Catholic terminology

I'm going to list a handful of terms that you may come across in the Catholic faith. In my search for a Catholic dictionary I not only came across the book created by Fr. John Hardon, S.J. Modern Catholic Dictionary, but numerous websites which have listed the contents of this book. You can visit these sites here, and here, and here.


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A.D. - Anno Domini. Year of Our Lord.

abba - Father, transliterated from the Aramaic.

Abraham's bosom - Term used by St. Luke (Luke 16:22) to describe the abode of the just persons who died in the Old Testament, before they were admitted to the beatific vision.

absolution - In the sacrament of penance, the act by which a qualified priest, having the necessary jurisdiction, remits the guilt and penalty due to sin.

abstinence (abstention) - The moral virtue that inclines a person to the moderate use of food or drink as dictated by right reason or by faith for his own moral and spiritual welfare.

act of contrition - The prayer of the penitent in the sacrament of penance, by which he expresses sorrow for the sins confessed before receiving absolution.

agape - The most distinctively Christian form of love. Used by Christ to describe the love among the persons of the Trinity, it is also the love he commanded his followers to have for one another (John 13:34-35).

annulment - Official declaration by competent authority that, for lawful reasons, a previous act or contract was invalid and consequently null and void.

assumption - The doctrine of Mary's entrance into heaven, body and soul.

B.C. - Before Christ.

baptism - The sacrament in which, by water and the word of God, a person is cleansed of all sin and reborn and sanctified in Christ to everlasting life.

beatific vision - The intuitive knowledge of God which produces heavenly beatitude. As defined by the Church, the souls of the just "see the divine essence by an intuitive vision and face to face, so that the divine essence is known immediately, showing itself plainly, clearly and openly, and not immediately through any creature" (Denzinger 1000-2).

blessed sacrament - The Eucharist as one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ to be received by the faithful. Unlike the other sacraments, however, the eucharist is not only a sacrament to be received but also a sacrament to be adored before, during, and after reception.

body of the church - The visible, organized commonwealth of the faithful. As the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, so her human members on earth are the body.

capital sins - Those sins to which man's fallen nature is mainly inclined and that are, as a result, the source of all other human failings. The name "capital" does not mean that they are necessarily graves sins. They are leading tendencies toward sin and are seven in number: pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth.

catechism - A popular manual of instruction in Christian doctrine.

catechumen - A learner, a person being instructed preparatory to receiving baptism and being admitted into the Church.

charisms - Literally "gifts of grace" (charismata), described by St. Paul as gratuitous blessings of an extraordinary and transitory nature conferred directly for the good of others.

commingling - The liturgical mixing of a particle of the Sacred Host at Mass with the Precious Blood. The priest breaks off a piece of the Host and drops it into the chalice to signify the separation of Christ's body and blood on Calvary and the effective merits of his death for all mankind.

concomitance - The doctrine that explains why the whole Christ is present under each Eucharistic species. Christ is indivisible, so that his body cannot be separated from his blood, his human soul, his divine nature, and his divine personality.

concupiscence - Insubordination of man's desires to the dictates of reason, and the propensity of human nature to sin as a result of original sin.

confirmation rite - The ceremony by which a bishop, or priest delegated by him, confers the sacrament of confirmation on a baptized person.

days of abstinence - The days pre-scribed for the universal Church on which the faithful are forbidden to take flesh meat or anything made from meat. All Fridays of the year, except holy days of obligation, are days of abstinence; but since 1966 there is an option to substitute another form of penance. Abstinence must be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and all the Fridays in Lent. Abstinence becomes binding at the age of fourteen.

doctor of the church - A title given since the Middle Ages to certain saints whose writing or preaching is outstanding for guiding the faithful in all periods of the Church's history.

Easter vigil - The ceremonies of Holy Saturday and the most solemn memorial of the liturgical year. They consist of four parts: Service of the Light, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of Baptism, and Liturgy of the Eucharist.

efficacious grace - The actual grace to which free consent is given by the will so that the grace produces its divinely intended effect.

eucharist - The true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, in order to offer himself in the sacrifice of the Mass and to be received as spiritual food in Holy Communion. It is called Eucharist, or "thanksgiving," because at its institution at the Last Supper Christ "gave thanks," and by this fact it is the supreme object and act of Christian gratitude to God.

examination of conscience - Reflection in God's presence on one's state of soul, e.g., in preparation for the sacrament of penance.

fasting - A form of penance that imposes limits on the kind or quantity of food or drink.

feast - Days set apart by the Church for giving special honor to God, the Savior, angels, saints, and sacred mysteries and events. Some are fixed festivals, such as Christmas and the Immaculate Conception; others are movable, occurring earlier or later in different years.

four last things - They are death, judgment, heaven, and hell, meaning that there is no reincarnation, but that immediately after death each person is judged on his or her eternal destiny.

Friday abstinence - Refraining from meat on Friday in commemoration of Christ's passion and death.

gentiles - People who were not Jews.

genuflection - Bending of the knee as an act of reverence. Customary when passing before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, entering the pew for divine worship, and during certain ceremonies to the Cross.

gift of the Holy Spirit - The seven forms of supernatural initiative conferred with the reception of sanctifying grace. They are in the nature of supernatural reflexes, or reactive instincts, that spontaneously answer to the divine impulses of grace almost without reflection but always with full consent. The gifts are wisdom (sapientia), understanding (intellectus), knowledge (scientia), fortitude or courage (fortitudo), counsel (consilium), piety or love (pietas), and fear of the Lord (timor Domini).

grace - In biblical language the condescension or benevolence (Greek charis) shown by God toward the human race; it is also the unmerited gift proceeding from this benevolent disposition. Grace, therefore, is a totally gratuitous gift on which man has absolutely no claim.

grave sin - The transgression of a divine law in a grievous matter with full knowledge and consent.

grievous matter - Moral obligations that are binding under pain of mortal sin.

heresy - Commonly refers to a doctrinal belief held in opposition to the recognized standards of an established system of thought. Theologically it means an opinion at variance with the authorized teachings of any church, notably the Christian, and especially when this promotes separation from the main body of faithful believers.

heretic - A person professing heresy. Ecclesiastical law distinguishes between a formal heretic, as one who is sinfully culpable, and a material heretic, who is not morally guilty for professing what may be objectively heretical doctrine.

Holy Communion - The Eucharist is the sacrament that preserves the souls' union with God and fosters that union by making a person more holy especially in the practice of the supernatural virtue of charity. As a sacrament of the living, to obtain the graces intended, a person must be in the state of God's friendship when receiving, otherwise the reception becomes a sacrilege (I Corinthians 11:27-29).

homily - A sermon or informal discourse on some part of the Sacred Scriptures. It aims to explain in an instructive commentary the literal meaning of the chosen text or subject and from this develop a practical application for the moral or spiritual life.

host - A victim of sacrifice, and therefore the consecrated Bread of the Eucharist considered as the sacrifice of the Body of Christ. The word is also used of the round wafers used for consecration. (Etym. Latin hostia, sacrificial offering.)

hypostatic union - The union of the human and divine natures in the one divine person of Christ.

icon - A flat painting, sacred picture of the Eastern Church. It is generally painted on wood and covered, except the face and hands, with relief of seed pearls and gold or silver. The icon of the saint of the day is usually displayed on an analogion. Icons of Our Lord and Our Lady are reverenced with great devotion, incenses, carried in processions, and normally placed on the iconostasis screen. The icons in the Eastern Church take the place of statues in the West. (Etym. Greek eik_n, image.)

idol - Any creature that is given divine honors. It need not be a figure or representation, and may be a person. In fact, it may be oneself, or some creation of one's own mind or will. An object becomes an idol when it is treated as an end in itself, with no reference to God. (Etym. Latin idolum, image, picture, idol; from Greek eid_lon, phantom, idol.)

idolatry - Literally "the worship of idols," it is giving divine honors to a creature. In the Decalogue it is part of the first commandment of God, in which Yahweh tells the people, "You shall have no gods except me. You shall not make yourself a carved image (Greek eid_lon, idol] or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them" (Exodus 20:4-5).

illuminating grace - Actual grace conferred by God to enlighten the mind. Its main function is to enable a person to believe with certitude in God's revelations, and to better understand the mysteries of faith and of divine providence. It is thus fundamental in the spiritual life, since moral conduct and sanctity absolutely depend on the prior convictions of faith which reside in the intellect illuminated by God's grace.

immaculate conception - Title of the Blessed Virgin as sinless from her first moment of existence. In the words of Pope Pius IX's solemn definition, made in 1854, "The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin." This means that since the first moment of her human existence the mother of Jesus was preserved from the common defect of estrangement from God, which humanity in general inherits through the sin of Adam. Her freedom from sin was an unmerited gift of God or special grace, and an exception to the law, or privilege, which no other created person has received.

immaculate heart - The physical heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a sign and symbol of her compassion and sinlessness, and the object of devotion by the faithful. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary gained international prominence through the Fátima apparitions in 1917, and their subsequent approval by the Holy See.

imperfect contrition - Sorrow for sin animated by a supernatural motive that is less than a perfect love of God. Some of the motives for imperfect contrition are the fear of the pains of hell, of losing heaven, of being punished by God in this life for one's sins, of being judged by God; the sense of disobedience to God or of ingratitude toward him; the realization of lost merit or of sanctifying grace. Also called attrition, imperfect contrition is sufficient for remission of sin in the sacrament of penance. It is also adequate for a valid and fruitful reception of baptism by one who has reached the age of reason. And if a person is unable to go to confession, imperfect contrition remits even grave sin through the sacrament of anointing of the sick.

infallibility - Freedom from error in teaching the universal Church in matters of faith or morals.

Kyrie eleison - The formula of a prayer, "Lord, have mercy," said or sung and repeated in the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass in the Roman Liturgy. Used in conjunction with Christie Eleison, "Christ, have mercy." One of the few Greek prayers in the Latin Mass, it is most likely the remnant of a liturgical litany.

magisterium - The Church's teaching authority, vested in the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, under the Roman Pontiff, as successor of St. Peter. Also vested in the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Catholic Church. (Etym. Latin magister, master.)

magnificat - The Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, beginning "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (My soul does magnify the Lord). Mary first recited it on her visit to Elizabeth after the Annunciation and her conception of Christ. It is included in the Roman Breviary, daily chanted at Vespers, and solemnly recited on other occasions.

mammon - The word in Aramaic for wealth, riches. Several times Jesus contrasted love of God and love of money as mutually exclusive goals in life (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).

marks of the Church - The four essential notes that characterize the Church of Christ, first fully enumerated in the Nicene Constantinople Creed; one holy, Catholic, and apostolic. Since the Eastern Schism and the Protestant Reformation they have become means of identifying the true Church among the rival claimants in christianity. Some writers add other notes besides the traditional four, e.g., St. Robert Bellarmine with a total of fifteen, including the mark of persecution.

missal - The book containing the prayers recited by the priest at the altar during Mass. Since the Second Vatican Council the Missal includes both the sacramentary (or ritual part of the Mass) used only by the celebrant, and the lectionary (containing readings from Scripture) for celebrant and assisting ministers. (Etym. Latin missalis, pertaining to Mass.)

mortal sin - An actual sin that destroys sanctifying grace and causes the supernatural death of the soul. Mortal sin is a turning away from God because of seriously inordinate adherence to creatures that causes grave injury to a person's rational nature and to the social order, and deprives the sinner of a right to heaven. The terms mortal, deadly, grave, and serious applied to sin are synonyms, each with a slightly different implication. Mortal and deadly focus on the effects in the sinner, namely deprivation of the state of friendship with God; grave and serious refer to the importance of the matter in which a person offends God. But the Church never distinguishes among these terms as though they represented different kinds of sins. There is only on e recognized correlative to mortal sin, and that is venial sin, which offends against God but does not cause the loss of one's state of grace. (Etym. Latin mors, death.)

Natural Family Planning (NFP) - The controlling of human conception by restricting the marital act to the infertile periods of the wife. This practice is based on the theory that the period of a woman's ovulation can be determined with considerable accuracy. A variety of methods, or their combination, is used to determine the period of ovulation. From the moral standpoint, natural family planning is permissible.

novena - Nine days of public or private prayer for some special occasion or intention. Its origin goes back to the nine days that the Disciples and Mary spent together in prayer between Ascension and Pentecost Sunday.

nuptial mass - The Mass at which a Catholic is married. With a bishop's permission, a nuptial Mass may be offered in a mixed marriage when the non-Catholic partner is baptized.

octaves - The seven days following a feast with the feast day itself included. Prior to the Second Vatican Council octaves were numerous in the Latin Rite. A commemoration was offered at Mass and in the Divine Office each day of the octave, and precedence given over any other feast. The octaves now observed in the universal Church are those of Christmas and Easter.

oil of the sick - The olive oil blessed by the bishop of a diocese for use in the sacrament of anointing of the sick.

Palm Sunday - The Sunday before Easter and the sixth and last of Lent, and the beginning of Holy Week. On this day the Church commemorates Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when olive and palm branches were strewn in his path. In the liturgy the memorial of this event is included in every Mass, with the procession or solemn entrance before the principal Mass, and with the simple procession before the other Masses on Palm Sunday.

paraclete - A title of the Holy Spirit. Christ was and remains the first advocate. When he was to leave earth in visible form, he promised "another Paraclete" so that his followers would not be orphans. That Paraclete came on Pentecost. He is the advocate of the Mystical Body, pleading God's cause for the human family, keeping the Church from error, sanctifying souls through the preaching of God's word and through the sacraments. The Holy Spirit, whose function is to teach, bear witness, and "to convince the world of sin," is the love of God producing the effects of divine grace on earth, and appropriated to the third Person of the Trinity. (Etym. Greek para-,beside + kalein, to call: paraklet_s, advocate.)

paschal candle - A large candle in which five grains of incense have been incased as a symbol of Christ's wounds. It is blessed on Holy Saturday in a special service and is symbolic of the Risen Savior, Light of the World. It is then used in the blessing of baptismal water and remains during the Paschal season in the sanctuary, where it is lighted during liturgical services.

penance - The virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one's own sins and is converted to God. Also the punishment by which one atones for sins committed, either by oneself or by others. And finally the sacrament of penance, where confessed sins committed after baptism are absolved by a priest in the name of God. (Etym. Latin paenitentia, repentance, contrition.)

pentecost - Feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. It takes its name form the fact that it comes about fifty days after Easter. The name was originally given to the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which fell in the fiftieth day after Passover, when the first fruits of the corn harvest were offered to the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:9), and later on the giving of the law to Moses was celebrated. In the early Church, Pentecost meant the whole period from Easter to Pentecost Sunday, during which no fasting was allowed, prayer was only made standing, and Alleluia was sung more often. (Etym. Greek h_ pent_kost_, the fiftieth day.)

perfect contrition - Sorrow for sin arising from perfect love. In perfect contrition the sinner detests sin more than any other evil, because it offends God, who is supremely good and deserving of all human love. Its motive is founded on God's own personal goodness and not merely his goodness to the sinner or to humanity. This motive, not the intensity of the act and less still the feelings experienced, is what essentially constitutes perfect sorrow. A perfect love of God, which motivates perfect contrition, does not necessarily exclude attachment to venial sin. Venial sin conflicts with a high degree of perfect love of God, but not with the substance of that love. Moreover, in the act of perfect contrition other motives can coexist with the perfect love required. There can be fear or gratitude, or even lesser motives such as self-respect and self-interest, along with the dominant reason for sorrow, which is love for God. Perfect contrition removes the guilt and eternal punishment due to grave sin, even before sacramental absolution. However, a Catholic is obliged to confess his or her grave sins at the earliest opportunity and may not, in norma circumstances, receive Communion before he or she has been absolved by a priest in the sacrament of penance.

plenary indulgence - An indulgence that can remove all the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin. No one but God knows for certain when a plenary indulgences is actually gained, because only he knows whether a person's dispositions are adequate. One norm for such dispositions is that "all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent." If these dispositions are in any way less than complete, the indulgence will only be partial. The same provision applies to the three external conditions necessary to gain a plenary indulgence: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Pope. If these conditions are not satisfied, an otherwise plenary indulgence becomes only partial. These conditions may be satisfied several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work, though preferably Communion should be received and the prayers offered for the Pope on the same day as the indulgenced work. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day.

precepts of the Church - Certain commandments of a moral and ecclesiastical nature prescribed for observance by all Catholics. Their formulation goes back to the Middle Ages, and their number has varied from four to six or more, depending on the times. A recent list of such duties "expected of Catholic Christians today" was formulated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States, as follows: precious blood - The blood of the living Christ as an integral part of human nature immediately united with the second person of the Trinity. It is called Precious Blood because, according to Pope Clement VI, "the value of the blood of Christ, on account of its union with the Logos, is so great that one little drop would have sufficed for the redemption of the whole human race" (Unigentius Dei Filius) (Denzinger, 1025).

profession of faith - The public acceptance of the teachings of the Church. When nonprofession would amount to a denial, the baptized Catholic must profess his faith. Under certain circumstances bishops and priests are required to make an official profession of faith according to canon law.

purgatory - The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven. They may be purified of the guilt of their venial sins, as in this life, by an act of contrition deriving from charity and performed with the help of grace. This sorrow does not, however, affect the punishment for sins, because in the next world there is no longer any possibility of merit. The souls are certainly purified by atoning for the temporal punishments due to sin by their willing acceptance of suffering imposed by God. The sufferings in purgatory are not the same for all, but proportioned to each person's degree of sinfulness. Moreover, these sufferings can be lessened in duration and intensity through the prayers and good works of the faithful on earth. Nor are the pains incompatible with great peace and joy, since the poor souls deeply love God and are sure they will reach heaven. As members of the Church Suffering, the souls in purgatory can intercede for the persons on earth, who are therefore encouraged to invoke their aid. Purgatory will not continue after the general judgment, but its duration for any particular souls continues until it is free from all guilt and punishment. Immediately on purification the soul is assumed into heaven. (Etym. Latin purgatio, cleansing, purifying.)

real presence - The manner of Christ's presence in the Holy Eucharist. In its definition on the subject, the Council of Trent in 1551 declared that "in the sacrament of the most holy Holy Eucharist is contained truly, really, and substantially the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Denzinger 1636, 1640). Hence Christ is present truly or actually and not only symbolically. He is present really, that is objectively in the Eucharist and not only subjectively in the mind of the believer. And he is present substantially, that is with all that makes Christ Christ and not only spiritually in imparting blessings on those who recieve the sacrament. The one who is present is the whole Christ (totus Christus), with all the attributes of his divinity and all the physical parts and properties of his humanity. (Etym. Latin realis, of the thing itself; extramental + prae-esse, to be at hand, to be immediately efficacious.)

reconciliation - The act or state of re-establishing friendship between God and a human being, or between two persons. Reconciliation with God is necessary after a person has lost the divine friendship through grievous sin. It requires repentance on the part of the sinner and forgiveness on the part of God. The willingness to be reconciled with another person is a necessary condition for obtaining God's mercy.

reformation - A religous, social, and polititcal upheaval (1517-1648) that divided Western Christendom and created world Protestantism.

repentance - Voluntary sorrow because it offends God, for having done something wrong, together with the resolve to amend one's conduct by taking the necessary means to avoid the occasions of sin. To repent is to be sorry for sin with self-condemnation. (Etym. Latin repoenitere, to be very sorry, regret intensely.)

rosary - A devotional prayer, mental and vocal, honoring the Blessed Mother of God. It is said on a string of beads made up of five sets each of one large and ten smaller beads, called decades. On the large beads the Pater Noster is said; on the small ones, the Hail Mary. The usual devotion is the fifteen decades, on the joyous, sorrowful, or glorious aspects of Our Lord and Our Lady's life. It is the most popular of all nonliturgical Catholic devotions and has been highly recommended by many popes. This is the standard Roasary. But there are other Rosaries also approved by the Church, notably of the Holy Trinity, SEven Dolors, Precious Blood, St. Bridget, St. Joseph, and the Rosary of the Lord. (Etym. Latin rosarium, rose garden.)

rubrics - Originally red titles of law announcements. They are the directive precepts or liturgical provisions found in the Missal, including the Sacramentary and lectionary, and in the ritual, to guide bishops, priests, or deacons in the Eucharistic liturgy, the administration of sacraments and sacramentals, and the preaching of the Word of God. Rubrics are printed in red and are either obligatory or merely directive, as the context makes amply clear. (Etym. Latin rubrica, red earth; title of law written in red; hence law instruction.)

sacrament - A sensible sign, instituted by Jesus Christ, by which invisible grace and inward sanctification are communicated to the soul. The essential elements of a sacrament of the New Law are institution by Christ the God-man during his visible stay on earth, and a sensibly perceptible rite that actually confers the supernatural grace it symbolizes. In a broad sense every external sign of internal divine blessing is a sacrament. And in this sense there were already sacraments in the Old Law, such as the practice of circumcision. But, as the Council of Trent defined, these ancient rites differed essentially from the sacraments of the New Law, they did not really contain the grace they signified, nor was the fullness of grace yet available through visible channels merited and established by the Savior. (Etym. Latin sacramentum, oath, solemn obligation; from sacrare, to set apart as sacred, consecrate.)

sacramental - Objects or actions that the Church uses after the manner of sacraments, in order to achieve through the merits of the faithful certain effects, mainly of a spiritual nature. They differ from sacraments in not having been instituted by Christ to produce their effect in virtue of the ritual performed. Their efficacy depends not on the rite itself, as in the sacraments, but on the influence of prayerful petition; that of the person who uses them and of the Church in approving their practice. The variety of sacramentals spans the whole range of times and places, words and actions, objects and gestures that, on the Church's authority, draw not only on the personal dispositions of the individuals but on the merits and prayers of the whole Mystical Body of Christ.

sacred heart - The physical Heart of Christ as the principal sign and symbol of the threefold love with which he loves his eternal Father and all mankind. It is, therefore, a symbol of the divine love he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit but that he, the Word made flesh, alone manifests through a weak and perishable body, since "in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which, infused into his soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused. And finally it is the sumbol also of sensible love, since the body of Christ possesses full powers of feeling and perception, in fact more so than any other human body (Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, II, 55-57).

sacrilege - The deliberate violation of sacred things. Sacred things are persons, places, and objects set aside publicly and by the Church's authority for the worship of God. The violation implies that a sacred thing is desecrated precisely in its sacred character. It is a sin against the virtue of religion.

sanctifying grace - The supernatural state of being infused by God, which permanently inheres in the soul. It is a vital principle of the supernatural life, as the rational soul is the vital principle of a human being's natural life. It is not a substance but a real quality that becomes part of the soul substance. Although commonly associated with the possession of the virtue of charity, sanctifuing grace is yet distinct from this virtue. Charity, rather, belongs to the will, whereas sanctifying grace belongs to the whole soul, mind, will, and affections. It is called sanctifying grace because it makes holy those who possess the gift by giving them a participation in the divine life. It is zo_ (life), which Christ taught that he has in common with the Father and which those who are in the state of grace share.

scrupulosity - The habit of imagining sin where none exists, or grave sin where the matter is venial. To overcome scrupulosity, a person needs to be properly instructed in order to form a right conscience, and in extreme cases the only remedy is absolute obedience (for a time) to a prudent confessor.

seal of confession - The grave duty of keeping absolutely secret all sins that are told in sacramental confession and anything else that is told by the penitent and is related to the confession. It is an obligation binding in the natural law, the divine law of Christ, and in the positive law of the Church. It binds the confessor and any other person who in any way discovers what was confessed. Under no circumstances may any of this information be revealed unless the penitent freely gives permission.

seven sacraments - The seven rites instituted by Christ to confer the grace they signify, namely baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick.

sin - "A word, deed or desire in opposition to the eternal law" (St. Augustine). Sin is a deliberate transgression of a law of God, which identifies the four essentials of every sin. A law is involved, implying that there are phusical laws that operate with necessity, and moral laws that can be disregarded by human beings. God is offended, so that the divine dimension is never abwent from any sin. Sin is a transgression, since Catholicism holds that grace is resistible and the divine will can be disobeyed. And the transgression is deliverate, which means that a sin is committed whenever a person knows that something is contrary to the law of God and then freely does the action anyway. (Etym. Old English synn, syn, sin; Old High German sunta, suntea, perhaps to Latin sons, guilty.)

tabernacle - A cupboard or boxlike receptacle for the exclusive reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Ten Commandments - Also called the Decalogue, they are the divinely revealed precepts received by Moses on Mount Sinai. Engrave on two tablets of stone, they occur in two versions in the Bible. The earlier form (Exodus 20:1-17) differs from the alter (Deuteronomy 5:6-18) in tow ways. It gives a religious motive, instead of a humanitarian one, for observing the sabbath; and in prohibitin avarice, it classes a man's wife along with the rest of his possessions, instead of separately. With the exception of forbidding graven images and statues and the precept about the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments are an expression of the natural law. More or less extensive sections of the Decalogue are found in the law of other ancient people However, the Ten Commandments excel the moral codes of other religious systems in their explicit monotheism, their doctrine of god's awesome majesty and boundless goodness, and their extension of moral obligation down to the most intimate and hidden desires of the human heart. The following is a standard Catholic expression of the Ten Commandments:

Theotokos - Mother of God. A term canonized by the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) in defense of Mary's divine maternity, against Nestorius, who claimed that she was only the mother of the man Christ (christotokos).

transfiguration of our Lord - The glorification of the appearance of Jesus before his Resurrection. It took place in the presence of Peter, James, and John. While he was praying on a mountain, suddenly "his face did shine as the sun," while "his garments became glistening, exceeding white." The frightened witnesses saw Moses and Eligah appear before them and converse with Jesus and heard the voice of God. the extraordinary vision vanished as suddenly as it appeared (Luke 9:28-36; Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8). the Church's celebration of this event occurs as a feast day on August 6. (Etym. Latin transfigurare: trans-, change + figura, figure.)

transubstantiation - The complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood by a validly ordained priest during the consecration at Mass, so that only the accidents of bread and wine remain. While the faith behind the term itself was already believed in apostolic times, the term itself was a later development. With the Eastern Fathers before the sixth century, the favored expression was meta-ousiosis, "change of being"; the Latin tradition coined the word transubstantiatio, "change of substance," which was incorporated into the creed of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The Council of Trent, in defining the "wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the wine into the blood" of Christ, added "which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation" (Denzinger 1652). after transubstantiation, the accidents of bread and wine do not inhere in any subject or substance whatever. Yet they are not make-believe they are sustained in existence by divine power. (Etym. Latin trans-, so as to change + substantia, substance: transubstantio, change of substance.)

triduum - A period of three days of prayer, either proceding some special feast or preparing for some major enterprise. Commemorates the biblical three days that Christ lay in the tomb.

unpardonable sin - Post-biblical term that means blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. When the Pharisees, baffled by a miracle that Jesus had perfromed, accused him of using the power of the devil to accomplish it, he warned them, "Let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next" (Matthew 12:22-32). also used as a synonum for the sin of despair.

veneration of saints - Honor paid to the saints who, by their intercession and example and in their possession of God, minister to human sanctification, helping the faithful grow in Christian virtue. Venerating the saints does not detract from the glory given to God, since whatever good they possess is a gift from his bounty. They reflect the divine perfections, and their supernatural qualities result from the graces Christ merited for them by the Cross. In the language of the Church's liturgy, the saints are venerated as sanctuaries of the Trinity, as adopted children of the Father, brethren of Christ, faithful members of his Mystical Body, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

viaticum - The reception of Holy Communion when there is probable danger of death. Viaticum should not be deferred too long in sickness lest the dying lose consciousness. It can be given as often as such danger exists, and is required of all the faithful who have reached the age of discretion. No laws of fasting persist either for the recipient or for the priest who must consecrate in order to supply the Host in an emergency. (Etym. Latin viaticum, traveling provisions; from viaticus, of a road or journey, from via, way, road.)


All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.




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