What are the Basic Tenets of Catholicism?

The Catholic Church has been in existence on the earth longer than any other Christian denomination. The Catholics can trace the Pope’s and the Catholic Church’s authority back to Peter at the time of Jesus Christ. Most other Christian churches broke away from the Catholic Church at one point in time or another. But, they still retain many of the traditions and beliefs of the Catholic Church.

If you examine the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, you will find that it is very similar to the Church that Jesus Christ established when he set up his Church. Just as Peter was the head of the Church after Christ was crucified, the Church today has the Pope. Then there are the Cardinals. The Bishops are like the apostles, and then there are deacons and priests. Only men can participate in the leadership roles in the Church.

Quite simply, traditional Catholicism is the set of Catholic beliefs and principles that the Catholic faithful have always practiced throughout the ages. After the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, some reforms swept through the Church, impacting almost everything. The mass was substantially changed (masses were for example always conducted in Ecclesiastical Latin; it was after Vatican II that native languages like English began to be used for the Latin rite of the Church). Many new prayers were added to the mass, while many old prayers were removed. All 7 of the sacraments were revised (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Penance, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, and Matrimony.) The catechism was updated to be made consistent with the documents of Vatican II and a new code of canon law was issued. The changes were so far-reaching that even the Rosary and the rite of exorcism were modified and changed.

Traditional Catholic priests administer the sacraments according to their traditional form. Catechism classes are taught using older catechisms, such as the Baltimore Catechism or the Catechism of the Council Trent. Other traditional Catholic practices are still followed as well, such as abstaining from meat on all Fridays (in remembrance of Christ’s death) and kneeling to receive Holy Communion.

The Catholic Church rests on a foundation of four core beliefs or tenets. These beliefs are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Here are brief definitions of the beliefs to make them clearer:

One
One stands for the one true gospel of Jesus Christ. Although there are many principles of the gospel, there is only one true gospel and one true Church as Jesus Christ set it up. It also stands for the one body of Jesus Christ.

Holy
Holy means that the Catholic Church is perfect, pure and sanctified; although the members and even the leadership are not perfect the church itself is.

Catholic
The word Catholic can be traced back to the Greek word “katas” which means universal or whole. If you were to look at the statement of beliefs for some Protestant religions, not just the Catholic Church, you would find the term “Catholic” in them as well. When Jesus Christ was on the earth, he commanded his followers to take the gospel to the whole earth so that in theory all people would share one belief and faith.

Apostolic
Just as when Christ was on the earth, the Catholics set up a Church with apostles.

The Catechism Of The Catholic Church states the doctrines for the church, and you can use it as a guide to help you understand the stance that the Catholic church takes and why.

Catholics believe that the true presence of Jesus is in the Eucharist, which most would call communion. Catholics believe in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and the wine, and we believe that the bread and wine are the body and the blood of Jesus Christ.

They do not believe in sola fide or sola scriptura. Simplistically put, these are the beliefs that you go to heaven by believing in the Bible alone and that you do not need the teachings of the church that were handed down.

Catholics do ask saints to pray for them, just like they ask family and friends to pray for us. Catholics do this because there is great power in numbers and since they have already gone on before us and are now in the presence of God.

 

 

5 Misconceptions About The Catholic Church

Here are five common misconceptions about the Catholic church. There are much more, and I could fill dozens of articles with them, but for now, we’re going to focus on the more typical misunderstandings.

1. The Catholic Church does not believe in Evolution and modern science.

A lot of scientific advances have been made through Catholic scholarship. Catholic schools worldwide, including the U.S, teach the theory of scientific evolution as one of the main parts of their science curriculum.

2. Catholics Worship Mary

A lot of people assume that, because we pray to Mary, we are worshipping her, and therefore committing idolatry. This is not true, and it has a straightforward explanation. We aren’t worshipping her, but honoring her. Mary was very holy and was born without sin, as the Bible teaches us. As Jesus’ mother, holy, pure, and immaculate, we are simply honoring her and asking for her intercession in our lives. We ask Mary to intercede for us, not only in our own personal prayers but more so in the Hail Mary. In fact, some of the words for the Hail Mary are taken right out of the Bible. To conclude, we revere her holiness, not only because she was born without original sin, but because she is the Mother of God, and so we ask for her intercession.

3. Confession is Unnecessary

This misconception is popular because no other denomination of Christianity has something like confession that is buried in its roots. In Catholicism, the act of confession is when we evaluate our lives and recent actions and confess anything that is unsavory to a Priest so that we can be absolved of our sins, and obtain a state of grace. John 20:21-23 says this; “…If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” In this passage, Jesus gave his disciples the power to forgive sins, and that tradition has been passed down through the centuries, and made its way into the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

4. Catholics follow the Pope, and not God

We do follow the Pope, in a sense. Before Jesus left, he handed down his power to Peter, as he was the ‘rock of the church’ and because he was also the first disciple of Jesus. To read more on the the papacy, visit this article on EWTN.

5. The Eucharist is purely symbolic and is nonessential to the Mass

The Eucharist is the most important part of the Mass and is the center of the consecration. To help understand the meaning of the Eucharist, we refer to both the New Testament. During the last supper, Jesus tells his disciples to eat and drink of his blood and body; his blood is the wine, and his body being the unleavened bread. “Take this cup, and drink of it; for this is my blood, which shall be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20) Also, in the Old Testament, God tells the Israelites to spread the blood of a lamb over their doorways to protect their firstborns from death. He also explicitly tells Moses to eat the lamb afterward, as not to waste it. (Exodus 12:12) The correlation is this; Jesus is regularly referred to as the ‘Lamb of God’ and he is the lamb. There are many places in scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, that help to promote the Eucharist. Jesus also says that any who eat of his body and drink of his blood will be saved, and this is the main reasoning behind the use of ‘bread and wine’ in the consecration. Catholicism, being the oldest and most sophisticated form of Christianity, has its fair share of misconceptions and tidbits that are confusing to anyone who is trying to learn more about the Faith. A lot of traditions that we as Catholics follow stem directly from the Bible, so anything that can be questioned in the Catholic Doctrine can be found easily in the Bible. Of course, there are many other misconceptions, but these few that I wrote about are the most controversial ones. I hoped to have cleared up any confusion that you may have had.

Brief History of Lent in Catholicism

Out of all of the Catholic holy days that are observed in the liturgical calendar, Lent is one of the oldest. Of course, like all Christian holy days, it has changed over the years since its inception, but its purpose is the same; it is a time not only physical fasting but spiritual too. Self-examination, penance, self-denial, all in preparation for the coming of Jesus, that being Easter.

One of the Church’s earliest fathers, Irenaeus of Lyons, wrote of a period before the celebration of Easter, but it had only lasted a few days, nowhere near the 40 days that was later decreed.

The Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D, discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting and spiritual preparation, but due to the lack of records for that council, it is not clear according to historical facts if fasting was in baptismal preparation, or if it had anything to do with Easter.

Since very beginning of the Catholic Church, however, there has always been some preparation for Easter. One example of this comes to us in the form of a letter sent to Pope St. Victor I, from St. Irenaeus, commenting on the differences of the celebration of Easter between the Western and Eastern churches.”The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in ourown day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers” (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24)

Some of these differences are very specific, such as how the Easterners only fasted on the weekdays, while the Western church’s Lent was one week shorter in total, but encompassed fasting on Saturdays as well as the weekdays. Aside from these small differences, it was held to high standards and was very serious. Only one meal was eaten per day, towards the evening, and it had no meat, fish, or any animal product. You can imagine how bland that would have been.

Until the mid-600’s, the preparation season of Lent began on Quadragesima, the fortieth Sunday. Pope Gregory the Great moved it to Wednesday, which we now have a holy day for, and it is called Ash Wednesday. This act was to secure the exact number of days per Lenten season, not counting Sundays, which were already feast days in and of themselves. Pope Gregory, the same pope that changed the order of the Lenten season and created Ash Wednesday, was also credited with the prefix of ‘Ash.’ You were to mark your forehead with ashes of palm fronds and wear sackcloths, these two things being symbols of repentance in the Bible.

By the 800s, the Lenten acts had already become lax. Instead of fasting until night, you were allowed to eat past 3 PM. By the year 1400, it was changed till noon. Various foods were allowed, such as fish. In 1966, however, the Catholic Church reduced fast days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday alone, making these two holy days the ones of which we are the most familiar. However, practices in the Eastern Orthodox churches are still stringent and follow guidelines very similar to the ones made when the Lenten sacrifice was made official. Although Lent is mostly a Catholic tradition, it is still observed and practiced in some mainstream Protestant denominations, such as Anglicans and Episcopalians.

As you can see, the history of Lent is quite muddled, but it more or less serves the same purpose as it intended; to physical deny one’s flesh and to spiritually prepare oneself for the celebration of the coming of Jesus.

During the Lenten season, there are ample times to make confessions in order to receive the graces that are available during this important time of year.

The Main Elements in the Liturgy of the Word

The Catholic church is truly the largest and one of the oldest Christian organization on earth. With a membership estimated at 1.29 billion members, the Catholic Church is regarded by its followers as the one true church of Jesus Christ.

The rich traditions, ancient rituals, and deep history make the Catholic church the most respected religious institution worldwide. Catholic gather every Sunday, to offer praise and thanksgiving to God in the hopes of receiving forgiveness and blessing to better their lives. One of the largest parts of the rituals that go on during Sunday Mass is the Liturgy of the Word. The liturgy is an elaborate divine ritual that allows the church’s followers to establish a relationship with God through praise, worship, and readings from the Bible.

The Liturgy of the word in a Catholic mass is divided into four sections; The Reading of Scripture, The Homily, The Profession of Faith and finally The Universal Prayer.

The Reading of Scripture
Old and New Testament Readings: These readings are the highlight of the Liturgy that involves reading the different scriptures in an orderly manner. During most of the year, there are three reading of the scriptures. On the typical Sunday, there are reading taken first from the old Testament and then from the New Testament. It is only on Easter that the reading is taken from Acts of the Apostles which tells the history of the church in its earliest days. The Final reading is from one of the four Gospels.

The Gospel: Members of the Catholic church believe that scripture is holy and inspired by the Holy Spirit, During the reading of the scripture, it is during this time that God comes and communicates with us and instructs us towards a path of redemption and salvation.

Usually, between the reading of the two Testaments, a responsorial Psalm is sung, and people are engaged in meditation on the word. The Gospel is read soon after the two readings of the Testaments. This Gospel receives special ritual signs of reverence and honor before it is read by the priest. The gathered are required to stand for the reading of the Gospel.

The Gospel tells about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is welcomed with an acclamation of praise. Usually, the acclamation is “Alleluia” except on Lent when it changes.

The Homily
The Homily involves the preaching given by the Priest/Deacon on various scriptures and the scripture of the day’s Liturgy. The Priest/Deacon draws practical lessons from the scriptures to help the gathered live much better lives and respond to the calling of Jesus to live in Holiness.

Profession of Faith
The Profession is recited from either the Nicene or Apostles Creed. These creeds are statements of faith that reaffirm the church members’ devotion to the Church’s teachings. The Nicene Creed dates back to the 4th century while the Apostles’ Creed is an ancient baptismal statement of faith from the earliest formation of the church.

Universal Prayer
The Prayer of the Faithful is an intercessory prayer made to God on behalf of the church, the world and the church member entrusting their needs to the only true and loving God.

The Liturgy of the word is something that every Catholic reveres and finds comfort in as the divine practice that brings them closer to God. If you are looking for a detailed explanation of the various parts of the Mass, you can refer to this article on the Vatican Website

The Oldest Catholic Hymns

Hymns are religious songs written for adoration, prayer, or to an address a certain figure, deity or personification. A hymn could also mean as the song of praise. One of the oldest Catholic hymns is the Egyptian great hymn to the Aten which was written by Pharaoh Akhenaten the Vedas. In the today world, the hymns are still being sung though there are instruments to accompany then unlike in the olden days. These hymns have also been modified in the way they are sung. Musicians are using various genres to sing the hymns. The good thing is that in this way the songs are going to live for a very long time, from one generation to another.

The oldest Catholic hymns are important in that they teach theology. These songs are rich and edify one’s faith and mission. They give a form of corporate worship Catholic hymns also an authentic response of expression of emotions. They also display social consciousness. They are also good for singing in congregations. These hymns remind us that we do not worship to attract unbelievers. Catholic hymns also unite various generations of Christians.

Some of the oldest Catholic hymns are Adestes Fideles, Agnus Dei, Ave Maria, Ave Maris Stella, Anima Christi among many others. Aves Maria is one of the oldest Catholic songs that are song most today. It is sung in the wedding ceremonies, church services even in burial. Whenever this song is sung, I tend to have a nostalgic feeling, my consciousness is brought alive. Though it is sung in a language not familiar to me, it has a way of communicating to the depths of my soul.

These Catholic hymns were written by people like, Mateo Albeinz who was a Spanish composer and priest, Johann Christian Bach wrote much liturgical and sacred music. Ludwig Van Beethoven who wrote the famous Missa Solemnis and Mass in C Major, Hector Berlioz who wrote famous requiems, Hinrich Ignaz Franz Biber is known for writing the Rosary sonatas, Antonio Soler, a Spanish priest, and composer. The list is endless of the many composers of these Old Catholic hymns.

Many books have been compiled today about the Old Catholic hymns. This will ensure that the content will not get lost. Modernization has changed a lot of things in the world today and the Catholic hymns have not been left out. New hymns have been composed and people are tending to forget or do away with the old hymns. In some of the hymns books, some of these songs are found to be missing in the list. Songs have been modernized in a lot of ways including revision of the original lyrics.

This way the original meaning of the hymns is being changed. This might lead to us loosing the history of our hymns. Modern Catholics today no longer sing the old hymns. Modernization has taken so much of them and they do not want to be seen as ancient when singing these songs. There is a great need for Catholics today to include these old hymns in our service list today or risk losing the rich and deep content to modernization.