The Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian Church. Within Catholicism there are a lot of different kinds of traditions and ways of practising the faith. For example, African Catholics are more festive and lively as compared to the more staid, stoic English or German approaches. The Catholic Church is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ and is led by Pope Francis I. The Church’s teachings have evolved over two thousand years, so there is a lot of history and doctrine. But if you follow Jesus’ two great commandments, you will essentially be on the right track: “You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbour as yourself”.
The Apostles’ Creed is a good summary of what Catholics believe:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”
Catholics believe in the goodness and sacredness of life. They are committed to community – in the Church and society – to the common good, to scripture and to tradition as sources of new life. Catholics are concerned about justice and compassion, especially for those most in need.
The Catholic Church is ‘sacramental’. This is a belief that God meets his people in everyday life through a range of symbols that can be seen, heard and touched (these are material, sensuous, aesthetic, verbal and active). There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Eucharist (celebrated in the Mass), Marriage, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick. The Eucharistic Celebration or Mass is a key part of the Catholic person’s life. Jesus promised ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst’. Catholics believe that Christ speaks to his people in his word (through the Bible and other readings) and gives himself to them in the Eucharist. Communion is a central part of thanksgiving. It is where Catholics eat the bread and drink the wine – the body and blood of Christ.
Catholic people are a people of prayer, and there are many prayers that Catholics use. Catholics make the ‘sign of the cross’ at the beginning and end of a prayer: ‘In name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen’ – this in itself is a prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is a common prayer:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen”
Two other frequently used prayers are the ‘Hail Mary’ and the ‘Glory Be’:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed
is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary,
mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at
the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the
beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.