The word "Paschal" when used as an adjective refers to something relating to or of Easter or Passover.  The noun form of Paschal however is taken from the Middle English, in turn taken from the Old French "pasche," taken from the Late Latin word "pascha" meaning "Passover or Easter."  The Late Latin word was taken from the Late Greek word “paskha” derived from the Old Hebrew word "pesah."


Paschal Mystery - The whole redemptive "passing over" of Christ through his life, death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation, in which we participate through Baptism, the Eucharist and the other sacraments.


(The) Passion - The Passion is the term used for the suffering (i.e., physical, spiritual, and mental) of Jesus in the hours prior to and including his trial and execution by crucifixion.  The Passion story is depicted in the Stations of the Cross (via crucis, also translated more literally as "Way of the Cross").


Passion, the English word, has its roots in the Latin passio, which means "suffering." Its first recorded use is in early Latin translations of the Bible that appeared in the 2nd century A.D.  and that describe the death of Jesus.  The Latin word was borrowed prolifically in Old English religious texts, where its meaning remained exclusively theological.  But when the Normans invaded Britain in the middle of the 11th century, their conquest infused thousands of French words-including passion.  The record is sketchy, but it seems that once passion was in use in both languages, it began to develop broader meanings. 


Passover - The Jewish feast that celebrates the sparing of the Israelites from death, and God's saving his people from slavery in Egypt and leading them to freedom in the land he promised them.


Pastor - The pastor is the priest named by the bishop of the diocese as head of a parish. 


Pastoral Council - A consultative structure in a parish designed primarily to envision, plan and monitor the mission of the parish community as an extension of the mission of Jesus. 


Paten (PAT-en)- A small saucer shaped plate of precious metal that holds the Host. No lay person should ever touch the paten, so be very careful when handling it in your official duties.


Penance - Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same.  It is called a "sacrament" not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul.  As an outward sign it comprises the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction.  This whole procedure is usually called, from one of its parts, "confession," and it is said to take place in the "tribunal of penance," because it is a judicial process in which the penitent is at once the accuser, the person accused, and the witness, while the priest pronounces judgment and sentence.  The grace conferred is deliverance from the guilt of sin and, in the case of mortal sin, from its eternal punishment; hence also reconciliation with God, justification.  Finally, the confession is made not in the secrecy of the penitent's heart nor to a layman as friend and advocate, nor to a representative of human authority, but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the "power of the keys", i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to His Church. 


Penitent/Penitential:  The sinner who repents of sin and seeks forgiveness (1451).  In the early Church, public sinners belonged to an "order of penitents," who did public penance for their sins, often for years (1447).  Penitential acts or practices refer to those which dispose one for or flows from interior penance or conversion; such acts lead to and follow upon the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance (1434).  See Satisfaction (for sin).


Pentecost - The "first fruits" of the growing season were celebrated.  In Jewish tradition, these natural fruits were connected to the even more amazing fruit of God's goodness, the gift for a people brought out of slavery.  The feast also commemorated God's giving of the Law through Moses.  It was celebrated seven weeks, 50 days, after Passover.  Among Greek-speaking Jews, the length of the celebration led to its name, Pentecost.


Penitential Rite - A general acknowledgement of sinfulness by the entire assembly, accompanied by requests for God's mercy and forgiveness.


Period of Purification and Enlightenment - The last stage of the catechumenal process in the rite of Christian Initiation, which coincides with the Season of Lent.


Pharisee - A member of a Jewish sect in Jesus' time whose members dedicated their lives to the strict keeping of the Law found in the Torah.


Plenary Indulgence - There are two types of indulgences:  Partial and Plenary.  A partial indulgences removes part of the temporal punishment due for sins.  A plenary indulgence removes all of it.  This punishment may come either in this life, in the form of various sufferings, or in the next life, in purgatory.  What we don't get rid of here we suffer there.


To receive a partial indulgence, you have to recite the prayer or do the act of charity assigned.  You have to be in the state of grace at least by the completion of the prescribed work.  The rule says" at the completion" because often part of the prescribed work is going to confession, and you might not be in the state of grace before you do that.  The other thing required is having a general intention to gain the indulgence.  If you perform the required act but don't want to gain the indulgence, obviously you won't gain it.


The requirements for a plenary indulgence are tougher than for a partial.  After all, a plenary indulgence remove all the temporal punishment due for the sins committed up to that time.


To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.  It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.


Pope - The bishop of Rome, vicar of Christ on earth, successor of St.  Peter, visible head of the whole Catholic Church.


Prayer - The raising of one's mind and heart to God or requesting of goods from God" (CCC 2559) and this is fundamental in living the Catholic or Christian life (CCC 2745). 


Profession of Faith - The assembly joins to recall and proclaim the fundamental teachings of the Roman Catholic faith.  The Profession of Faith is also called the Creed. 


Protomartyr - A term for the first Christian martyr in a country.  If Protomartyr is use with no other qualification of country or region is means Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church.


Purgatory - "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but [who are] still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they [must] undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030).  What exactly happens to us after death is a mystery, and Christians have inherited a respect and care for the dead from the early days.


Purificator - A linen cloth used by the priest or deacon to dry the chalice after washing and purifying it. Used purificators must always be placed in the proper container for sacred cloths.


Back to Top




Quinquagesima - The period of fifty days before Easter. It begins with the Sunday before Ash Wednesday; it is a Sunday of the second class, and the color of the Mass and Office is violet.  For many early Christians it was the beginning of the fast before Easter.  In many places this Sunday and the next two days were used to prepare for Lent by a good confession; hence in England we find the names Shrove Sunday and Shrovetide. As the days before Lent were frequently spent in merry-making, Benedict XIV by the Constitution "Inter Cetera" (January 1, 1748) introduced a kind of Forty Hours' Devotion to keep the faithful from dangerous amusements and to make some reparation for sins committed.


Qur'an - Muslims believe the Qur'an is the inspired word of God, a divine message brought to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel in the seventh century.  The Qur'an presumes knowledge of both Christian and Jewish Scriptures, but it differs in such key matters as whether Jesus is the Son of God.  Christians regard the Torah as the inspired word of God, but not the Talmud or the Qur'an.


Back to Top




Reconciliation - The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is a Sacrament in which we are sorry for our sins, confess them to a priest, receive forgiveness for them and are reconciled with God and the Church. 


Redemptoris Mater - Latin for "Mother of the Redeemer."  This was the title of a Mariological encyclical by Pope John Paul II, delivered on March 25, 1987 in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.


Relic - A relic is an object associated with a saint.  A first-class relic is a part of the saint's body, usually a small piece of bone or a lock of hair.  A second-class relic is something used by the saint.  A third-class relic is an object that touched a first-lass relic, such as a rosary that touched a lock of a saint's hair. 


Authentic relics have been considered worthy of veneration by the faithful since early Christian times (CCC 1674).


Relics can be acquired as gifts from proper sources, such as a diocese or religious order but, according to Code of Canon Law 1190, it is strictly forbidden to sell them


Resurrection – The bodily raising of Jesus from the dead on the third day of his death on the cross and burial in a tomb to a new and glorified life, an event historically attested to by the disciples who encountered the Risen One.


Responsorial Psalm - The psalm that is spoken or sung between the first and second readings.  The response is repeated after each verse.


Reverence - The gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to show honor and respect to God, people, and all creation.


Roman Curia - The official collective name for the administrative agencies and courts, and their officials, who assist the Pope in governing the Church.  Members are appointed and granted authority by the Pope.


Royal Priesthood - 1Peter 2:9 reads, "But you are 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises' of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."


The fact that all baptized Christians are referred to as priests in the New Testament is not a contradiction to say that Christ is our unique priest/mediator/intercessor while affirming that Christians can also act as priests/mediators/intercessors.


Christians do not usurp or diminish the unique priesthood of Christ when they are referred to as priests; they participate in that unique priesthood. So intimate is the union of the baptized with Christ that Paul describes this mystical union as a body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–27; Rom. 12:5) with Christ as its head (cf. Eph. 1:22–23). What can be attributed to a hand in the body does not somehow take away from the head.


Back to Top




Sacrament - An outward sign instituted by Jesus Christ during His visit with us in earthly life, through which invisible grace and interior sanctification are communicated from Jesus to an individual human soul.  The Church recognizes seven sacraments: baptism; Eucharist; penance; confirmation; ordination of a deacon, priest or bishop; marriage; and the anointing of the sick. 


As "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 1131).


Sacraments of Initiation - The Sacraments of Initiation join us to Christ and welcome us into the church community.  There are three Sacraments of Initiation.  They are Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.


Sacramental - Something instituted by the Church for a sacred purpose, both to remind us of the saving power of Christ and to give Him the honor and glory in its use (e.g., holy water, blessed palms and candles, crucifixes, statues, medals, scapulars, rosaries, etc.).


Sacramental Grace - A material and spoken action which confers divine grace upon a person, especially what is called sanctifying grace.


Sacramentary - The book that contains the opening prayer, prayer over the gifts, prayer after communion, and solemn blessings, Eucharistic prayers and prefaces for all of the Masses, including special occasions.


Sacrarium (piscina) - A sink with it drain going directly into the ground usually fitted with a cover and lock which is used for the disposal of the following: The sacred linen wash and rinse water, used holy water, used baptismal water and blessed ashes. No other use is permitted.


Sacred - Something holy; derived from Sanctus, which is Latin for "holy."


Sacred Tradition - Sacred Tradition (Latin: traditio, to hand on) is the “handing on” across the centuries of God’s revelation from the dawn of human history to the end of the apostolic age from one generation of believers to the next.


Vatican II’s Constitution on Divine Revelation states: II, 7 “It was done by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received -- whether from the lips of Christ, from His way of life and His works, or whether they had learned it by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”


Sacrifice - A sacrifice is the giving of something important to God out of love.  We share in the sacrifice of Christ at Mass.


Saint - A “holy one” who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life in heaven.


A saint may be a man, such as St.  John of the Cross, a woman, such as St.  Teresa of Avila, or an angel, such as St.  Michael.  What makes them saints is that they are living in heaven.  Most of the saints in heaven are ordinary men, women who lived in union with God.  For many of the men and women, the only earthly records of their lives on earth are found in dusty church archives and on gravestones.  Most of the holy angels in heaven are not known by their individual names even to the Church Militant.


Some Catholic prayers use the phrase, angels and saints, using saint to refer only to human souls in heaven.  In the Confiteor we pray, “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.” It is accepted usage because we understand what it means, but, strictly speaking, angels, including St.  Michael, St.  Gabriel, and St.  Raphael, are saints.


The Church holds a few saints up for special veneration.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 828, says: “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.  The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history.  Indeed, holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.”


This needs to be said above all else.  The Church exists to make us saints.  She does not exist to make us feel good about ourselves, or to provide a place for social gathering.  She exists to give us the sacraments that will give us the sanctifying grace that open the way to heaven for us.  She exists also to teach us how to practice the virtues that prepare us for heaven and to avoid the sins, particularly the capital sins, that block our path to heaven.  Overall, she exists to make us saints, to prepare us to enter eternal life in heaven.


That is why the Church is often described as the communion of saints.  See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 946-962.  We walk together on our pilgrim journey toward eternal life in heaven.


Salvific - Power of salvation or redemption


Sanctuary - The part of the church where the altar is located.


Sanctifying Grace - A supernatural state of being infused by God into our soul, which gives us participation in the divine life.  Sanctifying grace results from the gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person.  It introduces us to the intimacy of the Blessed Trinity. 


Sanctifying grace belongs to the whole soul, including the intellect and will.  It is greater than the virtue of charity because charity belongs only to the will.


Sanctifying grace is a permanent part of our soul as long as we cooperate with its effects.  When we have sanctifying grace in our soul we are said to be in the state of grace.  If we pass into eternity while in the state of grace we will go either to purgatory or directly to heaven.  When we commit a mortal sin, the offended Holy Spirit departs from us and we lose our sanctifying grace.  If we pass into eternity while in the state of sin we will, objectively speaking, send ourselves to hell.


Actual grace helps us grow in sanctifying grace.


Sanctifying grace is sometimes called habitual grace or justifying grace (CCC 1996-2005)


Sanhedrin - The supreme governing council of the Jewish people during Jesus' time.


Second Vatican Council - A major meeting of the bishops of the world convened by Pope John XXIII to bring about a renewal of the Church for the second half of the 20th century.  It ran from 1962 to 1965 and produced important documents involving liturgy, ecumenism, communications and other areas.


Servant Poems - A series of passages in the Book of Isaiah that describe the sufferings of the Servant of YHWH who will redeem God's people.


Seven Deadly Sins - See Capital Vices


Shalom - A Hebrew word for peace, the sum of all blessing, material and spiritual, and a state of harmony with God, self, and nature that brings a person perfect happiness.


Sign of Peace - One of the Church's most ancient liturgical rituals in which Christians share with one another a gesture and a prayer that the blessings of Christ's peace come upon them.


Sin - A transgression of a religious or moral law, a deliberate disobedience to the known Will of God.

CCC 1849  Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.  It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity.  It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."


CCC 1850  Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight."  Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it.  Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil.  Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God."  In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. 


Venial Sin:  A venial sin is an offense against God in a less serious matter.  Though venial sin does not completely destroy the love we need for eternal happiness, it weakens that love an impedes our progress in the practice of virtue and the moral good.  Over time, repeated venial sin can have serious consequences.


Mortal Sin:  Mortal sin is when we consciously and freely choose to do something grave against the divine law and contrary to our final destiny.  There are three conditions for a sin to be a mortal sin:  grave matter, fully knowledge, and deliberate consent (freedom).  Moral sin destroys the loving relationship with God that we need for eternal happiness.  If not repented, it results in a loss of love and God's grace and merits eternal punishment in hell, that is, exclusion form the Kingdom of God and thus eternal death.


Sister - A woman dedicated to teaching, hospital or social work, or contemplation; takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and belongs to a religious order or community.  Cloistered sisters are usually called nuns; loosely speaking, all sisters are often called nuns.


Solemnity - Celebrations in the Church calendar are named according to their rank or importance.  Solemnity is the highest rank a celebration can have.  The next rank is feast, a liturgical celebration of an event in the life of Christ, Mary, the Apostles, martyrs, and a few other important saints.

Solemnities are usually celebrated by the whole Church, but celebrations may be made solemnities for local churches.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is a solemnity in Mexico and a feast in the United States.


During Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, solemnities that fall on Sunday aren't celebrated.  During Ordinary Time, solemnities that fall on Sunday are celebrated, but feasts and memorials that fall on Sunday aren't.


Stigmata  - Bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.  The term originates from the line at the end of Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians where he says, "I bear on my body the stígmata of Jesus."  An individual bearing stigmata is referred to as a stigmatic.


Stewardship - An essential element of parish life that challenges all parishioners to share their time, talent and treasure for the fulfillment of the parish mission. 


Stock - The metal containers used to hold the oil of the catechumen, the oil of chrism and the oil for anointing the sick.


Stoup - The holy water fountains or bowls at the entrances of the church.


Stole - A long, cloth scarf; according to the manner in which it is work, it is the mark of the Office of the priest or deacon.  A priest wears it around the neck, letting it hang down in front.  A deacon wears it over his left shoulder, fastening it at his right side.


Surplice (SIR-plis) - A wide-sleeved garment, slipped over the head.  Covering the shoulders, and coming down below the hips; it is worn over the cassock.


Back to Top




Tabernacle - An ornamental structure, usually made of stone, which contains the Holy Eucharist (communion host or bread that has been consecrated by the priest) and is stored for future use.  Typically, they are kept locked.  Comes from the Latin, tabernaculum, which means tent.


Talmud - A collection of Jewish texts that record and reflect on Jewish law as it became codified, promoted, and discussed by its rabbis.  While the written Talmud was generally composed between 200 and 600, it draws on more ancient oral traditions.


Ten Commandments - The Ten Commandments, or Decalog(ue), are a list of religious and moral imperatives which were written by God and given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of two stone tablets. 


1.  I am the Lord your God:  you shall not have strange Gods before me.

2.  You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

3.  Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

4.  Honor your father and your mother.

5.  You shall not kill.

6.  You shall not commit adultery.

7.  You shall not steal.

8.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9.  You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

10.  You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.


Theological Virtues - Sanctifying grace infuses in us the theological (Greek: theos, to God) virtues of faith, hope and charity.  They enter our soul as permanent habits or dispositions.  They are not acquired by repetition of an act; God pours them directly into our soul.  These virtues adapt our human faculties for participation in the divine nature.


They are supernatural virtues because they cannot be achieved through human effort, but can come only from God.


The theological virtues are often paired with the cardinal virtues.


Thurible - The special vessel which holds burning charcoal and into which incense is placed. The device holding the incense is called the "boat."


Torah - "In its most limited sense, 'Torah' refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word 'torah' can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings."


Transcendence - Transcendence describes the belief that God exist on a higher plane, such as heaven.  God is beyond humans' ability to perceive.


Transfiguration - Transfiguration reveals the glory of Christ and demands a response of listening to and following Jesus.  Christ's glory is revealed because his "full adherence to the will of the Father makes his humanity transparent to the glory of God, who is Love ... On the Second Sunday of Lent, Jesus revealed the destination of the journey of conversion, which is "Participation in the glory of Christ."  The Transfiguration takes place as Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecies through his death on the cross.  Jesus takes, Peter, James and John away to a high mountain in order to reveal his glory in advance to them and to strengthen them in faith for what is to come - the way of the cross.  Let us be Transfigured by following Christ.  Pope Francis


Triduum - In the Church's liturgical calendar, these are the three days that follow the conclusion of Lent.  The Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday and concludes with the celebration of Evening Prayer on  Easter Sunday.


Twelve Tribes - Jacob (Esau's brother) had his named changed to Israel.  He had 12 sons and 1 daughter.  The Twelve Tribes are the descendants of the 12 sons, grouped by lineage.  When the children of Israel got to breaking up into tribes, the tribe of Joseph split into two along the lines of his two sons.  There were, then, more correctly speaking, Thirteen Tribes of Israel.  They were (in birth order):


- Reuben


 There are four different definitions of the Tribes of Israel:


1.  The (original) Twelve Tribes (one tribe for each of the sons of Jacob)

2.  The Thirteen Tribes (the Tribe of Joseph being split into Manasseh and Ephriam)

3.  Moses' Twelve Tribes (the thirteen minus Levi), and

4.  John's Twelve Tribes (including Levi and excluding Dan). 


Back to Top




Vatican II - The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (Vatican II) was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Council met in four sessions from October 1962 to December 1965 and constituted a watershed event for Roman Catholic believers.  John XXIII’s desire to update the Church was carried on in his successor Paul VI, who replaced him in 1963 for the Council’s final sessions.  The Council sought to engage the modern world in a new and more positive fashion.


Vatican Councils - Councils called by the pope of all bishops of the Church.  These councils are usually called to discuss specific matters of interest to the Church.


Vespers - An evening prayer praising the thanking God for the gift of the day.  It's one piece of the Liturgy of the Hours, a set form of hymns, readings, and prayers recited at specific times of day.


Vespers is prayed all year long, but many parishes have special vespers celebrations during Advent and Lent or on special feasts.  In those cases the format of the service is customized; for example, the celebration at your friend's parish will include Advent hymns.


Vestments - The term for special clothing worn by the people who conduct a worship service.  Vestments have their origin in the ordinary street clothes of the first century, but have more or less remained the same as clothing fashions have changed. 


Viaticum - The name given to Holy Communion when it is administered to a dying person as food and strength for their journey from life on earth, through death, to eternal life.


Vicar Apostolic - A titular bishop who governs a district where no formal hierarchy exists.


Virtue - A virtue is a good habit that enables us to act according to right reason, enlightened by faith.


It is a firm disposition to act according to God’s will and disregard the contrary impulses of our own will.


The Catholic Church teaches that there are 14 basic moral virtues, of three types:


- The three theological virtues are supernatural

- The four cardinal virtues are natural

- The seven capital virtues are the roots from which all other virtues flow


Additional moral virtues are included among the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  There are also five intellectual virtues.


Back to Top




Washing of Hands - An expression of the desire for inward purification.  The celebrant washes his hands in symbolic cleansing to prepare himself just as the gifts have been prepared as an offering to the Lord.


WisdomThe gift of wisdom leads the soul of those who have it to see things from God’s perspective.  Wisdom is fullness of knowledge through affinity for the divine, as when a person comes to know Christ’s Passion through suffering.  It is also love, which inspires contemplative reflection on what we believe and directs the mind to judge according to its precepts.


The virtue of charity is part of wisdom; it inspires contemplative reflection on the divine mysteries, enjoys thinking about them, and directs the mind to judge all things according to their right principles.


Wisdom is distinct from faith.  Faith is assent to the defined articles of Catholic belief.  Wisdom goes farther to a certain divine penetration of these truths.


Wisdom is first and highest among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The others are: understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.


Wisdom is also one of the five intellectual virtues.


Worship - An essential element of parish life, which gives expression to the sacramental and prayer life of parishioners.  Worship means to give adoration and honor to God.  At Mass we worship God.  We join with Christ and the holy Spirit to give thanks and praise to God the Father through our words and actions.


Back to Top




Zucchetto (zoo-KET-oh) - The skull cap worn by the Pope (red), bishops (purple) and cardinals (red).


For more Catholic Terms, Visit:  CCC Glossary

St. Patrick's Church at Moody Air Force Base