Catechism of the Catholic Church
Table of Contents
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
Section One: "I Believe" — "We Believe"
Chapter One: Man's Capacity for God
Chapter Two: God Comes to Meet Man
The Revelation of God
The Transmission of Divine Revelation
Chapter Three: Man's Response to God
Section Two: The Profession of the Christian Faith
Chapter One: I Believe in God the Father
The Symbols of Faith
"I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth"
Heaven and Earth
Chapter Two: I Believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God
"And In Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord"
"Jesus Christ Was Conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit, and Was Born of the Virgin Mary"
"Jesus Christ Suffered Under Pontius Pilate, Was Crucified, Died, and Was Buried"
"Jesus Christ Descended into Hell; On the Third Day He Rose Again from the Dead"
"Jesus Ascended into Heaven and Is Seated at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty"
"From Thence He Shall Come to Judge the Living and the Dead"
Chapter Three: I Believe in the Holy Spirit
"I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church"
The Church in the plan of God
The Church: people of God, body of Christ, temple of the Spirit
The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
The Faithful: hierarchy, laity, consecrated life
I believe in the communion of saints
Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church
"I Believe in the Forgiveness of Sins"
"I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body"
"I Believe in Life Everlasting"
THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY
Section One: The Sacramental Economy
Chapter One: The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church
The Liturgy — Work of the Most Holy Trinity
The Paschal Mystery in the Sacraments of the Church
Chapter Two: The Sacramental Celebration of the Paschal Mystery
Celebrating the Liturgy of the Church
How is the liturgy celebrated?
When is the liturgy celebrated?
Where is the liturgy celebrated?
Liturgical Diversity and the Unity of the Mystery
Section Two: The Seven Sacraments of the Church
Chapter One: The Sacraments of Christian Initiation
The Sacrament of Baptism
The Sacrament of Confirmation
The Sacrament of the Eucharist
Chapter Two: The Sacraments of Healing
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
Chapter Three: The Sacraments at the Service of Communion and Mission
The Sacrament of Holy Orders
The Sacrament of Matrimony
Chapter Four: Other Liturgical Celebrations
LIFE IN CHRIST
Section One: Man's Vocation — Life In the Spirit
Chapter One: The Dignity of the Human Person
Man, the Image of God
Our Vocation to Beatitude
The Morality of the Passions
The Moral Conscience
Chapter Two: The Human Community
The Person and Society
Participation in Social Life
Chapter Three: God's Salvation — Law and Grace
The Moral Law
Grace and Justification
The Church, Mother and Teacher
Section Two: The Ten Commandments
Chapter One: "You Shall Love the Lord Your God With All Your Heart, With All Your Soul, and With All Your Mind"
The First Commandment: I Am the Lord Your God, You Shall Not Have Other Gods Before Me
The Second Commandment: You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain
The Third Commandment: Remember to Keep Holy the Lord's Day
Chapter Two: "You Shall Love Your Neighbour as Yourself"
The Fourth Commandment: Honour Your Father and Your Mother
The Fifth Commandment: You Shall Not Kill
The Sixth Commandment: You Shall Not Commit Adultery
The Seventh Commandment: You Shall Not Steal
The Eighth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbour
The Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour's Wife
The Tenth Commandment: You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour's Possessions
Section One: Prayer in the Christian Life
Chapter One: The Revelation of Prayer
The Revelation of Prayer in the Old Testament
Prayer is Fully Revealed and Realized in Jesus
Prayer in the Age of the Church
Chapter Two: The Tradition of Prayer
At the Wellsprings of Prayer
The Way of Prayer
Guides for Prayer
Chapter Three: The Life of Prayer
Expressions of Prayer
The Battle of Prayer
Section Two: The Lord's Prayer — "Our Father"
"The Summary of the Whole Gospel"
"Our Father Who Art in Heaven"
The Seven Petitions
A. Common Prayers
B. Formulas of Catholic Doctrine
for the approval and publication
of the Compendium
of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
To my Venerable Brothers the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and to all the People of God.
Twenty years ago, work began on the Catechism of the Catholic Church that had been requested by the extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council.
I am filled with heartfelt thanks to the Lord God for having given the Church this Catechism, promulgated in 1992 by my venerated and beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
The great value and beauty of this gift are confirmed above all by the extensive and positive reception of the Catechism among Bishops, to whom it was primarily addressed as a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and, in particular, for formulating local catechisms. But it was also confirmed by its vast favourable reception in all segments of the People of God, who have come to know and appreciate it in more than fifty translations which to date have been published.
It is with great joy that I now approve and promulgate the Compendium of that Catechism.
The Compendium had been fervently desired by the participants in the International Catechetical Congress of October 2002, which gave voice to a need widely felt in the Church. My beloved Predecessor, recognizing this desire, decided in February 2003 to begin preparation of the text by entrusting the work to a Commission of Cardinals, over which I presided, and which was assisted by various experts. In the course of the work, a draft of the Compendium was submitted to all the Cardinals and the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops, the vast majority of whom evaluated the text favourably.
The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith, thus constituting, as my Predecessor had wished, a kind of vademecum which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.
In its structure, contents and language, the Compendium faithfully reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church and will thus assist in making the Catechism more widely known and more deeply understood.
I entrust this Compendium above all to the entire Church and, in particular, to every Christian, in order that it may awaken in the Church of the third millennium renewed zeal for evangelization and education in the faith, which ought to characterize every community in the Church and every Christian believer, regardless of age or nationality.
But this Compendium, with its brevity, clarity and comprehensiveness, is directed to every human being, who, in a world of distractions and multifarious messages, desires to know the Way of Life, the Truth, entrusted by God to His Son’s Church.
Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, may everyone who reads this authoritative text recognize and embrace ever more fully the inexhaustible beauty, uniqueness and significance of the incomparable Gift which God has made to the human race in His only Son, Jesus Christ, the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
Given on 28 June 2005, the vigil of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the first year of my Pontificate.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
1. On 11 October 1992, Pope John Paul II presented the Catechism of the Catholic Church to the faithful of the whole world, describing it as a “reference text”  for a catechesis renewed at the living sources of the faith. Thirty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the desire for a catechism of all Catholic doctrine on faith and morals, which had been voiced in 1985 by the extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, came to fulfilment.
Five years later, on 15 August 1997, the Pope promulgated the editio typica of the Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae and confirmed its fundamental purpose “as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives and prays in her daily life”. 
2. In order to realize more fully the Catechism’s potential and in response to the request that had emerged at the International Catechetical Congress of October 2002, Pope John Paul II, in 2003, established a Commission under the presidency of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was given the task of drafting a Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as a more concise formulation of its contents of faith. After two years of work, a draft compendium was prepared and distributed among the Cardinals and the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops for their consultation. The draft, as a whole, was evaluated positively in the great majority of the responses that were received. Therefore, the Commission proceeded to revise the draft and, taking account of the proposals for improvement that had been submitted, prepared the final text.
3. There are three principal characteristics of the Compendium: the close reliance on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the dialogical format; the use of artistic images in the catechesis.
The Compendium is not a work that stands alone, nor is it intended in any way to replace the Catechism of the Catholic Church: instead, it refers constantly to the Catechism by means of reference numbers printed in the margins, as well as by consistent reliance on its structure, development and contents. In fact, the Compendium is meant to reawaken interest in and enthusiasm for the Catechism, which, in the wisdom of its presentation and the depth of its spirituality, always remains the basic text for catechesis in the Church today.
Like the Catechism, the Compendium has four parts, corresponding to the fundamental laws of life in Christ.
The first part, entitled “The Profession of Faith”, contains a synthesis of the lex credendi, the faith professed by the Catholic Church, as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed which is further elaborated by the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In the liturgical profession of the Creed, the Christian assembly keeps the principal truths of the faith alive in memory.
The second part, entitled “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery”, presents the essential elements of the lex celebrandi. The proclamation of the Gospel finds its authentic response in the sacramental life, through which Christians experience and witness, in every moment of their existence, the saving power of the paschal mystery by which Christ has accomplished our redemption.
The third part, entitled “Life in Christ”, recalls the lex vivendi, through which the baptized manifest their commitment to the faith they have professed and celebrated, through their actions and ethical choices. The Christian faithful are called by the Lord Jesus to act in a way which befits their dignity as children of the Father in the charity of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth part, entitled “Christian Prayer”, summarizes the lex orandi, the life of prayer. Following the example of Jesus, the perfect model of one who prays, the Christian too is called to the dialogue with God in prayer. A privileged expression of prayer is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus has taught us.
4. A second characteristic of the Compendium is its dialogical format, reflecting the ancient catechetical literary genre of questions and answers. The idea is to reproduce an imaginary dialogue between master and disciple, through a series of incisive questions that invite the reader to go deeper in discovering ever new aspects of his faith. The dialogical format also lends itself to brevity in the text, by reducing it to what is essential. This may help the reader to grasp the contents and possibly to memorize them as well.
5. A third characteristic is the inclusion of some artistic images which mark the elaboration of the Compendium. These are drawn from the rich patrimony of Christian iconography. The centuries-old conciliar tradition teaches us that images are also a preaching of the Gospel. Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message.
6. Forty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council and in the year of the Eucharist, this Compendium represents an additional resource for satisfying the hunger for truth among the Christian faithful of all ages and conditions, as well as the hunger for truth and justice among those who are without faith. The publication of the Compendium will take place on the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, pillars of the Church universal and exemplary evangelizers of the ancient world. These apostles saw what they preached and witnessed to the truth of Christ even unto martyrdom. Let us imitate them in their missionary zeal and pray to the Lord that the Church may always follow the teaching of the apostles, from whom she first received the glorious proclamation of the faith.
20 March 2005, Palm Sunday.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
President of the Special Commission
 John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, 11 October 1992.
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Laetarum magnopere, 15 August 1997.
The Profession of Faith
“I believe” – “We believe”
1. What is the plan of God for man?
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent his Son as the Redeemer and Savior of mankind, fallen into sin, thus calling all into his Church and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, making them adopted children and heirs of his eternal happiness.
Man's Capacity for God
“You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised [...] You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Saint Augustine)
2. Why does man have a desire for God?
God himself, in creating man in his own image, has written upon his heart the desire to see him. Even if this desire is often ignored, God never ceases to draw man to himself because only in God will he find and live the fullness of truth and happiness for which he never stops searching. By nature and by vocation, therefore, man is a religious being, capable of entering into communion with God. This intimate and vital bond with God confers on man his fundamental dignity.
3. How is it possible to know God with only the light of human reason?
Starting from creation, that is from the world and from the human person, through reason alone one can know God with certainty as the origin and end of the universe, as the highest good and as infinite truth and beauty.
4. Is the light of reason alone sufficient to know the mystery of God?
In coming to a knowledge of God by the light of reason alone man experiences many difficulties. Indeed, on his own he is unable to enter into the intimacy of the divine mystery. This is why he stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.
5. How can we speak about God?
By taking as our starting point the perfections of man and of the other creatures which are a reflection, albeit a limited one, of the infinite perfection of God, we are able to speak about God with all people. We must, however, continually purify our language insofar as it is image-bound and imperfect, realizing that we can never fully express the infinite mystery of God.
God Comes to Meet Man
The Revelation of God
6. What does God reveal to man?
God in his goodness and wisdom reveals himself. With deeds and words, he reveals himself and his plan of loving goodness which he decreed from all eternity in Christ. According to this plan, all people by the grace of the Holy Spirit are to share in the divine life as adopted “sons” in the only begotten Son of God.
7. What are the first stages of God's Revelation?
From the very beginning, God manifested himself to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and invited them to intimate communion with himself. After their fall, he did not cease his revelation to them but promised salvation for all their descendants. After the flood, he made a covenant with Noah, a covenant between himself and all living beings.
8. What are the next stages of God's Revelation?
God chose Abram, calling him out of his country, making him “the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5), and promising to bless in him “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the divine promise made to the patriarchs. God formed Israel as his chosen people, freeing them from slavery in Egypt, establishing with them the covenant of Mount Sinai, and, through Moses, giving them his law. The prophets proclaimed a radical redemption of the people and a salvation which would include all nations in a new and everlasting covenant. From the people of Israel and from the house of King David, would be born the Messiah, Jesus.
9. What is the full and definitive stage of God's Revelation?
The full and definitive stage of God’s revelation is accomplished in his Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the mediator and fullness of Revelation. He, being the only-begotten Son of God made man, is the perfect and definitive Word of the Father. In the sending of the Son and the gift of the Spirit, Revelation is now fully complete, although the faith of the Church must gradually grasp its full significance over the course of centuries.
“In giving us his Son, his only and definitive Word, God spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word, and he has no more to say.” (Saint John of the Cross)
10. What is the value of private revelations?
While not belonging to the deposit of faith, private revelations may help a person to live the faith as long as they lead us to Christ. The Magisterium of the Church, which has the duty of evaluating such private revelations, cannot accept those which claim to surpass or correct that definitive Revelation which is Christ.
The Transmission of Divine Revelation
11. Why and in what way is divine revelation transmitted?
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), that is, of Jesus Christ. For this reason, Christ must be proclaimed to all according to his own command, “Go forth and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And this is brought about by Apostolic Tradition.
12. What is Apostolic Tradition?
Apostolic Tradition is the transmission of the message of Christ, brought about from the very beginnings of Christianity by means of preaching, bearing witness, institutions, worship, and inspired writings. The apostles transmitted all they received from Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of the world.
13. In what ways does Apostolic Tradition occur?
Apostolic Tradition occurs in two ways: through the living transmission of the word of God (also simply called Tradition) and through Sacred Scripture which is the same proclamation of salvation in written form.
14. What is the relationship between Tradition and Sacred Scripture?
Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ. They flow out of the same divine well-spring and together make up one sacred deposit of faith from which the Church derives her certainty about revelation.
15. To whom is the deposit of faith entrusted?
The Apostles entrusted the deposit of faith to the whole of the Church. Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith the people of God as a whole, assisted by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Magisterium of the Church, never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply and to live more fully from the gift of divine revelation.
16. To whom is given the task of authentically interpreting the deposit of faith?
The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the deposit of faith has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone, that is, to the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, and to the bishops in communion with him. To this Magisterium, which in the service of the Word of God enjoys the certain charism of truth, belongs also the task of defining dogmas which are formulations of the truths contained in divine Revelation. This authority of the Magisterium also extends to those truths necessarily connected with Revelation.
17. What is the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium?
Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium are so closely united with each other that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.
18. Why does Sacred Scripture teach the truth?
Because God himself is the author of Sacred Scripture. For this reason it is said to be inspired and to teach without error those truths which are necessary for our salvation. The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors who wrote what he wanted to teach us. The Christian faith, however, is not a “religion of the Book”, but of the Word of God – “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux).
19. How is Sacred Scripture to be read?
Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria: 1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture; 2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church; 3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves.
20. What is the Canon of Scripture?
The Canon of Scripture is the complete list of the sacred writings which the Church has come to recognize through Apostolic Tradition. The Canon consists of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New.
21. What is the importance of the Old Testament for Christians?
Christians venerate the Old Testament as the true word of God. All of the books of the Old Testament are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value. They bear witness to the divine pedagogy of God's saving love. They are written, above all, to prepare for the coming of Christ the Savior of the universe.
22. What importance does the New Testament have for Christians?
The New Testament, whose central object is Jesus Christ, conveys to us the ultimate truth of divine Revelation. Within the New Testament the four Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are the heart of all the Scriptures because they are the principle witness to the life and teaching of Jesus. As such, they hold a unique place in the Church.
23. What is the unity that exists between the Old and the New Testaments?
Scripture is one insofar as the Word of God is one. God’s plan of salvation is one, and the divine inspiration of both Testaments is one. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old; the two shed light on each other.
24. What role does Sacred Scripture play in the life of the Church?
Sacred Scripture gives support and vigor to the life of the Church. For the children of the Church, it is a confirmation of the faith, food for the soul and the fount of the spiritual life. Sacred Scripture is the soul of theology and of pastoral preaching. The Psalmist says that it is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Church, therefore, exhorts all to read Sacred Scripture frequently because “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Saint Jerome).
Man's Response to God
25. How does man respond to God who reveals himself?
Sustained by divine grace, we respond to God with the obedience of faith, which means the full surrender of ourselves to God and the acceptance of his truth insofar as it is guaranteed by the One who is Truth itself.
26. Who are the principal witnesses of the obedience of faith in the Sacred Scriptures?
There are many such witnesses, two in particular: One is Abraham who when put to the test “believed in God” (Romans 4:3) and always obeyed his call. For this reason he is called “the Father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11-18). The other is the Virgin Mary who, throughout her entire life, embodied in a perfect way the obedience of faith: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
27. What does it mean in practice for a person to believe in God?
It means to adhere to God himself, entrusting oneself to him and giving assent to all the truths which God has revealed because God is Truth. It means to believe in one God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
28. What are the characteristics of faith?
Faith is the supernatural virtue which is necessary for salvation. It is a free gift of God and is accessible to all who humbly seek it. The act of faith is a human act, that is, an act of the intellect of a person - prompted by the will moved by God - who freely assents to divine truth. Faith is also certain because it is founded on the Word of God; it works “through charity” (Galatians 5:6); and it continually grows through listening to the Word of God and through prayer. It is, even now, a foretaste of the joys of heaven.
29. Why is there no contradiction between faith and science?
Though faith is above reason, there can never be a contradiction between faith and science because both originate in God. It is God himself who gives to us the light both of reason and of faith.
“I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.” (Saint Augustine)
30. Why is faith a personal act, and at the same time ecclesial?
Faith is a personal act insofar as it is the free response of the human person to God who reveals himself. But at the same time it is an ecclesial act which expresses itself in the proclamation, “We believe”. It is in fact the Church that believes: and thus by the grace of the Holy Spirit precedes, engenders and nourishes the faith of each Christian For this reason the Church is Mother and Teacher.
“No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.” (Saint Cyprian)
31. Why are the formulas of faith important?
The formulas of faith are important because they permit one to express, assimilate, celebrate, and share together with others the truths of the faith through a common language.
32. In what way is the faith of the Church one faith alone?
The Church, although made up of persons who have diverse languages, cultures, and rites, nonetheless professes with a united voice the one faith that was received from the one Lord and that was passed on by the one Apostolic Tradition. She confesses one God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and points to one way of salvation. Therefore we believe with one heart and one soul all that is contained in the Word of God, handed down or written, and which is proposed by the Church as divinely revealed.
The Profession of the Christian Faith
The Apostles’ CreedI 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; the third day
He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at
the right hand of God the Father
almighty, from thence He shall come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting.
Credo in Deum Patrem omnipoténtem, Creatorem cæli et terræ, et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui concéptus est de Spíritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Póntio Piláto, crucifixus, mórtuus, et sepúltus, descéndit ad ínferos, tértia die resurréxit a mórtuis, ascéndit ad cælos, sedet ad déxteram Dei Patris omnipoténtis, inde ventúrus est iudicáre vivos et mórtuos.
Et in Spíritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclésiam cathólicam,
vitam ætérnam. Amen.
The Nicene-Constantinopolitan CreedI believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through Him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation,
He came down from heaven: by the
power of the Holy Spirit He was
born of the Virgin Mary,
and became Man.
For our sake He was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day He rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the
Father. He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the Giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and
the Son. With the Father and the Son
He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic,
and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Symbolum Nicænum Costantinopolitanum
Credo in unum Deum,
Factorem cæli et terræ,
visibílium ómnium et invisibilium
Et in unum Dóminum Iesum
Filium Dei unigénitum
et ex Patre natum
ante ómnia sǽcula:
Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lúmine,
Deum verum de Deo vero,
génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri: per quem ómnia
qui propter nos hómines
et propter nostram salútem,
descéndit de cælis, et incarnátus est
de Spíritu Sancto ex Maria Víirgine
et homo factus est, crucifíxus étiam
pro nobis sub Póntio Piláto, passus
et sepúltus est, et resurréxit tértia
die secúndum Scriptúras,
et ascéndit in cælum, sedet ad
déxteram Patris, et íterum ventúrus
est cum glória, iudicáre vivos et
mórtuos, cuius regni non erit finis.
Credo in Spíritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificántem, qui ex Patre
Filióque procédit, qui cum Patre et
Fílio simul adorátur et conglorificátur, qui locútus est per prophétas.
Et unam sanctam cathólicam
et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
Confíteor unum Baptísma
in remissiónem peccatórum.
Et exspécto resurrectiónem mortuórum,
et vitam ventúri sæculi.
I Believe in God the Father
The Symbols of Faith
33. What are the symbols of faith?
The symbols of faith are composite formulas, also called “professions of faith” or “Creeds”, with which the Church from her very beginning has set forth synthetically and handed on her own faith in a language that is normative and common to all the faithful.
34. What are the most ancient symbols (professions) of faith?
The most ancient symbols of faith are the baptismal creeds. Because Baptism is conferred “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), the truths of faith professed at Baptism are articulated in reference to the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.
35. What are the most important symbols of the faith?
They are the Apostles' Creed which is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which stems from the first two ecumenical Councils, that of Nicea (325 A.D.) and that of Constantinople (381 A.D.) and which even to this day are common to all the great Churches of the East and the West.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.”
36. Why does the Profession of Faith begin with the words, “I believe in God”?
The Profession of Faith begins with these words because the affirmation “I believe in God” is the most important, the source of all the other truths about man and about the world, and about the entire life of everyone who believes in God.
37. Why does one profess belief that there is only one God?
Belief in the one God is professed because he has revealed himself to the people of Israel as the only One when he said, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4) and “there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22). Jesus himself confirmed that God is “the one Lord” (Mark 12:29). To confess that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also God and Lord does not introduce any division into the one God.
38. With what name does God reveal Himself?
God revealed himself to Moses as the living God, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). God also revealed to Moses his mysterious name “I Am Who I Am (YHWH)”. Already in Old Testament times this ineffable name of God was replaced by the divine title Lord. Thus in the New Testament, Jesus who was called Lord is seen as true God.
39. Is God the only One who “is”?
Since creatures have received everything they are and have from God, only God in himself is the fullness of being and of every perfection. God is “He who is” without origin and without end. Jesus also reveals that he bears the divine name “I Am” (John 8:28).
40. Why is the revelation of God's name important?
In revealing his name, God makes known the riches contained in the ineffable mystery of his being. He alone is from everlasting to everlasting. He is the One who transcends the world and history. It is he who made heaven and earth. He is the faithful God, always close to his people, in order to save them. He is the highest holiness, “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4), always ready to forgive. He is the One who is spiritual, transcendent, omnipotent, eternal, personal, and perfect. He is truth and love.
“God is the infinitely perfect being who is the most Holy Trinity.” (Saint Turibius of Montenegro)
41. In what way is God the truth?
God is Truth itself and as such he can neither deceive nor be deceived. He is “light, and in him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). The eternal Son of God, the incarnation of wisdom, was sent into the world “to bear witness to the Truth” (John 18:37).
42. In what way does God reveal that he is love?
God revealed himself to Israel as the One who has a stronger love than that of parents for their children or of husbands and wives for their spouses. God in himself “is love” (1 John 4: 8.16), who gives himself completely and gratuitously, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). By sending his Son and the Holy Spirit, God reveals that he himself is an eternal exchange of love.
43. What does it mean to believe in only one God?
To believe in the one and only God involves coming to know his greatness and majesty. It involves living in thanksgiving and trusting always in him, even in adversity. It involves knowing the unity and true dignity of all human beings, created in his image. It involves making good use of the things which he has created.
44. What is the central mystery of Christian faith and life?
The central mystery of Christian faith and life is the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity. Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
45. Can the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity be known by the light of human reason alone?
God has left some traces of his trinitarian being in creation and in the Old Testament but his inmost being as the Holy Trinity is a mystery which is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of the Son of God and the sending of the Holy Spirit. This mystery was revealed by Jesus Christ and it is the source of all the other mysteries.
46. What did Jesus Christ reveal to us about the mystery of the Father?
Jesus Christ revealed to us that God is “Father”, not only insofar as he created the universe and the mankind, but above all because he eternally generated in his bosom the Son who is his Word, “ the radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
47. Who is the Holy Spirit revealed to us by Jesus Christ?
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. He is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son. He “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26) who is the principle without a principle and the origin of all trinitarian life. He proceeds also from the Son (Filioque) by the eternal Gift which the Father makes of him to the Son. Sent by the Father and the Incarnate Son, the Holy Spirit guides the Church “to know all truth” (John 16:13).
48. How does the Church express her trinitarian faith?
The Church expresses her trinitarian faith by professing a belief in the oneness of God in whom there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three divine Persons are only one God because each of them equally possesses the fullness of the one and indivisible divine nature. They are really distinct from each other by reason of the relations which place them in correspondence to each other. The Father generates the Son; the Son is generated by the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
49. How do the three divine Persons work?
Inseparable in their one substance, the three divine Persons are also inseparable in their activity. The Trinity has one operation, sole and the same. In this one divine action, however, each Person is present according to the mode which is proper to him in the Trinity.
“O my God, Trinity whom I adore...grant my soul peace; make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling, and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.” (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)
50. What does it mean to say that God is almighty?
God reveals himself as “the strong One, the mighty One” (Psalm 24:8), as the One “to whom nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). His omnipotence is universal, mysterious and shows itself in the creation of the world out of nothing and humanity out of love; but above all it shows itself in the Incarnation and the Resurrection of his Son, in the gift of filial adoption and in the forgiveness of sins. For this reason, the Church directs her prayers to the “almighty and eternal God” (“Omnipotens sempiterne Deus...”).
51. What is the importance of affirming “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)?
The significance is that creation is the foundation of all God’s saving plans. It shows forth the almighty and wise love of God, and it is the first step toward the covenant of the one God with his people. It is the beginning of the history of salvation which culminates in Christ; and it is the first answer to our fundamental questions regarding our very origin and destiny.
52. Who created the world?
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the one and indivisible principle of creation even though the work of creating the world is particularly attributed to God the Father.
53. Why was the world created?
The world was created for the glory of God who wished to show forth and communicate his goodness, truth and beauty. The ultimate end of creation is that God, in Christ, might be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28) for his glory and for our happiness.
“The glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God.” (Saint Irenaeus)
54. How did God create the universe?
God created the universe freely with wisdom and love. The world is not the result of any necessity, nor of blind fate, nor of chance. God created “out of nothing” (ex nihilo) (2 Maccabees 7:28) a world which is ordered and good and which he infinitely transcends. God preserves his creation in being and sustains it, giving it the capacity to act and leading it toward its fulfillment through his Son and the Holy Spirit.
55. What is divine providence?
Divine Providence consists in the dispositions with which God leads his creatures toward their ultimate end. God is the sovereign Master of his own plan. To carry it out, however, he also makes use of the cooperation of his creatures. For God grants his creatures the dignity of acting on their own and of being causes for each other.
56. How do we collaborate with divine Providence?
While respecting our freedom, God asks us to cooperate with him and gives us the ability to do so through actions, prayers and sufferings, thus awakening in us the desire “to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
57. If God is omnipotent and provident, why then does evil exist?
To this question, as painful and mysterious as it is, only the whole of Christian faith can constitute a response. God is not in any way - directly or indirectly - the cause of evil. He illuminates the mystery of evil in his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose in order to vanquish that great moral evil, human sin, which is at the root of all other evils.
58. Why does God permit evil?
Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil. This was realized in a wondrous way by God in the death and resurrection of Christ. In fact, from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son) he has brought forth the greatest of all goods (the glorification of Christ and our redemption).
Heaven and Earth
59. What did God create?
Sacred Scripture says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Church in her profession of faith proclaims that God is the Creator of everything, visible and invisible, of all spiritual and corporeal beings, that is, of angels and of the visible world and, in a special way, of man.
60. Who are the angels?
The angels are purely spiritual creatures, incorporeal, invisible, immortal, and personal beings endowed with intelligence and will. They ceaselessly contemplate God face-to-face and they glorify him. They serve him and are his messengers in the accomplishment of his saving mission to all.
61. In what way are angels present in the life of the Church?
The Church joins with the angels in adoring God, invokes their assistance and commemorates some in her liturgy.
“ Beside each believer stands an angel as a protector and shepherd leading him to life.” (Saint Basil the Great)
62. What does Sacred Scripture teach about the creation of the visible world?
Through the account of the “six days” of creation Sacred Scripture teaches us the value of the created world and its purpose, namely, to praise God and to serve humanity. Every single thing owes its very existence to God from whom it receives its goodness and perfection, its proper laws and its proper place in the universe.
63. What is the place of the human person in creation?
The human person is the summit of visible creation in as much as he or she is created in the image and likeness of God.
64. What kind of bond exists between created things?
There exist an interdependence and a hierarchy among creatures as willed by God. At the same time, there is also a unity and solidarity among creatures since all have the same Creator, are loved by him and are ordered to his glory. Respecting the laws inscribed in creation and the relations which derive from the nature of things is, therefore, a principle of wisdom and a foundation for morality.
65. What is the relationship between the work of creation and the work of redemption?
The work of creation culminates in the still greater work of redemption, which in fact gives rise to a new creation in which everything will recover its true meaning and fulfillment.
66. In what sense do we understand man and woman as created “in the image of God”?
The human person is created in the image of God in the sense that he or she is capable of knowing and of loving their Creator in freedom. Human beings are the only creatures on earth that God has willed for their own sake and has called to share, through knowledge and love, in his own divine life. All human beings, in as much as they are created in the image of God, have the dignity of a person. A person is not something but someone, capable of self-knowledge and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with God and with other persons.
67. For what purpose did God create man and woman?
God has created everything for them; but he has created them to know, serve and love God, to offer all of creation in this world in thanksgiving back to him and to be raised up to life with him in heaven. Only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of the human person come into true light. Man and woman are predestined to reproduce the image of the Son of God made Man, who is the perfect “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
68. Why does the human race form a unity?
All people form the unity of the human race by reason of the common origin which they have from God. God has made “from one ancestor all the nations of men” (Acts 17:26). All have but one Savior and are called to share in the eternal happiness of God.
69. How do the soul and body form a unity in the human being?
The human person is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. In man spirit and matter form one nature. This unity is so profound that, thanks to the spiritual principle which is the soul, the body which is material, becomes a living human body and participates in the dignity of the image of God.
70. Where does the soul come from?
The spiritual soul does not come from one’s parents but is created immediately by God and is immortal. It does not perish at the moment when it is separated from the body in death and it will be once again reunited with the body at the moment of the final resurrection.
71. What relationship has God established between man and woman?
Man and woman have been created by God in equal dignity insofar as they are human persons. At the same time, they have been created in a reciprocal complementarity insofar as they are masculine and feminine. God has willed them one for the other to form a communion of persons. They are also called to transmit human life by forming in matrimony “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). They are likewise called to subdue the earth as “stewards” of God.
72. What was the original condition of the human person according to the plan of God?
In creating man and woman God had given them a special participation in his own divine life in holiness and justice. In the plan of God they would not have had to suffer or die. Furthermore, a perfect harmony held sway within the human person, a harmony between creature and Creator, between man and woman, as well as between the first human couple and all of creation.
73. How should we understand the reality of sin?
Sin is present in human history. This reality of sin can be understood clearly only in the light of divine revelation and above all in the light of Christ the Savior of all. Where sin abounded, he made grace to abound all the more.
74. What was the fall of the angels?
This expression indicates that Satan and the other demons, about which Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church speak, were angels, created good by God. They were, however, transformed into evil because with a free and irrevocable choice they rejected God and his Kingdom, thus giving rise to the existence of hell. They try to associate human beings with their revolt against God. However, God has wrought in Christ a sure victory over the Evil One.
75. What was the first human sin?
When tempted by the devil, the first man and woman allowed trust in their Creator to die in their hearts. In their disobedience they wished to become “like God” but without God and not in accordance with God (Genesis 3:5). Thus, Adam and Eve immediately lost for themselves and for all their descendants the original grace of holiness and justice.
76. What is original sin?
Original sin, in which all human beings are born, is the state of deprivation of original holiness and justice. It is a sin “contracted” by us not “committed”; it is a state of birth and not a personal act. Because of the original unity of all human beings, it is transmitted to the descendants of Adam “not by imitation, but by propagation”. This transmission remains a mystery which we cannot fully understand.
77. What other consequences derive from original sin?
In consequence of original sin human nature, without being totally corrupted, is wounded in its natural powers. It is subject to ignorance, to suffering, and to the dominion of death and is inclined toward sin. This inclination is called concupiscence.
78. After the first sin, what did God do?
After the first sin the world was inundated with sin but God did not abandon man to the power of death. Rather, he foretold in a mysterious way in the “Protoevangelium” (Genesis 3:15) that evil would be conquered and that man would be lifted up from his fall. This was the first proclamation of the Messiah and Redeemer. Therefore, the fall would be called in the future a “happy fault” because it “gained for us so great a Redeemer” (Liturgy of the Easter Vigil).
I Believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God
79. What is the Good News for humanity?
It is the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the “Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), who died and rose from the dead. In the time of King Herod and the Emperor Caesar Augustus, God fulfilled the promises that he made to Abraham and his descendants. He sent “his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
80. How is the Good News spread?
From the very beginning the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Jesus Christ in order to lead all to faith in him. Even today, from the loving knowledge of Christ there springs up in the believer the desire to evangelize and catechize, that is, to reveal in the Person of Christ the entire design of God and to put humanity in communion with him.
“And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord”
81. What is the meaning of the name “Jesus”?
Given by the angel at the time of the Annunciation, the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. The name expresses his identity and his mission “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Peter proclaimed that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12).
82. Why is Jesus called “Christ”?
“Christ” in Greek, “Messiah” in Hebrew, means the “anointed one”. Jesus is the Christ because he is consecrated by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit for his redeeming mission. He is the Messiah awaited by Israel, sent into the world by the Father. Jesus accepted the title of Messiah but he made the meaning of the term clear: “come down from heaven” (John 3:13), crucified and then risen , he is the Suffering Servant “who gives his life as a ransom for the many” (Matthew 20:28). From the name Christ comes our name of Christian.
83. In what sense is Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God?
Jesus is the Son of God in a unique and perfect way. At the time of his Baptism and his Transfiguration, the voice of the Father designated Jesus as his “beloved Son”. In presenting himself as the Son who “knows the Father” (Matthew 11:27), Jesus affirmed his singular and eternal relationship with God his Father. He is “the Only Begotten Son of God” (1 John 4:9), the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the central figure of apostolic preaching. The apostles saw “his glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).
84. What is the meaning of the title “Lord”?
In the Bible this title regularly designates God as Sovereign. Jesus ascribed this title to himself and revealed his divine sovereignty by his power over nature, over demons, over sin, and over death, above all by his own Resurrection. The first Christian creeds proclaimed that the power, the honor, and the glory that are due to God the Father also belong to Jesus: God “has given him the name which is above every other name” (Philippians 2:9). He is the Lord of the world and of history, the only One to whom we must completely submit our personal freedom.
“Jesus Christ was conceived by the power
of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary”
85. Why did the Son of God become man?
For us men and for our salvation, the Son of God became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He did so to reconcile us sinners with God, to have us learn of God’s infinite love, to be our model of holiness and to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
86. What does the word “Incarnation” mean?
The Church calls the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in the one divine Person of the Word the “Incarnation”. To bring about our salvation the Son of God was made “flesh” (John 1:14) and became truly man. Faith in the Incarnation is a distinctive sign of the Christian faith.
87. In what way is Jesus Christ true God and true man?
Jesus is inseparably true God and true man in the unity of his divine Person. As the Son of God, who is “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father,” he was made true man, our brother, without ceasing to be God, our Lord.
88. What does the Council of Chalcedon (in the year 451) teach in this regard?
The Council of Chalcedon teaches us to confess “one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in his humanity, true God and true man, composed of rational soul and body, consubstantial with the Father by his divinity, and consubstantial with us by his humanity, ‘like us in all things but sin’ (Hebrews 4:15), begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity, and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary, the Virgin and Mother of God, as to his humanity.”
89. How does the Church set forth the Mystery of the Incarnation?
The Church confesses that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, not confused with each other but united in the Person of the Word. Therefore, in the humanity of Jesus all things - his miracles, his suffering, and his death - must be attributed to his divine Person which acts by means of his assumed human nature.
“O Only-begotten Son and Word of God you who are immortal, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary (...) You who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us!” (Byzantine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom)
90. Did the incarnate Son of God have a soul with human knowledge?
The Son of God assumed a body animated by a rational human soul. With his human intellect Jesus learned many things by way of experience; but also as man the Son of God had an intimate and immediate knowledge of God his Father. He likewise understood people’s secret thoughts and he knew fully the eternal plans which he had come to reveal.
91. How did the two wills of the incarnate Word cooperate?
Jesus had a divine will and a human will. In his earthly life the Son of God humanly willed all that he had divinely decided with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation. The human will of Christ followed without opposition or reluctance the divine will or, in other words, it was subject to it.
92. Did Christ have a true human body?
Christ assumed a true human body by means of which the invisible God became visible. This is the reason why Christ can be represented and venerated in sacred images.
93. What does the heart of Jesus exemplify?
Jesus knew us and loved us with a human heart. His Heart, pierced for our salvation, is the symbol of that infinite love with which he loves the Father and each one of us.
94. What is the meaning of the expression “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit...”?
This expression means that the Virgin Mary conceived the eternal Son in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit without the cooperation of a man. The angel told her at the Annunciation that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Luke 1:35).
95. “...Born of the Virgin Mary”: Why is Mary truly the Mother of God?
Mary is truly the Mother of God because she is the Mother of Jesus (John 2:1, John 19:25). The One who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and became truly her Son is actually the eternal Son of God the Father. He is God himself.
96. What does the “Immaculate Conception” mean?
God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son. In order to carry out her mission she herself was conceived immaculate. This means that, thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception.
97. How does Mary cooperate in the divine plan of salvation?
By the grace of God Mary was kept free from every personal sin her whole life long. She is the one who is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28), “the all holy”. When the angel announced to her that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), she freely gave her consent with “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Mary thus gave herself entirely to the person and work of her Son Jesus, espousing wholeheartedly the divine will regarding salvation.
98. What does the virginal conception of Jesus mean?
The virginal conception of Jesus means that Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin solely by the power of the Holy Spirit without the intervention of a man. He is the Son of the heavenly Father according to his divine nature and the Son of Mary according to his human nature. He is, however, truly the Son of God in both natures since there is in him only one Person who is divine.
99. In what sense is Mary “ever Virgin”?
Mary is ever virgin in the sense that she “remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin” (Saint Augustine). Therefore, when the Gospels speak of the “brothers and sisters of Jesus”, they are talking about the close relations of Jesus, according to the way of speaking used in Sacred Scripture.
100. In what way is the spiritual motherhood of Mary universal?
Mary had only one Son, Jesus, but in him her spiritual motherhood extends to all whom he came to save. Obediently standing at the side of the new Adam, Jesus Christ, the Virgin is the new Eve, the true mother of all the living, who with a mother's love cooperates in their birth and their formation in the order of grace. Virgin and Mother, Mary is the figure of the Church, its most perfect realization.
101. In what sense is the life of Christ a Mystery?
The entire life of Christ is a revelation. What was visible in the earthly life of Jesus leads us to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship: “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Furthermore, even though salvation comes completely from the cross and the resurrection, the entire life of Christ is a mystery of redemption because everything that Jesus did, said, and suffered had for its aim the salvation of fallen human beings and the restoration of their vocation as children of God.
102. How did God prepare the world for the mystery of Christ?
God prepared for the coming of his Son over the centuries. He awakened in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming and he prepared for it specifically through the Old Testament, culminating with John the Baptist who was the last and greatest of the prophets. We relive this long period of expectancy in the annual liturgical celebration of the season of Advent.
103. What does the Gospel teach about the mysteries of the birth and infancy of Jesus?
At Christmas the glory of heaven is shown forth in the weakness of a baby; the circumcision of Jesus is a sign of his belonging to the Hebrew people and is a prefiguration of our Baptism; the Epiphany is the manifestation of the Messiah King of Israel to all the nations; at the presentation in the temple, Simeon and Anna symbolise all the anticipation of Israel awaiting its encounter with its Savior; the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents proclaim that the entire life of Christ will be under the sign of persecution; the departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents Jesus as the new Moses and the true and definitive liberator.
104. What does the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth teach us?
In the course of his hidden life in Nazareth Jesus stayed in the silence of an ordinary existence. This allows us to enter into fellowship with him in the holiness to be found in a daily life marked by prayer, simplicity, work and family love. His obedience to Mary and to Joseph, his foster father, is an image of his filial obedience to the Father. Mary and Joseph accepted with faith the mystery of Jesus even though they did not always understand it.
105. Why did Jesus receive from John the “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3)?
To inaugurate his public life and to anticipate the “Baptism” of his death, he who was without sin accepted to be numbered among sinners. He was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Father proclaimed him to be “his beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17) and the Spirit descended upon him. The baptism of Jesus is a prefiguring of our baptism.
106. What do we learn from the temptations of Jesus in the desert?
The temptations of Jesus in the desert recapitulate the temptation of Adam in Paradise and the temptations of Israel in the desert. Satan tempts Jesus in regard to his obedience to the mission given him by the Father. Christ, the new Adam, resists and his victory proclaims that of his passion which is the supreme obedience of his filial love. The Church unites herself to this mystery in a special way in the liturgical season of Lent.
107. Who is invited to come into the Kingdom of God proclaimed and brought about by Jesus?
All are invited by Jesus to enter the Kingdom of God. Even the worst of sinners is called to convert and to accept the boundless mercy of the Father. Already here on earth, the Kingdom belongs to those who accept it with a humble heart. To them the mysteries of the Kingdom are revealed.
108. Why did Jesus manifest the Kingdom by means of signs and miracles?
Jesus accompanied his words with signs and miracles to bear witness to the fact that the Kingdom is present in him, the Messiah. Although he healed some people, he did not come to abolish all evils here below but rather to free us especially from the slavery of sin. The driving out of demons proclaimed that his cross would be victorious over “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31).
109. In the Kingdom, what authority did Jesus bestow upon his Apostles?
Jesus chose the twelve, the future witnesses of his Resurrection, and made them sharers of his mission and of his authority to teach, to absolve from sins, and to build up and govern the Church. In this college, Peter received “the keys of the Kingdom” (Matthew 16:19) and assumed the first place with the mission to keep the faith in its integrity and to strengthen his brothers.
110. What is the meaning of the Transfiguration?
Above all the Transfiguration shows forth the Trinity: “the Father in the voice, the Son in the man Jesus, the Spirit in the shining cloud” (Saint Thomas Aquinas). Speaking with Moses and Elijah about his “departure” (Luke 9:31), Jesus reveals that his glory comes by way of the cross and he anticipates his resurrection and his glorious coming “which will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
“You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.” (Byzantine Liturgy)
111. How did the messianic entrance into Jerusalem come about?
At the established time Jesus chose to go up to Jerusalem to suffer his passion and death, and to rise from the dead. As the Messiah King who shows forth the coming of the Kingdom, he entered into his city mounted on a donkey. He was acclaimed by the little children whose shout of joyful praise is taken up in the Sanctus of the Eucharistic liturgy: “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna (save us!)” (Matthew 21:9). The liturgy of the Church opens Holy Week by celebrating this entry into Jerusalem.
“Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried.”
112. What is the importance of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus?
The Paschal Mystery of Jesus, which comprises his passion, death, resurrection, and glorification, stands at the center of the Christian faith because God's saving plan was accomplished once for all by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.
113. What were the accusations by which Jesus was condemned to death?
Some of the leaders of Israel accused Jesus of acting against the law, the temple in Jerusalem, and in particular against faith in the one God because he proclaimed himself to be the Son of God. For this reason they handed him over to Pilate so that he might condemn him to death.
114. How did Jesus conduct himself in regard to the Law of Israel?
Jesus did not abolish the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai but he fulfilled it by giving it its definitive interpretation. He himself was the divine Legislator who fully carried out this Law. Furthermore, as the faithful Servant, he offered by means of his expiatory death the only sacrifice capable of making atonement for all the “transgressions committed by men under the first Covenant” (Hebrews 9:15).
115. What was the attitude of Jesus toward the temple in Jerusalem?
Jesus was accused of hostility to the temple. On the contrary, he venerated it as “the house of his Father” (John 2:16); and it was there that he imparted an important part of his teaching. However, he also foretold its destruction in connection with his own death and he presented himself as the definitive dwelling place of God among men.
116. Did Jesus contradict Israel's faith in the one God and savior?
Jesus never contradicted faith in the one God, not even when he performed the stupendous divine work which fulfilled the messianic promises and revealed himself as equal to God, namely the pardoning of sins. However, the call of Jesus to believe in him and to be converted makes it possible to understand the tragic misunderstanding of the Sanhedrin which judged Jesus to be worthy of death as a blasphemer.
117. Who is responsible for the death of Jesus?
The passion and death of Jesus cannot be imputed indiscriminately either to all the Jews that were living at that time or to their descendants. Every single sinner, that is, every human being is really the cause and the instrument of the sufferings of the Redeemer; and the greater blame in this respect falls on those above all who are Christians and who the more often fall into sin or delight in their vices.
118. Why was the death of Jesus part of God's plan?
To reconcile to himself all who were destined to die because of sin God took the loving initiative of sending his Son that he might give himself up for sinners. Proclaimed in the Old Testament, especially as the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, the death of Jesus came about “in accordance with the Scriptures”.
119. In what way did Christ offer himself to the Father?
The entire life of Christ was a free offering to the Father to carry out his plan of salvation. He gave “his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) and in this way he reconciled all of humanity with God. His suffering and death showed how his humanity was the free and perfect instrument of that divine love which desires the salvation of all people.
120. How is Jesus’ offering expressed at the Last Supper?
At the Last Supper with his apostles on the eve of his passion Jesus anticipated, that is, both symbolized his free self-offering and made it really present: “This is my Body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19), “This is my Blood which is poured out...” (Matthew 26:28) Thus he both instituted the Eucharist as the “memorial” (1 Corinthians 11:25) of his sacrifice and instituted his apostles as priests of the new covenant.
121. What happened in the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Despite the horror which death represented for the sacred humanity of Jesus “who is the Author of Life” (Acts 3:15), the human will of the Son of God remained faithful to the will of the Father for our salvation. Jesus accepted the duty to carry our sins in his Body “becoming obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8).
122. What are the results of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross?
Jesus freely offered his life as an expiatory sacrifice, that is, he made reparation for our sins with the full obedience of his love unto death. This love “to the end” (John 13:1) of the Son of God reconciled all of humanity with the Father. The paschal sacrifice of Christ, therefore, redeems humanity in a way that is unique, perfect, and definitive; and it opens up for them communion with God.
123. Why does Jesus call upon his disciples to take up their cross?
By calling his disciples to take up their cross and follow him Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who are to be its first beneficiaries.
124. In what condition was the body of Christ while it lay in the tomb?
Christ underwent a real death and a true burial. However, the power of God preserved his body from corruption.
“Jesus Christ descended into hell;
on the third day He rose again from the dead.”
125. What is the “hell” into which Jesus descended?
This “hell” was different from the hell of the damned. It was the state of all those, righteous and evil, who died before Christ. With his soul united to his divine Person Jesus went down to the just in hell who were awaiting their Redeemer so they could enter at last into the vision of God. When he had conquered by his death both death and the devil “who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14), he freed the just who looked forward to the Redeemer and opened for them the gates of heaven.
126. What place does the Resurrection of Christ occupy in our faith?
The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ and represents along with his cross an essential part of the Paschal Mystery.
127. What are the signs that bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus?
Along with the essential sign of the empty tomb, the Resurrection of Jesus is witnessed to by the women who first encountered Christ and proclaimed him to the apostles. Jesus then “appeared to Cephas (Peter) and then to the Twelve. Following that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brethren at one time” (1 Corinthians 15:5-6) and to others as well. The apostles could not have invented the story of the resurrection since it seemed impossible to them. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself upbraided them for their unbelief.
128. Why is the Resurrection at the same time a transcendent occurrence?
While being an historical event, verifiable and attested by signs and testimonies, the Resurrection, insofar as it is the entrance of Christ's humanity into the glory of God, transcends and surpasses history as a mystery of faith. For this reason the risen Christ did not manifest himself to the world but to his disciples, making them his witnesses to the people.
129. What is the condition of the risen body of Jesus?
The Resurrection of Christ was not a return to earthly life. His risen body is that which was crucified and bears the marks of his passion. However it also participates in the divine life, with the characteristics of a glorified body. Because of this the risen Jesus was utterly free to appear to his disciples how and where he wished and under various aspects.
130. How is the Resurrection the work of the Most Holy Trinity?
The Resurrection of Christ is a transcendent work of God. The three Persons act together according to what is proper to them: the Father manifests his power; the Son “takes again” the life which he freely offered (John 10:17), reuniting his soul and his body which the Spirit brings to life and glorifies.
131. What is the saving meaning of the Resurrection?
The Resurrection is the climax of the Incarnation. It confirms the divinity of Christ and all the things which he did and taught. It fulfills all the divine promises made for us. Furthermore the risen Christ, the conqueror of sin and death, is the principle of our justification and our Resurrection. It procures for us now the grace of filial adoption which is a real share in the life of the only begotten Son. At the end of time he will raise up our bodies.
“Jesus Ascended into Heaven
and Is Seated at the Right Hand of
God the Father Almighty”
132. What does the Ascension mean?
After forty days during which Jesus showed himself to the apostles with ordinary human features which veiled his glory as the Risen One, Christ ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the Lord who now in his humanity reigns in the everlasting glory of the Son of God and constantly intercedes for us before the Father. He sends us his Spirit and he gives us the hope of one day reaching the place he has prepared for us.
“From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”
133. How does the Lord Jesus now reign?
As the Lord of the cosmos and of history, the Head of his Church, the glorified Christ mysteriously remains on earth where his kingdom is already present in seed and in its beginning in the Church. One day he will return in glory but we do not know the time. Because of this we live in watchful anticipation, praying “Come, Lord” (Revelation 22:20).
134. How will the coming of the Lord in glory happen?
After the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world the glorious coming of Christ will take place. Then will come the definitive triumph of God in the parousia and the Last Judgment. Thus the Kingdom of God will be realized.
135. How will Christ judge the living and the dead?
Christ will judge with the power he has gained as the Redeemer of the world who came to bring salvation to all. The secrets of hearts will be brought to light as well as the conduct of each one toward God and toward his neighbor. Everyone, according to how he has lived, will either be filled with life or damned for eternity. In this way, “the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) will come about in which “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
I Believe in the Holy Spirit
136. What does the Church mean when she confesses: “I believe in the Holy Spirit”?
To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess faith in the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity who proceeds from the Father and the Son and “is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son”. The Spirit is “sent into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6) so that we might receive new life as sons of God.
137. Why are the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit inseparable?
In the indivisible Trinity, the Son and the Spirit are distinct but inseparable. From the very beginning until the end of time, when the Father sends his Son he also sends his Spirit who unites us to Christ in faith so that as adopted sons we can call God “Father” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit is invisible but we know him through his actions, when he reveals the Word to us and when he acts in the Church.
138. What are the names of the Holy Spirit?
“The Holy Spirit” is the proper name of the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus also called him the Paraclete (Consoler or Advocate) and the Spirit of Truth. The New Testament also refers to him as the Spirit of Christ, of the Lord, of God - the Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of the Promise.
139. What symbols are used to represent the Holy Spirit?
There are many symbols of the Holy Spirit: living water which springs from the wounded Heart of Christ and which quenches the thirst of the baptized; anointing with oil, which is the sacramental sign of Confirmation; fire which transforms what it touches; the cloud, dark or luminous, in which the divine glory is revealed; the imposition of hands by which the Holy Spirit is given; the dove which descended on Christ at his baptism and remained with him.
140. What does it mean that the Spirit “has spoken through the prophets”?
The term “prophets” means those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak in the name of God. The Spirit brings the prophecies of the Old Testament to their complete fulfillment in Christ whose mystery he reveals in the New Testament.
141. What did the Holy Spirit accomplish in John the Baptist?
The Spirit filled John the Baptist, who was the last prophet of the Old Testament. Under his inspiration John was sent to “prepare for the Lord a people well disposed” (Luke 1:17). He was to proclaim the coming of Christ, the Son of God, upon whom he saw the Spirit descend and remain, the one who “baptizes with the Spirit” (John 1:33).
142. What is the work of the Spirit in Mary?
The Holy Spirit brought to fulfillment in Mary all the waiting and the preparation of the Old Testament for the coming of Christ. In a singular way he filled her with grace and made her virginity fruitful so that she could give birth to the Son of God made flesh. He made her the Mother of the “whole Christ”, that is, of Jesus the Head and of the Church his body. Mary was present with the twelve on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit inaugurated the “last days” with the manifestation of the Church.
143. What is the relationship between the Spirit and Christ Jesus in his earthly mission?
Beginning with his Incarnation, the Son of God was consecrated in his humanity as the Messiah by means of the anointing of the Spirit. He revealed the Spirit in his teaching, fulfilled the promises made to the Fathers, and bestowed him upon the Church at its birth when he breathed on the apostles after the Resurrection.
144. What happened at Pentecost?
Fifty days after the Resurrection at Pentecost the glorified Jesus Christ poured out the Spirit in abundance and revealed him as a divine Person so that the Holy Trinity was fully manifest. The mission of Christ and of the Spirit became the mission of the Church which is sent to proclaim and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity.
“We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.” (Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion of Vespers of Pentecost)
145. What does the Spirit do in the Church?
The Spirit builds, animates and sanctifies the Church. As the Spirit of Love, he restores to the baptized the divine likeness that was lost through sin and causes them to live in Christ the very life of the Holy Trinity. He sends them forth to bear witness to the Truth of Christ and he organizes them in their respective functions so that all might bear “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).
146. How do Christ and his Spirit act in the hearts of the faithful?
Christ communicates his Spirit and the grace of God through the sacraments to all the members of the Church, who thus bear the fruits of the new life of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also the Master of prayer.
“I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH”
The Church in the Plan of God
147. What does the word Church mean?
The word Church refers to the people whom God calls and gathers together from every part of the earth. They form the assembly of those who through faith and Baptism have become children of God, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
148. Are there other names and images with which the Bible speaks about the Church?
In Sacred Scripture we find many images which bring out various complementary aspects of the mystery of the Church. The Old Testament favors those images that are bound to the people of God. The New Testament offers images that are linked to Christ as the Head of this people which is his Body. Other images are drawn from pastoral life (sheepfold, flock, sheep), from agriculture (field, olive grove, vineyard), from construction (dwelling place, stone, temple), and from family life (spouse, mother, family).
149. What is the origin and the fulfillment of the Church?
The Church finds her origin and fulfillment in the eternal plan of God. She was prepared for in the Old Covenant with the election of Israel, the sign of the future gathering of all the nations. Founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming death and Resurrection, the Church has been manifested as the mystery of salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. She will be perfected in the glory of heaven as the assembly of all the redeemed of the earth.
150. What is the mission of the Church?
The mission of the Church is to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of God begun by Jesus Christ among all peoples. The Church constitutes on earth the seed and beginning of this salvific Kingdom.
151. In what way is the Church a mystery?
The Church is a mystery in as much as in her visible reality there is present and active a divine spiritual reality which can only be seen with the eyes of faith.
152. What does it mean to say that the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation?
This means that she is the sign and instrument both of the reconciliation and communion of all of humanity with God and of the unity of the entire human race.
The Church: people of God,
body of Christ, temple of the Spirit
153. Why is the Church the ‘people of God’?
The Church is the ‘people of God’ because it pleased God to sanctify and save men not in isolation but by making them into one people gathered together by the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
154. What are the characteristics of the people of God?
One becomes a member of this people through faith in Christ and Baptism. This people has for its origin God the Father; for its head Jesus Christ; for its hallmark the dignity and freedom of the sons of God; for its law the new commandment of love; for its mission to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world; and for its destiny the Kingdom of God, already begun on earth.
155. In what way does the people of God share in the three functions of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King?
The people of God participate in Christ's priestly office insofar as the baptized are consecrated by the Holy Spirit to offer spiritual sacrifices. They share in Christ’s prophetic office when with a supernatural sense of faith they adhere unfailingly to that faith and deepen their understanding and witness to it. The people of God share in his kingly office by means of service, imitating Jesus Christ who as King of the universe made himself the servant of all, especially the poor and the suffering.
156. In what way is the Church the body of Christ?
The risen Christ unites his faithful people to himself in an intimate way by means of the Holy Spirit. In this way, those who believe in Christ, in as much as they are close to him especially in the Eucharist, are united among themselves in charity. They form one body, the Church, whose unity is experienced in the diversity of its members and its functions.
157. Who is the Head of this body?
Christ “is the Head of the body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18). The Church lives from him, in him and for him. Christ and the Church make up the “whole Christ” (Saint Augustine); “Head and members form, as it were, one and the same mystical person” (Saint Thomas Aquinas).
158. Why is the Church called the “Bride of Christ”?
She is called the “Bride of Christ” because the Lord himself called himself her “Spouse” (Mark 2:19). The Lord has loved the Church and has joined her to himself in an everlasting covenant. He has given himself up for her in order to purify her with his blood and “sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:26), making her the fruitful mother of all the children of God. While the term “body” expresses the unity of the “head” with the members, the term “bride” emphasizes the distinction of the two in their personal relationship.
159. Why is the Church called the temple of the Holy Spirit?
She is so called because the Holy Spirit resides in the body which is the Church, in her Head and in her members. He also builds up the Church in charity by the Word of God, the sacraments, the virtues, and charisms.
“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the members of Christ, that is, the body of Christ, which is the Church.” (Saint Augustine)
160. What are charisms?
Charisms are special gifts of the Holy Spirit which are bestowed on individuals for the good of others, the needs of the world, and in particular for the building up of the Church. The discernment of charisms is the responsibility of the Magisterium.
The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
161. Why is the Church one?
The Church is one because she has as her source and exemplar the unity of the Trinity of Persons in one God. As her Founder and Head, Jesus Christ re-established the unity of all people in one body. As her soul, the Holy Spirit unites all the faithful in communion with Christ. The Church has but one faith, one sacramental life, one apostolic succession, one common hope, and one and the same charity.
162. Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?
The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.
163. How are non-Catholic Christians to be considered?
In the churches and ecclesial communities which are separated from full communion with the Catholic Church, many elements of sanctification and truth can be found. All of these blessings come from Christ and lead to Catholic unity. Members of these churches and communities are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and we so we recognize them as brothers.
164. How does one commit oneself to work for the unity of Christians?
The desire to restore the unity of all Christians is a gift from Christ and a call of the Spirit. This desire involves the entire Church and it is pursued by conversion of heart, prayer, fraternal knowledge of each other and theological dialogue.
165. In what way is the Church holy?
The Church is holy insofar as the Most Holy God is her author. Christ has given himself for her to sanctify her and make her a source of sanctification. The Holy Spirit gives her life with charity. In the Church one finds the fullness of the means of salvation. Holiness is the vocation of each of her members and the purpose of all her activities. The Church counts among her members the Virgin Mary and numerous Saints who are her models and intercessors. The holiness of the Church is the fountain of sanctification for her children who here on earth recognize themselves as sinners ever in need of conversion and purification.
166. Why is the Church called “Catholic”?
The Church is catholic, that is universal, insofar as Christ is present in her: “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch). The Church proclaims the fullness and the totality of the faith; she bears and administers the fullness of the means of salvation; she is sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race.
167. Is the particular Church catholic?
Every particular Church (that is, a diocese or eparchy) is catholic. It is formed by a community of Christians who are in communion of faith and of the sacraments both with their Bishop, who is ordained in apostolic succession, and with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch).
168. Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
All human beings in various ways belong to or are ordered to the Catholic unity of the people of God. Fully incorporated into the Catholic Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, are joined to the Church by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion. The baptized who do not enjoy full Catholic unity are in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.
169. What is the relationship of the Catholic Church with the Jewish people?
The Catholic Church recognizes a particular link with the Jewish people in the fact that God chose them before all others to receive his Word. To the Jewish people belong “the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, and the patriarchs; and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ” (Romans 9:4, 5). The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to the revelation of God in the Old Covenant.
170. What is the bond that exists between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions?
There is a bond between all peoples which comes especially from the common origin and end of the entire human race. The Catholic Church recognizes that whatever is good or true in other religions comes from God and is a reflection of his truth. As such it can prepare for the acceptance of the Gospel and act as a stimulus toward the unity of humanity in the Church of Christ.
171. What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?
This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.
172. Why must the Church proclaim the Gospel to the whole world?
The Church must do so because Christ has given the command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This missionary mandate of the Lord has its origin in the eternal love of God who has sent his Son and the Holy Spirit because “he desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
173. In what sense is the Church missionary?
The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, continues the mission of Christ himself in the course of history. Christians must, therefore, proclaim to everyone the Good News borne by Christ; and, following his path, they must be ready for self-sacrifice, even unto martyrdom.
174. Why is the Church apostolic?
The Church is apostolic in her origin because she has been built on “the foundation of the Apostles” (Ephesians 2:20). She is apostolic in her teaching which is the same as that of the Apostles. She is apostolic by reason of her structure insofar as she is taught, sanctified, and guided until Christ returns by the Apostles through their successors who are the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter.
175. In what does the mission of the Apostles consist?
The Word “Apostle” means “one who is sent”. Jesus, the One sent by the Father, called to himself twelve of his disciples and appointed them as his Apostles, making them the chosen witnesses of his Resurrection and the foundation of his Church. He gave them the command to continue his own mission saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you” (John 20:21); and he promised to remain with them until the end of the world.
176. What is apostolic succession?
Apostolic succession is the transmission by means of the sacrament of Holy Orders of the mission and power of the Apostles to their successors, the bishops. Thanks to this transmission the Church remains in communion of faith and life with her origin, while through the centuries she carries on her apostolate for the spread of the Kingdom of Christ on earth.
The Faithful: hierarchy, laity, consecrated life
177. Who are the faithful?
The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through Baptism, have been constituted as the people of God; for this reason, since they have become sharers in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and royal office in their own manner, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church. There exists a true equality among them in their dignity as children of God.
178. How are the people of God formed?
Among the faithful by divine institution there exist sacred ministers who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders and who form the hierarchy of the Church. The other members of the Church are called the laity. In both the hierarchy and the laity there are certain of the faithful who are consecrated in a special manner to God by the profession of the evangelical counsels: chastity or celibacy, poverty, and obedience.
179. Why did Christ institute an ecclesiastical hierarchy?
Christ instituted an ecclesiastical hierarchy with the mission of feeding the people of God in his name and for this purpose gave it authority. The hierarchy is formed of sacred ministers,; bishops, priests, and deacons. Thanks to the sacrament of Orders, bishops and priests act in the exercise of their ministry in the name and person of Christ the Head. Deacons minister to the people of God in the diakonia (service) of word, liturgy, and charity.
180. How is the collegial dimension of Church ministry carried out?
After the example of the twelve Apostles who were chosen and sent out together by Christ, the unity of the Church’s hierarchy is at the service of the communion of all the faithful. Every bishop exercises his ministry as a member of the episcopal college in communion with the Pope and shares with him in the care of the universal Church. Priests exercise their ministry in the presbyterate of the local Church in communion with their own bishop and under his direction.
181. Why does ecclesial ministry also have a personal character?
Ecclesial ministry also has a personal character in as much as each minister, in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, is responsible before Christ who called him personally and conferred on him his mission.
182. What is the mission of the Pope?
The Pope, Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, is the perpetual, visible source and foundation of the unity of the Church. He is the vicar of Christ, the head of the College of bishops and pastor of the universal Church over which he has by divine institution full, supreme, immediate, and universal power.
183. What is the competence of the college of bishops?
The college of bishops in union with the Pope, and never without him, also exercises supreme and full authority over the Church.
184. How do the bishops carry out their mission of teaching?
Since they are authentic witnesses of the apostolic faith and are invested with the authority of Christ, the bishops in union with the Pope have the duty of proclaiming the Gospel faithfully and authoritatively to all. By means of a supernatural sense of faith, the people of God unfailingly adhere to the faith under the guidance of the living Magisterium of the Church.
185. When is the infallibility of the Magisterium exercised?
Infallibility is exercised when the Roman Pontiff, in virtue of his office as the Supreme Pastor of the Church, or the College of Bishops, in union with the Pope especially when joined together in an Ecumenical Council, proclaim by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. Infallibility is also exercised when the Pope and Bishops in their ordinary Magisterium are in agreement in proposing a doctrine as definitive. Every one of the faithful must adhere to such teaching with the obedience of faith.
186. How do Bishops exercise their ministry of sanctification?
Bishops sanctify the Church by dispensing the grace of Christ by their ministry of the word and the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and also by their prayers, their example and their work.
187. How do the Bishops exercise their function of governing?
Every bishop, insofar as he is a member of the college of bishops, bears collegially the care for all particular Churches and for the entire Church along with all the other bishops who are united to the Pope. A bishop to whom a particular Church has been entrusted governs that Church with the authority of his own sacred power which is ordinary and immediate and exercised in the name of Christ, the Good Shepherd, in communion with the entire Church and under the guidance of the Successor of Peter.
188. What is the vocation of the lay faithful?
The lay faithful have as their own vocation to seek the Kingdom of God by illuminating and ordering temporal affairs according to the plan of God. They carry out in this way their call to holiness and to the apostolate, a call given to all the baptized.
189. How do the lay faithful participate in the priestly office of Christ?
They participate in it especially in the Eucharist by offering as a spiritual sacrifice “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5) their own lives with all of their works, their prayers, their apostolic undertakings, their family life, their daily work and hardships borne with patience and even their consolations of spirit and body. In this way, even the laity, dedicated to Christ and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, offer to God the world itself.
190. How does the laity participate in the prophetic office?
They participate in it by welcoming evermore in faith the Word of Christ and proclaiming it to the world by the witness of their lives, their words, their evangelizing action, and by catechesis. This evangelizing action acquires a particular efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.
191. How do they participate in the kingly office?
The laity participate in the kingly function of Christ because they have received from him the power to overcome sin in themselves and in the world by self-denial and the holiness of their lives. They exercise various ministries at the service of the community and they imbue temporal activities and the institutions of society with moral values.
192. What is the consecrated life?
The consecrated life is a state of life recognized by the Church. It is a free response to a special call from Christ by which those consecrated give themselves completely to God and strive for the perfection of charity moved by the Holy Spirit. This consecration is characterized by the practice of the evangelical counsels.
193. What can the consecrated life give to the mission of the Church?
The consecrated life participates in the mission of the Church by means of a complete dedication to Christ and to one’s brothers and sisters witnessing to the hope of the heavenly Kingdom.
I believe in the communion of saints
194. What is the meaning of the “communion of saints”?
This expression indicates first of all the common sharing of all the members of the Church in holy things (sancta): the faith, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the charisms, and the other spiritual gifts. At the root of this communion is love which “does not seek its own interests” (1 Corinthians 13:5) but leads the faithful to “hold everything in common” (Acts 4:32), even to put one’s own material goods at the service of the most poor.
195. What else does “the communion of saints” mean?
This expression also refers to the communion between holy persons (sancti); that is, between those who by grace are united to the dead and risen Christ. Some are pilgrims on the earth; others, having passed from this life, are undergoing purification and are helped also by our prayers. Others already enjoy the glory of God and intercede for us. All of these together form in Christ one family, the Church, to the praise and glory of the Trinity.
Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church
196. In what sense is the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of the Church?
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of the Church in the order of grace because she gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God, the Head of the body which is the Church. When he was dying on the cross Jesus gave his mother to his disciple with the words, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27).
197. How does the Virgin Mary help the Church?
After the Ascension of her Son, the Virgin Mary aided the beginnings of the Church with her prayers. Even after her Assumption into heaven, she continues to intercede for her children, to be a model of faith and charity for all, and to exercise over them a salutary influence deriving from the superabundant merits of Christ. The faithful see in Mary an image and an anticipation of the resurrection that awaits them and they invoke her as advocate, helper, benefactress and mediatrix.
198. What kind of devotion is directed to the holy Virgin?
It is a singular kind of devotion which differs essentially from the cult of adoration given only to the Most Holy Trinity. This special veneration directed to Mary finds particular expression in the liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and in Marian prayers such as the holy Rosary which is a compendium of the whole Gospel.
199. In what way is the Blessed Virgin Mary the eschatological icon of the Church?
Looking upon Mary, who is completely holy and already glorified in body and soul, the Church contemplates in her what she herself is called to be on earth and what she will be in the homeland of heaven.
“I BELIEVE IN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
200. How are sins remitted?
The first and chief sacrament for the forgiveness of sins is Baptism. For those sins committed after Baptism, Christ instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance through which a baptized person is reconciled with God and with the Church.
201. Why does the Church have the power to forgive sins?
The Church has the mission and the power to forgive sins because Christ himself has conferred it upon her: “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).
“I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY”
202. What is the meaning of the term “body” (or “flesh”) and what importance does it have?
The resurrection of the flesh is the literal formulation in the Apostles Creed for the resurrection of the body. The term “flesh” refers to humanity in its state of weakness and mortality. “The flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Tertullian). We believe in God the Creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem flesh; and we believe in the resurrection of flesh which is the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.
203. What is meant by the “resurrection of the body”?
This means that the definitive state of man will not be one in which his spiritual soul is separated from his body. Even our mortal bodies will one day come to life again.
204. What is the relationship between the Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection?
Just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and now lives forever, so he himself will raise everyone on the last day with an incorruptible body: “Those who have done good will rise to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29).
205. What happens to our body and our soul after death?
After death, which is the separation of the body and the soul, the body becomes corrupt while the soul, which is immortal, goes to meet the judgment of God and awaits its reunion with the body when it will rise transformed at the time of the return of the Lord. How the resurrection of the body will come about exceeds the possibilities of our imagination and understanding.
206. What does it mean to die in Christ Jesus?
Dying in Christ Jesus means to die in the state of God's grace without any mortal sin. A believer in Christ, following his example, is thus able to transform his own death into an act of obedience and love for the Father. “This saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).
“I BELIEVE IN LIFE EVERLASTING”
207. What is life everlasting?
Eternal life is that life which begins immediately after death. It will have no end. It will be preceded for each person by a particular judgment at the hands of Christ who is the Judge of the living and the dead. This particular judgement will be confirmed in the final judgment.
208. What is the particular judgment?
It is the judgment of immediate retribution which each one after death will receive from God in his immortal soul in accord with his faith and his works. This retribution consists in entrance into the happiness of heaven, immediately or after an appropriate purification, or entry into the eternal damnation of hell.
209. What is meant by the term “heaven”?
By “heaven” is meant the state of supreme and definitive happiness. Those who die in the grace of God and have no need of further purification are gathered around Jesus and Mary, the angels and the saints. They thus form the Church of heaven, where they see God “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). They live in a communion of love with the Most Blessed Trinity and they intercede for us.
“True and subsistent life consists in this: the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, pouring out his heavenly gifts on all things without exception. Thanks to his mercy, we too, men that we are, have received the inalienable promise of eternal life.” (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem)
210. What is purgatory?
Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.
211. How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?
Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.
212. In what does hell consist?
Hell consists in the eternal damnation of those who die in mortal sin through their own free choice. The principal suffering of hell is eternal separation from God in whom alone we can have the life and happiness for which we were created and for which we long. Christ proclaimed this reality with the words, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41).
213. How can one reconcile the existence of hell with the infinite goodness of God?
God, while desiring “all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), nevertheless has created the human person to be free and responsible; and he respects our decisions. Therefore, it is the human person who freely excludes himself from communion with God if at the moment of death he persists in mortal sin and refuses the merciful love of God.
214. In what does the final judgment consist?
The final or universal judgment consists in a sentence of happiness or eternal condemnation, which the Lord Jesus will issue in regard to the “just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15) when he returns as the Judge of the living and the dead. After the last judgment, the resurrected body will share in the retribution which the soul received at the particular judgment.
215. When will this judgment occur?
This judgment will come at the end of the world and only God knows the day and the hour.
216. What is the hope of the new heavens and the new earth?
After the final judgment the universe itself, freed from its bondage to decay, will share in the glory of Christ with the beginning of “the new heavens” and a “new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). Thus, the fullness of the Kingdom of God will come about, that is to say, the definitive realization of the salvific plan of God to “unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). God will then be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28) in eternal life.
217. What is the meaning of the word “Amen” with which we conclude our profession of faith?
The Hebrew word “Amen”, which also concludes the last book of Sacred Scripture, some of the prayers of the New Testament, and the liturgical prayers of the Church, expresses our confident and total “yes” to what we professed in the Creed, entrusting ourselves completely to him who is the definitive “Amen” (Revelation 3:14), Christ the Lord.
The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
The Sacramental Economy
218. What is the liturgy?
The liturgy is the celebration of the mystery of Christ and in particular his paschal mystery. Through the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ the liturgy manifests in signs and brings about the sanctification of humankind.
The public worship which is due to God is offered by the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, by its head and by its members.
219. What place does the liturgy occupy in the life of the Church?
The liturgy as the sacred action par excellence is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and it is likewise the font from which all her power flows. Through the liturgy Christ continues the work of our redemption in, with and through his Church.
220. In what does the sacramental economy consist?
The sacramental economy consists in the communication of the fruits of Christ’s redemption through the celebration of the sacraments of the Church, most especially that of the Eucharist, “until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church
THE LITURGY - WORK OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
221. In what way is the Father the source and the goal of the liturgy?
Through the liturgy the Father fills us with his blessings in the Word made flesh who died and rose for us and pours into our hearts the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the Church blesses the Father by her worship, praise, and thanksgiving and begs him for the gift of his Son and the Holy Spirit.
222. What is the work of Christ in the liturgy?
In the liturgy of the Church, it is his own paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. By giving the Holy Spirit to his apostles he entrusted to them and their successors the power to make present the work of salvation through the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments, in which he himself acts to communicate his grace to the faithful of all times and places throughout the world.
223. How does the Holy Spirit work in the liturgy of the Church?
The very closest cooperation is at work in the liturgy between the Holy Spirit and the Church. The Holy Spirit prepares the Church to encounter her Lord. He recalls and manifests Christ to the faith of the assembly. He makes the mystery of Christ really present. He unites the Church to the life and mission of Christ and makes the gift of communion bear fruit in the Church.
THE PASCHAL MYSTERY IN THE SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH
224. What are the sacraments and which are they?
The sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses . Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
225. What is the relationship of the sacraments to Christ?
The mysteries of Christ’s life are the foundations of what he would henceforth dispense in the sacraments, through the ministers of his Church.
“What was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries.” (Saint Leo the Great)
226. What is the link between the sacraments and the Church?
Christ has entrusted the sacraments to his Church. They are the sacraments “of the Church” in a twofold sense: they are “from her” insofar as they are actions of the Church which is the sacrament of Christ’s action; and they are “for her” in as much as they build up the Church.
227. What is the sacramental character?
It is a spiritual “seal” bestowed by the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. It is a promise and guarantee of divine protection. By virtue of this seal the Christian is configured to Christ, participates in a variety of ways in his priesthood and takes his part in the Church according to different states and functions. He is, therefore, set apart for divine worship and the service of the Church. Because this character is indelible the sacraments that impress it on the soul are received only once in life.
228. What is the relationship between the sacraments and faith?
The sacraments not only presuppose faith but with words and ritual elements they nourish, strengthen, and express it. By celebrating the sacraments, the Church professes the faith that comes from the apostles. This explains the origin of the ancient saying, “lex orandi, lex credendi,” that is, the Church believes as she prays.
229. Why are the sacraments efficacious?
The sacraments are efficacious ex opere operato (“by the very fact that the sacramental action is performed”) because it is Christ who acts in the sacraments and communicates the grace they signify. The efficacy of the sacraments does not depend upon the personal holiness of the minister. However, the fruits of the sacraments do depend on the dispositions of the one who receives them.
230. For what reason are the sacraments necessary for salvation?
For believers in Christ the sacraments, even if they are not all given to each of the faithful, are necessary for salvation because they confer sacramental grace, forgiveness of sins, adoption as children of God, conformation to Christ the Lord and membership in the Church. The Holy Spirit heals and transforms those who receive the sacraments.
231. What is sacramental grace?
Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given by Christ and is proper to each sacrament. This grace helps the faithful in their journey toward holiness and so assists the Church as well to grow in charity and in her witness to the world.
232. What is the relationship between the sacraments and everlasting life?
In the sacraments the Church already receives a foretaste of eternal life, while “awaiting in blessed hope, the appearing in glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
The Sacramental Celebration of the Paschal Mystery
CELEBRATING THE LITURGY OF THE CHURCH
233. Who acts in the liturgy?
In the liturgy it is the whole Christ (Christus Totus) who acts, Head and Body. As our High Priest he celebrates with his body, which is the Church in heaven and on earth.
234. Who celebrates the heavenly liturgy?
The heavenly liturgy is celebrated by the angels, by the saints of the Old and New Testament, particularly the Mother of God, by the Apostles, by the martyrs, and by the “great multitude which no one could number from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” (Revelation 7:9). When we celebrate the mystery of our salvation in the sacraments we participate in this eternal liturgy.
235. How does the Church on earth celebrate the liturgy?
The Church on earth celebrates the liturgy as a priestly people in which each one acts according to his proper function in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The baptized offer themselves in a spiritual sacrifice; the ordained ministers celebrate according to the Order they received for the service of all the members of the Church; the bishops and priests act in the Person of Christ the Head.
How is the liturgy celebrated?
236. How is the liturgy celebrated?
The celebration of the liturgy is interwoven with signs and symbols whose meaning is rooted in creation and in human culture. It is determined by the events of the Old Testament and is fully revealed in the Person and work of Christ.
237. From where do the sacramental signs come?
Some come from created things (light, water, fire, bread, wine, oil); others come from social life (washing, anointing, breaking of bread). Still others come from the history of salvation in the Old Covenant (the Passover rites, the sacrifices, the laying on of hands, the consecrations). These signs, some of which are normative and unchangeable, were taken up by Christ and are made the bearers of his saving and sanctifying action.
238. What is the link between the actions and the words in the celebration of the sacraments?
Actions and words are very closely linked in the celebration of the sacraments. Indeed, even if the symbolic actions are already in themselves a language, it is necessary that the words of the rite accompany and give life to these actions. The liturgical words and actions are inseparable both insofar as they are meaningful signs and insofar as they bring about what they signify.
239. What are the criteria for the proper use of singing and music in liturgical celebrations?
Since song and music are closely connected with liturgical action they must respect the following criteria. They should conform to Catholic doctrine in their texts, drawn preferably from Sacred Scripture and liturgical sources. They should be a beautiful expression of prayer. The music should be of a high quality. Song and music should encourage the participation of the liturgical assembly. They should express the cultural richness of the People of God and the sacred and solemn character of the celebration. “He who sings, prays twice” (Saint Augustine).
240. What is the purpose of holy images?
The image of Christ is the liturgical icon par excellence. Other images, representations of Our Lady and of the Saints, signify Christ who is glorified in them. They proclaim the same Gospel message that Sacred Scripture communicates by the word and they help to awaken and nourish the faith of believers.
When is the liturgy celebrated?
241. What is the center of the liturgical season?
The center of the liturgical season is Sunday which is the foundation and kernel of the entire liturgical year and has its culmination in the annual celebration of Easter, the feast of feasts.
242. What is the function of the liturgical year?
In the liturgical year the Church celebrates the whole mystery of Christ from his Incarnation to his return in glory. On set days the Church venerates with special love the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. The Church also keeps the memorials of saints who lived for Christ, who suffered with him, and who live with him in glory.
243. What is the Liturgy of the Hours?
The Liturgy of the Hours, which is the public and common prayer of the Church, is the prayer of Christ with his body, the Church. Through the Liturgy of the Hours the mystery of Christ, which we celebrate in the Eucharist, sanctifies and transforms the whole of each day. It is composed mainly of psalms, other biblical texts, and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters.
Where is the liturgy celebrated?
244. Does the Church need places in order to celebrate the liturgy?
The worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any place because Christ is the true temple of God. Through him Christians and the whole Church become temples of the living God by the action of the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, the people of God in their earthly condition need places in which the community can gather to celebrate the liturgy.
245. What are sacred buildings?
They are the houses of God, a symbol of the Church that lives in that place as well as of the heavenly Jerusalem. Above all they are places of prayer in which the Church celebrates the Eucharist and worships Christ who is truly present in the tabernacle.
246. What are the privileged places inside sacred buildings?
They are: the altar, the tabernacle, the place where the sacred Chrism and other holy oils are kept, the chair of the bishop (cathedra) or the chair of the priest, the ambo, the baptismal font, and the confessional.
LITURGICAL DIVERSITY AND THE UNITY OF THE MYSTERY
247. Why is the one Mystery of Christ celebrated by the Church according to various liturgical traditions?
The answer is that the unfathomable richness of the mystery of Christ cannot be exhausted by any single liturgical tradition. From the very beginning, therefore, this richness found expression among various peoples and cultures in ways that are characterized by a wonderful diversity and complementarity.
248. What is the criterion that assures unity in the midst of plurality?
It is fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition, that is, the communion in the faith and in the sacraments received from the apostles, a communion that is both signified and guaranteed by apostolic succession. The Church is Catholic and therefore can integrate into her unity all the authentic riches of cultures.
249. Is everything immutable in the liturgy?
In the liturgy, particularly in that of the sacraments, there are unchangeable elements because they are of divine institution. The Church is the faithful guardian of them. There are also, however, elements subject to change which the Church has the power and on occasion also the duty to adapt to the cultures of diverse peoples.
The Seven Sacraments of the Church
The seven sacraments are:
Anointing of the Sick
Septem Ecclesiae Sacramenta
250. How are the sacraments of the Church divided?
The sacraments are divided into: the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist); the sacraments of healing (Penance and Anointing of the Sick);, and the sacraments at the service of communion and mission (Holy Orders and Matrimony). The sacraments touch all the important moments of Christian life. All of the sacraments are ordered to the Holy Eucharist “as to their end” (Saint Thomas Aquinas).
The sacraments of Christian initiation
251. How is Christian initiation brought about?
Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
252. What names are given to the first sacrament of initiation?
This sacrament is primarily called Baptism because of the central rite with which it is celebrated. To baptize means to “immerse” in water. The one who is baptized is immersed into the death of Christ and rises with him as a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This sacrament is also called the “bath of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5); and it is called “enlightenment” because the baptized becomes “a son of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
253. How is Baptism prefigured in the Old Covenant?
In the Old Covenant Baptism was pre-figured in various ways: water, seen as source of life and of death; in the Ark of Noah, which saved by means of water; in the passing through the Red Sea, which liberated Israel from Egyptian slavery; in the crossing of the Jordan River, that brought Israel into the promised land which is the image of eternal life.
254. Who brought to fulfillment those prefigurations?
All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. At the beginning of his public life Jesus had himself baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. On the cross, blood and water, signs of Baptism and the Eucharist, flowed from his pierced side. After his Resurrection he gave to his apostles this mission: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
255. Starting when and to whom has the Church administered Baptism?
From the day of Pentecost, the Church has administered Baptism to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
256. In what does the essential rite of Baptism consist?
The essential rite of this sacrament consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water over his or her head while invoking the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
257. Who can receive Baptism?
Every person not yet baptized is able to receive Baptism.
258. Why does the Church baptize infants?
The Church baptizes infants because they are born with original sin. They need to be freed from the power of the Evil One and brought into that realm of freedom which belongs to the children of God.
259. What is required of one who is to be baptized?
Everyone who is to be baptized is required to make a profession of faith. This is done personally in the case of an adult or by the parents and by the Church in the case of infants. Also the godfather or the godmother and the whole ecclesial community share the responsibility for baptismal preparation (catechumenate) as well as for the development and safeguarding of the faith and grace given at baptism.
260. Who can baptize?
The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and the priest. In the Latin Church the deacon also can baptize. In case of necessity any person can baptize provided he has the intention of doing what the Church does. This is done by pouring water on the head of the candidate while saying the Trinitarian formula for Baptism: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
261. Is Baptism necessary for salvation?
Baptism is necessary for salvation for all those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.
262. Is it possible to be saved without Baptism?
Since Christ died for the salvation of all, those can be saved without Baptism who die for the faith (Baptism of blood). Catechumens and all those who, even without knowing Christ and the Church, still (under the impulse of grace) sincerely seek God and strive to do his will can also be saved without Baptism (Baptism of desire). The Church in her liturgy entrusts children who die without Baptism to the mercy of God.
263. What are the effects of Baptism?
Baptism takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment due to sin. It makes the baptized person a participant in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his Church. It gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides the basis for communion with all Christians. It bestows the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A baptized person belongs forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ (character).
264. What is the meaning of the Christian name received at Baptism?
The name is important because God knows each of us by name, that is, in our uniqueness as persons. In Baptism a Christian receives his or her own name in the Church. It should preferably be the name of a saint who might offer the baptized a model of sanctity and an assurance of his or her intercession before God.
THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
265. What place does Confirmation have in the divine plan of salvation?
In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the awaited Messiah and on the entire messianic people. The whole life and mission of Jesus were carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit. The apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and proclaimed “the great works of God” (Acts 2:11). They gave the gift of the same Spirit to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands. Down through the centuries, the Church has continued to live by the Spirit and to impart him to her children.
266. Why is this sacrament called Chrismation or Confirmation?
It is called Chrismation (in the Eastern Churches: Anointing with holy myron or chrism) because the essential rite of the sacrament is anointing with chrism. It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.
267. What is the essential rite of Confirmation?
The essential rite of Confirmation is the anointing with Sacred Chrism (oil mixed with balsam and consecrated by the bishop), which is done by the laying on of the hand of the minister who pronounces the sacramental words proper to the rite. In the West this anointing is done on the forehead of the baptized with the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. In the Eastern Churches of the Byzantine rite this anointing is also done on other parts of the body with the words, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
268. What is the effect of Confirmation?
The effect of Confirmation is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost. This outpouring impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of Baptism. It roots the recipient more deeply in divine sonship, binds him more firmly to Christ and to the Church and reinvigorates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his soul. It gives a special strength to witness to the Christian faith.
269. Who can receive this sacrament?
Only those already baptized can and should receive this sacrament which can be received only once. To receive Confirmation efficaciously the candidate must be in the state of grace.
270. Who is the minister of Confirmation?
The original minister of Confirmation is the bishop. In this way the link between the confirmed and the Church in her apostolic dimension is made manifest. When a priest confers this sacrament, as ordinarily happens in the East and in special cases in the West, the link with the bishop and with the Church is expressed by the priest who is the collaborator of the bishop and by the Sacred Chrism, consecrated by the bishop himself.
THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
271. What is the Eucharist?
The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory. Thus he entrusted to his Church this memorial of his death and Resurrection. It is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
272. When did Jesus Christ institute the Eucharist?
Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday “the night on which he was betrayed” (1 Corinthians 11:23), as he celebrated the Last Supper with his apostles.
273. How did he institute the Eucharist?
After he had gathered with his apostles in the Cenacle, Jesus took bread in his hands. He broke it and gave it to them saying, “Take this and eat it, all of you; this is my Body which will be given up for you”. Then, he took the cup of wine in his hands and said, “Take this and drink of this, all of you. This is the cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgive. Do this in memory of me”.
274. What does the Eucharist represent in the life of the Church?
It is the source and summit of all Christian life. In the Eucharist, the sanctifying action of God in our regard and our worship of him reach their high point. It contains the whole spiritual good of the Church, Christ himself, our Pasch. Communion with divine life and the unity of the People of God are both expressed and effected by the Eucharist. Through the eucharistic celebration we are united already with the liturgy of heaven and we have a foretaste of eternal life.
275. What are the names for this sacrament?
The unfathomable richness of this sacrament is expressed in different names which evoke its various aspects. The most common names are: the Eucharist, Holy Mass, the Lord’s Supper, the Breaking of the Bread, the Eucharistic Celebration, the Memorial of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord, the Holy Sacrifice, the Holy and Divine Liturgy, the Sacred Mysteries, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and Holy Communion.
276. Where does the Eucharist fit in the divine plan of salvation?
The Eucharist was foreshadowed in the Old Covenant above all in the annual Passover meal celebrated every year by the Jews with unleavened bread to commemorate their hasty, liberating departure from Egypt. Jesus foretold it in his teaching and he instituted it when he celebrated the Last Supper with his apostles in a Passover meal. The Church, faithful to the command of her Lord, “Do this in memory of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), has always celebrated the Eucharist, especially on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection of Jesus.
277. How is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist carried out?
The Eucharist unfolds in two great parts which together form one, single act of worship. The Liturgy of the Word involves proclaiming and listening to the Word of God. The Liturgy of the Eucharist includes the presentation of the bread and wine, the prayer or the anaphora containing the words of consecration, and communion.
278. Who is the minister for the celebration of the Eucharist?
The celebrant of the Eucharist is a validly ordained priest (bishop or priest) who acts in the Person of Christ the Head and in the name of the Church.
279. What are the essential and necessary elements for celebrating the Eucharist?
The essential elements are wheat bread and grape wine.
280. In what way is the Eucharist a memorial of the sacrifice of Christ?
The Eucharist is a memorial in the sense that it makes present and actual the sacrifice which Christ offered to the Father on the cross, once and for all on behalf of mankind. The sacrificial character of the Holy Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution, “This is my Body which is given for you” and “This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood that will be shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). The sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one and the same sacrifice. The priest and the victim are the same; only the manner of offering is different: in a bloody manner on the cross, in an unbloody manner in the Eucharist.
281. In what way does the Church participate in the eucharistic sacrifice?
In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, their suffering, their prayers, their work, are united to those of Christ. In as much as it is a sacrifice, the Eucharist is likewise offered for all the faithful, living and dead, in reparation for the sins of all and to obtain spiritual and temporal benefits from God. The Church in heaven is also united to the offering of Christ.
282. How is Christ present in the Eucharist?
Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man.
283. What is the meaning of transubstantiation?
Transubstantiation means the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of his Blood. This change is brought about in the eucharistic prayer through the efficacy of the word of Christ and by the action of the Holy Spirit. However, the outward characteristics of bread and wine, that is the “eucharistic species”, remain unaltered.
284. Does the breaking of the bread divide Christ?
The breaking of the bread does not divide Christ. He is present whole and entire in each of the eucharistic species and in each of their parts.
285. How long does the presence of Christ last in the Eucharist?
The presence of Christ continues in the Eucharist as long as the eucharistic species subsist.
286. What kind of worship is due to the sacrament of the Eucharist?
The worship due to the sacrament of the Eucharist, whether during the celebration of the Mass or outside it, is the worship of latria, that is, the adoration given to God alone. The Church guards with the greatest care Hosts that have been consecrated. She brings them to the sick and to other persons who find it impossible to participate at Mass. She also presents them for the solemn adoration of the faithful and she bears them in processions. The Church encourages the faithful to make frequent visits to adore the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle.
287. Why is the Holy Eucharist the paschal banquet?
The Holy Eucharist is the paschal banquet in as much as Christ sacramentally makes present his Passover and gives us his Body and Blood, offered as food and drink, uniting us to himself and to one another in his sacrifice.
288. What is the meaning of the altar?
The altar is the symbol of Christ himself who is present both as sacrificial victim (the altar of the sacrifice) and as food from heaven which is given to us (the table of the Lord).
289. When does the Church oblige her members to participate at Holy Mass?
The Church obliges the faithful to participate at Holy Mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation. She recommends participation at Holy Mass on other days as well.
290. When must one receive Holy Communion?
The Church recommends that the faithful, if they have the required dispositions, receive Holy Communion whenever they participate at Holy Mass. However, the Church obliges them to receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter season.
291. What is required to receive Holy Communion?
To receive Holy Communion one must be fully incorporated into the Catholic Church and be in the state of grace, that is, not conscious of being in mortal sin. Anyone who is conscious of having committed a grave sin must first receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before going to Communion. Also important for those receiving Holy Communion are a spirit of recollection and prayer, observance of the fast prescribed by the Church, and an appropriate disposition of the body (gestures and dress) as a sign of respect for Christ.
292. What are the fruits of Holy Communion?
Holy Communion increases our union with Christ and with his Church. It preserves and renews the life of grace received at Baptism and Confirmation and makes us grow in love for our neighbor. It strengthens us in charity, wipes away venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin in the future.
293. When is it possible to give Holy Communion to other Christians?
Catholic ministers may give Holy Communion licitly to members of the Oriental Churches which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church whenever they ask for it of their own will and possess the required dispositions. Catholic ministers may licitly give Holy Communion to members of other ecclesial communities only if, in grave necessity, they ask for it of their own will, possess the required dispositions, and give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding the sacrament.
294. Why is the Eucharist a “pledge of future glory”?
The Eucharist is a pledge of future glory because it fills us with every grace and heavenly blessing. It fortifies us for our pilgrimage in this life and makes us long for eternal life. It unites us already to Christ seated at the right hand of the Father, to the Church in heaven and to the Blessed Virgin and all the saints.
In the Eucharist, we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch)
The Sacraments of Healing
295. Why did Christ institute the sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick?
Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these sacraments because the new life that he gives us in the sacraments of Christian initiation can be weakened and even lost because of sin. Therefore, Christ willed that his Church should continue his work of healing and salvation by means of these two sacraments.
THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION
296. What is the name of this sacrament?
It is called the sacrament of Penance, the sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of Forgiveness, the sacrament of Confession, and the sacrament of Conversion.
297. Why is there a sacrament of Reconciliation after Baptism?
Since the new life of grace received in Baptism does not abolish the weakness of human nature nor the inclination to sin (that is, concupiscence), Christ instituted this sacrament for the conversion of the baptized who have been separated from him by sin.
298. When did he institute this sacrament?
The risen Lord instituted this sacrament on the evening of Easter when he showed himself to his apostles and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23).
299. Do the baptized have need of conversion?
The call of Christ to conversion continues to resound in the lives of the baptized. Conversion is a continuing obligation for the whole Church. She is holy but includes sinners in her midst.
300. What is interior penance?
It is the movement of a “contrite heart” (Psalm 51:19) drawn by divine grace to respond to the merciful love of God. This entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, a firm purpose not to sin again in the future and trust in the help of God. It is nourished by hope in divine mercy.
301. What forms does penance take in the Christian life?
Penance can be expressed in many and various ways but above all in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These and many other forms of penance can be practiced in the daily life of a Christian, particularly during the time of Lent and on the penitential day of Friday.
302. What are the essential elements of the sacrament of Reconciliation?
The essential elements are two: the acts of the penitent who comes to repentance through the action of the Holy Spirit, and the absolution of the priest who in the name of Christ grants forgiveness and determines the ways of making satisfaction.
303. What are the acts of the penitent?
They are: a careful examination of conscience; contrition (or repentance), which is perfect when it is motivated by love of God and imperfect if it rests on other motives and which includes the determination not to sin again; confession, which consists in the telling of one’s sins to the priest; and satisfaction or the carrying out of certain acts of penance which the confessor imposes upon the penitent to repair the damage caused by sin.
304. Which sins must be confessed?
All grave sins not yet confessed, which a careful examination of conscience brings to mind, must be brought to the sacrament of Penance. The confession of serious sins is the only ordinary way to obtain forgiveness.
305. When is a person obliged to confess mortal sins?
Each of the faithful who has reached the age of discretion is bound to confess his or her mortal sins at least once a year and always before receiving Holy Communion.
306. Why can venial sins also be the object of sacramental confession?
The confession of venial sins is strongly recommended by the Church, even if this is not strictly necessary, because it helps us to form a correct conscience and to fight against evil tendencies. It allows us to be healed by Christ and to progress in the life of the Spirit.
307. Who is the minister of this sacrament?
Christ has entrusted the ministry of Reconciliation to his apostles, to the bishops who are their successors and to the priests who are the collaborators of the bishops, all of whom become thereby instruments of the mercy and justice of God. They exercise their power of forgiving sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
308. To whom is the absolution of some sins reserved?
The absolution of certain particularly grave sins (like those punished by excommunication) is reserved to the Apostolic See or to the local bishop or to priests who are authorized by them. Any priest, however, can absolve a person who is in danger of death from any sin and excommunication.
309. Is a confessor bound to secrecy?
Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to people every confessor, without any exception and under very severe penalties, is bound to maintain “the sacramental seal” which means absolute secrecy about the sins revealed to him in confession.
310. What are the effects of this sacrament?
The effects of the sacrament of Penance are: reconciliation with God and therefore the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; recovery, if it has been lost, of the state of grace; remission of the eternal punishment merited by mortal sins, and remission, at least in part, of the temporal punishment which is the consequence of sin; peace, serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation; and an increase of spiritual strength for the struggle of Christian living.
311. Can this sacrament be celebrated in some cases with a general confession and general absolution?
In cases of serious necessity (as in imminent danger of death) recourse may be had to a communal celebration of Reconciliation with general confession and general absolution, as long as the norms of the Church are observed and there is the intention of individually confessing one’s grave sins in due time.
312. What are indulgences?
Indulgences are the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. The faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains the indulgence under prescribed conditions for either himself or the departed. Indulgences are granted through the ministry of the Church which, as the dispenser of the grace of redemption, distributes the treasury of the merits of Christ and the Saints.
THE SACRAMENT OF ANOINTING OF THE SICK
313. How was sickness viewed in the Old Testament?
In the Old Testament sickness was experienced as a sign of weakness and at the same time perceived as mysteriously bound up with sin. The prophets intuited that sickness could also have a redemptive value for one’s own sins and those of others. Thus sickness was lived out in the presence of God from whom people implored healing.
314. What is the significance of Jesus’ compassion for the sick?
The compassion of Jesus toward the sick and his many healings of the infirm were a clear sign that with him had come the Kingdom of God and therefore victory over sin, over suffering, and over death. By his own passion and death he gave new meaning to our suffering which, when united with his own, can become a means of purification and of salvation for us and for others.
315. What is the attitude of the Church toward the sick?
Having received from the Lord the charge to heal the sick, the Church strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick and accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. Above all, the Church possesses a sacrament specifically intended for the benefit of the sick. This sacrament was instituted by Christ and is attested by Saint James: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call in the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14-15).
316. Who can receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick?
Any member of the faithful can receive this sacrament as soon as he or she begins to be in danger of death because of sickness or old age. The faithful who receive this sacrament can receive it several times if their illness becomes worse or another serious sickness afflicts them. The celebration of this sacrament should, if possible, be preceded by individual confession on the part of the sick person.
317. Who administers this sacrament?
This sacrament can be administered only by priests (bishops or presbyters).
318. How is this sacrament celebrated?
The celebration of this sacrament consists essentially in an anointing with oil which may be blessed by the bishop. The anointing is on the forehead and on the hands of the sick person (in the Roman rite) or also on other parts of the body (in the other rites) accompanied by the prayer of the priest who asks for the special grace of this sacrament.
319. What are the effects of this sacrament?
This sacrament confers a special grace which unites the sick person more intimately to the Passion of Christ for his good and for the good of all the Church. It gives comfort, peace, courage, and even the forgiveness of sins if the sick person is not able to make a confession. Sometimes, if it is the will of God, this sacrament even brings about the restoration of physical health. In any case this Anointing prepares the sick person for the journey to the Father’s House.
320. What is Viaticum?
Viaticum is the Holy Eucharist received by those who are about to leave this earthly life and are preparing for the journey to eternal life. Communion in the body and blood of Christ who died and rose from the dead, received at the moment of passing from this world to the Father, is the seed of eternal life and the power of the resurrection.
The Sacraments at the Service of Communion and Mission
321. What are the sacraments at the service of communion and mission?
Two sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, confer a special grace for a particular mission in the Church to serve and build up the People of God. These sacraments contribute in a special way to ecclesial communion and to the salvation of others.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
322. What is the sacrament of Holy Orders?
It is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time.
323. Why is this sacrament called Holy Orders?
Orders designates an ecclesial body into which one enters by means of a special consecration (ordination). Through a special gift of the Holy Spirit, this sacrament enables the ordained to exercise a sacred power in the name and with the authority of Christ for the service of the People of God.
324. What place does the sacrament of Holy Orders have in the divine plan of salvation?
This sacrament was prefigured in the Old Covenant in the service of the Levites, in the priesthood of Aaron, and in the institution of the seventy “Elders” (Numbers 11:25). These prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus who by the sacrifice of the cross is the “one mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5), the “High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:10). The one priesthood of Christ is made present in the ministerial priesthood.
“Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
325. What are the degrees that make up the sacrament of Holy Orders?
The sacrament of Holy Orders is composed of three degrees which are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: the episcopate, the presbyterate and the diaconate.
326. What is the effect of episcopal ordination?
Episcopal ordination confers the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. It makes the bishop a legitimate successor of the apostles and integrates him into the episcopal college to share with the Pope and the other bishops care for all the churches. It confers on him the offices of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling.
327. What is the office confided to a Bishop in a particular Church?
The bishop to whom the care of a particular Church is entrusted is the visible head and foundation of unity for that Church. For the sake of that Church, as vicar of Christ, he fulfills the office of shepherd and is assisted by his own priests and deacons.
328. What is the effect of ordination to the priesthood?
The anointing of the Spirit seals the priest with an indelible, spiritual character that configures him to Christ the priest and enables him to act in the name of Christ the Head. As a co-worker of the order of bishops he is consecrated to preach the Gospel, to celebrate divine worship, especially the Eucharist from which his ministry draws its strength, and to be a shepherd of the faithful.
329. How does a priest carry out his proper ministry?
A priest, although ordained for a universal mission, exercises his ministry in a particular Church. This ministry is pursued in sacramental brotherhood with other priests who form the “presbyterate”. In communion with the bishop, and depending upon him, they bear responsibility for the particular Church.
330. What is the effect of the ordination to the diaconate?
The deacon, configured to Christ the servant of all, is ordained for service to the Church. He carries out this service under the authority of his proper bishop by the ministry of the Word, of divine worship, of pastoral care and of charity.
331. How is the sacrament of Holy Orders celebrated?
The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred, in each of its three degrees, by means of the imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand by the Bishop who pronounces the solemn prayer of consecration. With this prayer he asks God on behalf of the ordinand for the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for the gifts of the Spirit proper to the ministry to which he is being ordained.
332. Who can confer this sacrament?
Only validly ordained bishops, as successors of the apostles, can confer the sacrament of Holy Orders.
333. Who can receive this sacrament?
This sacrament can only be validly received by a baptized man. The Church recognizes herself as bound by this choice made by the Lord Himself. No one can demand to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, but must be judged suitable for the ministry by the authorities of the Church.
334. Is it necessary to be celibate to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders?
It is always necessary to be celibate for the episcopacy. For the priesthood in the Latin Church men who are practicing Catholics and celibate are chosen, men who intend to continue to live a celibate life “for the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12). In the Eastern Churches marriage is not permitted after one has been ordained. Married men can be ordained to the permanent diaconate.
335. What are the effects of the sacrament of Holy Orders?
This sacrament yields a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit which configures the recipient to Christ in his triple office as Priest, Prophet, and King, according to the respective degrees of the sacrament. Ordination confers an indelible spiritual character and therefore cannot be repeated or conferred for a limited time.
336. With what authority is the priestly ministry exercised?
Ordained priests in the exercise of their sacred ministry speak and act not on their own authority, nor even by mandate or delegation of the community, but rather in the Person of Christ the Head and in the name of the Church. Therefore, the ministerial priesthood differs essentially and not just in degree from the priesthood common to all the faithful for whose service Christ instituted it.
THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY
337. What is the plan of God regarding man and woman?
God who is love and who created man and woman for love has called them to love. By creating man and woman he called them to an intimate communion of life and of love in marriage: “So that they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6). God said to them in blessing “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
338. For what ends has God instituted Matrimony?
The marital union of man and woman, which is founded and endowed with its own proper laws by the Creator, is by its very nature ordered to the communion and good of the couple and to the generation and education of children. According to the original divine plan this conjugal union is indissoluble, as Jesus Christ affirmed: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).
339. How does sin threaten marriage?
Because of original sin, which caused a rupture in the God-given communion between man and woman, the union of marriage is very often threatened by discord and infidelity. However, God in his infinite mercy gives to man and woman the grace to bring the union of their lives into accord with the original divine plan.
340. What does the Old Testament teach about marriage?
God helped his people above all through the teaching of the Law and the Prophets to deepen progressively their understanding of the unity and indissolubility of marriage. The nuptial covenant of God with Israel prepared for and prefigured the new covenant established by Jesus Christ the Son of God, with his spouse, the Church.
341. What new element did Christ give to Matrimony?
Christ not only restored the original order of matrimony but raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, giving spouses a special grace to live out their marriage as a symbol of Christ’s love for his bride the Church: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church” (Ephesians 5:25).
342. Are all obliged to get married?
Matrimony is not an obligation for everyone, especially since God calls some men and women to follow the Lord Jesus in a life of virginity or of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. These renounce the great good of Matrimony to concentrate on the things of the Lord and seek to please him. They become a sign of the absolute supremacy of Christ’s love and of the ardent expectation of his glorious return.
343. How is the sacrament of Matrimony celebrated?
Since Matrimony establishes spouses in a public state of life in the Church, its liturgical celebration is public, taking place in the presence of a priest (or of a witness authorized by the Church) and other witnesses.
344. What is matrimonial consent?
Matrimonial consent is given when a man and a woman manifest the will to give themselves to each other irrevocably in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love. Since consent constitutes Matrimony, it is indispensable and irreplaceable. For a valid marriage the consent must have as its object true Matrimony, and be a human act which is conscious and free and not determined by duress or coercion.
345. What is required when one of the spouses is not a Catholic?
A mixed marriage (between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) needs for liceity the permission of ecclesiastical authority. In a case of disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) a dispensation is required for validity. In both cases, it is essential that the spouses do not exclude the acceptance of the essential ends and properties of marriage. It is also necessary for the Catholic party to accept the obligation, of which the non-Catholic party has been advised, to persevere in the faith and to assure the baptism and Catholic education of their children.
346. What are the effects of the sacrament of Matrimony?
The sacrament of Matrimony establishes a perpetual and exclusive bond between the spouses. God himself seals the consent of the spouses. Therefore, a marriage which is ratified and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. Furthermore, this sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace necessary to attain holiness in their married life and to accept responsibly the gift of children and provide for their education.
347. What sins are gravely opposed to the sacrament of Matrimony?
Adultery and polygamy are opposed to the sacrament of matrimony because they contradict the equal dignity of man and woman and the unity and exclusivity of married love. Other sins include the deliberate refusal of one’s procreative potential which deprives conjugal love of the gift of children and divorce which goes against the indissolubility of marriage.
348. When does the Church allow the physical separation of spouses?
The Church permits the physical separation of spouses when for serious reasons their living together becomes practically impossible, even though there may be hope for their reconciliation. As long as one’s spouse lives, however, one is not free to contract a new union, except if the marriage be null and be declared so by ecclesiastical authority.
349. What is the attitude of the Church toward those people who are divorced and then remarried?
The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognize the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). The Church manifests an attentive solicitude toward such people and encourages them to a life of faith, prayer, works of charity and the Christian education of their children. However, they cannot receive sacramental absolution, take Holy Communion, or exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities as long as their situation, which objectively contravenes God's law, persists.
350. Why is the Christian family called a domestic church?
The Christian family is called the domestic church because the family manifests and lives out the communal and familial nature of the Church as the family of God. Each family member, in accord with their own role, exercises the baptismal priesthood and contributes toward making the family a community of grace and of prayer, a school of human and Christian virtue and the place where the faith is first proclaimed to children.
Other Liturgical Celebrations
351. What are the sacramentals?
These are sacred signs instituted by the Church to sanctify different circumstances of life. They include a prayer accompanied by the sign of the cross and other signs. Among the sacramentals which occupy an important place are: blessings, which are the praise of God and a prayer to obtain his gifts, the consecration of persons and the dedication of things for the worship of God.
352. What is an exorcism?
When the Church asks with its authority in the name of Jesus that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called an exorcism. This is done in ordinary form in the rite of Baptism. A solemn exorcism, called a major exorcism, can be performed only by a priest authorized by the bishop.
353. What forms of popular piety accompany the sacramental life of the Church?
The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in the various forms of piety which accompany the sacramental life of the Church such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross and the rosary. The Church sheds the light of faith upon and fosters authentic forms of popular piety.
354. What is the relationship between the sacraments and the death of a Christian?
The Christian who dies in Christ reaches at the end of his earthly existence the fulfillment of that new life which was begun in Baptism, strengthened in Confirmation, and nourished in the Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet. The meaning of the death of a Christian becomes clear in the light of the death and Resurrection of Christ our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus goes “away from the body to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
355. What do funeral rites express?
Although celebrated in different rites in keeping with the situations and traditions of various regions, funerals express the paschal character of Christian death in hope of the resurrection. They also manifest the meaning of communion with the departed particularly through prayer for the purification of their souls.
356. What are the main moments in funerals?
Usually, funeral rites consist of four principal parts: welcoming the body of the deceased by the community with words of comfort and hope, the liturgy of the Word, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and the farewell in which the soul of the departed is entrusted to God, the Source of eternal life, while the body is buried in the hope of the resurrection.
Life in Christ
Man's Vocation: Life in the Spirit
357. How is the Christian moral life bound up with faith and the sacraments?
What the symbol of faith professes, the sacraments communicate. Indeed, through them the faithful receive the grace of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which give them the capability of living a new life as children of God in Christ whom they have received in faith.
“O Christian, recognize your dignity.” (Saint Leo the Great)
The Dignity of the Human Person
MAN THE IMAGE OF GOD
358. What is the root of human dignity?
The dignity of the human person is rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God. Endowed with a spiritual and immortal soul, intelligence and free will, the human person is ordered to God and called in soul and in body to eternal beatitude.
OUR VOCATION TO BEATITUDE
359. How do we attain beatitude?
We attain beatitude by virtue of the grace of Christ which makes us participants in the divine life. Christ in the Gospel points out to his followers the way that leads to eternal happiness: the beatitudes. The grace of Christ also is operative in every person who, following a correct conscience, seeks and loves the true and the good and avoids evil.
360. Why are the beatitudes important for us?
The beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching and they take up and fulfill the promises that God made starting with Abraham. They depict the very countenance of Jesus and they characterize authentic Christian life. They reveal the ultimate goal of human activity, which is eternal happiness.
361. What is the relationship between the beatitudes and our desire for happiness?
The beatitudes respond to the innate desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart in order to draw us to himself. God alone can satisfy this desire.
362. What is eternal happiness?
It is the vision of God in eternal life in which we are fully “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), of the glory of Christ and of the joy of the trinitarian life. This happiness surpasses human capabilities. It is a supernatural and gratuitous gift of God just as is the grace which leads to it. This promised happiness confronts us with decisive moral choices concerning earthly goods and urges us to love God above all things.
363. What is freedom?
Freedom is the power given by God to act or not to act, to do this or to do that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. Freedom characterizes properly human acts. The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. Freedom attains its proper perfection when it is directed toward God, the highest good and our beatitude. Freedom implies also the possibility of choosing between good and evil. The choice of evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin.
364. What is the relationship between freedom and responsibility?
Freedom makes people responsible for their actions to the extent that they are voluntary, even if the imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or sometimes cancelled by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, inordinate attachments, or habit.
365. Why does everyone have a right to exercise freedom?
The right to the exercise of freedom belongs to everyone because it is inseparable from his or her dignity as a human person. Therefore this right must always be respected, especially in moral and religious matters, and it must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and a just public order.
366. What place does human freedom have in the plan of salvation?
Our freedom is weakened because of original sin. This weakness is intensified because of successive sins. Christ, however, set us free “so that we should remain free” (Galatians 5:1). With his grace, the Holy Spirit leads us to spiritual freedom to make us free co-workers with him in the Church and in the world.
367. What are the sources of the morality of human acts?
The morality of human acts depends on three sources: the object chosen, either a true or apparent good; the intention of the subject who acts, that is, the purpose for which the subject performs the act; and the circumstances of the act, which include its consequences.
368. When is an act morally good?
An act is morally good when it assumes simultaneously the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances. A chosen object can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety, even if the intention is good. It is not licit to do evil so that good may result from it. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. On the other hand, a good end does not make an act good if the object of that act is evil, since the end does not justify the means. Circumstances can increase or diminish the responsibility of the one who is acting but they cannot change the moral quality of the acts themselves. They never make good an act which is in itself evil.
369. Are there acts which are always illicit?
There are some acts which, in and of themselves, are always illicit by reason of their object (for example, blasphemy, homicide, adultery). Choosing such acts entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil which can never be justified by appealing to the good effects which could possibly result from them.
THE MORALITY OF THE PASSIONS
370. What are the passions?
The passions are the feelings, the emotions or the movements of the sensible appetite - natural components of human psychology - which incline a person to act or not to act in view of what is perceived as good or evil. The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger. The chief passion is love which is drawn by the attraction of the good. One can only love what is good, real or apparent.
371. Are the passions morally good or bad?
The passions insofar as they are movements of the sensible appetite are neither good nor bad in themselves. They are good when they contribute to a good action and they are evil in the opposite case. They can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.
THE MORAL CONSCIENCE
372. What is the moral conscience?
Moral conscience, present in the heart of the person, is a judgment of reason which at the appropriate moment enjoins him to do good and to avoid evil. Thanks to moral conscience, the human person perceives the moral quality of an act to be done or which has already been done, permitting him to assume responsibility for the act. When attentive to moral conscience, the prudent person can hear the voice of God who speaks to him or her.
373. What does the dignity of the human person imply for the moral conscience?
The dignity of a human person requires the uprightness of a moral conscience (which is to say that it be in accord with what is just and good according to reason and the law of God). Because of this personal dignity, no one may be forced to act contrary to conscience; nor, within the limits of the common good, be prevented from acting according to it, especially in religious matters.
374. How is a moral conscience formed to be upright and truthful?
An upright and true moral conscience is formed by education and by assimilating the Word of God and the teaching of the Church. It is supported by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and helped by the advice of wise people. Prayer and an examination of conscience can also greatly assist one’s moral formation.
375. What norms must conscience always follow?
There are three general norms: 1) one may never do evil so that good may result from it; 2) the so-called Golden Rule, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12); 3) charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience, even though this does not mean accepting as good something that is objectively evil.
376. Can a moral conscience make erroneous judgments?
A person must always obey the certain judgment of his own conscience but he could make erroneous judgments for reasons that may not always exempt him from personal guilt. However, an evil act committed through involuntary ignorance is not imputable to the person, even though the act remains objectively evil. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.
377. What is a virtue?
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (Saint Gregory of Nyssa). There are human virtues and theological virtues.
378. What are the human virtues?
The human virtues are habitual and stable perfections of the intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They are acquired and strengthened by the repetition of morally good acts and they are purified and elevated by divine grace.
379. What are the principal human virtues?
The principal human virtues are called the cardinal virtues, under which all the other virtues are grouped and which are the hinges of a virtuous life. The cardinal virtues are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
380. What is prudence?
Prudence disposes reason to discern in every circumstance our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it. Prudence guides the other virtues by pointing out their rule and measure.
381. What is justice?
Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give to others their due. Justice toward God is called “the virtue of religion.”
382. What is fortitude?
Fortitude assures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It reaches even to the ability of possibly sacrificing one’s own life for a just cause.
383. What is temperance?
Temperance moderates the attraction of pleasures, assures the mastery of the will over instincts and provides balance in the use of created goods.
384. What are the theological virtues?
The theological virtues have God himself as their origin, motive and direct object. Infused with sanctifying grace, they bestow on one the capacity to live in a relationship with the Trinity. They are the foundation and the energizing force of the Christian’s moral activity and they give life to the human virtues. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.
385. What are the theological virtues?
The theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity.
386. What is the virtue of faith?
Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and all that he has revealed to us and that the Church proposes for our belief because God is Truth itself. By faith the human person freely commits himself to God. Therefore, the believer seeks to know and do the will of God because “faith works through charity” (Galatians 5:6).
387. What is hope?
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire and await from God eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit to merit it and to persevere to the end of our earthly life.
388. What is charity?
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus makes charity the new commandment, the fullness of the law. “It is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14) and the foundation of the other virtues to which it gives life, inspiration, and order. Without charity “I am nothing” and “I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
389. What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent dispositions which make us docile in following divine inspirations. They are seven: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
390. What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections formed in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Galatians 5:22-23, Vulgate).
391. What does the acceptance of God’s mercy require from us?
It requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins. God himself by his Word and his Spirit lays bare our sins and gives us the truth of conscience and the hope of forgiveness.
392. What is sin?
Sin is “a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law” (Saint Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to his love. It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity. Christ in his passion fully revealed the seriousness of sin and overcame it with his mercy.
393. Is there a variety of sins?
There are a great many kinds of sins. They can be distinguished according to their object or according to the virtues or commandments which they violate. They can directly concern God, neighbor, or ourselves. They can also be divided into sins of thought, of word, of deed, or of omission.
394. How are sins distinguished according to their gravity?
A distinction is made between mortal and venial sin.
395. When does one commit a mortal sin?
One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.
396. When does one commit a venial sin?
One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.
397. How does sin proliferate?
Sin creates a proclivity to sin ; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts.
398. What are vices?
Vices are the opposite of virtues. They are perverse habits which darken the conscience and incline one to evil. The vices can be linked to the seven, so-called, capital sins which are: pride, avarice, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.
399. Do we have any responsibility for sins committed by others?
We do have such a responsibility when we culpably cooperate with them.
400. What are structures of sin?
Structures of sin are social situations or institutions that are contrary to the divine law. They are the expression and effect of personal sins.
The Human Community
THE PERSON AND SOCIETY
401. In what does the social dimension of man consist?
Together with the personal call to beatitude, the human person has a communal dimension as an essential component of his nature and vocation. Indeed, all are called to the same end, God himself. There is a certain resemblance between the communion of the divine Persons and the fraternity that people are to establish among themselves in truth and love. Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God.
402. What is the relationship between the person and society?
The human person is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions. Certain societies, such as the family and the civic community, are necessary for the human person. Also helpful are other associations on the national and international levels with due respect for the principle of subsidiarity.
403. What is the principle of subsidiarity?
The principle of subsidiarity states that a community of a higher order should not assume the task belonging to a community of a lower order and deprive it of its authority. It should rather support it in case of need.
404. What else is required for an authentic human society?
Authentic human society requires respect for justice, a just hierarchy of values, and the subordination of material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones. In particular, where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and for the grace of God to obtain social changes that may really serve each person and the whole person. Charity, which requires and makes possible the practice of justice, is the greatest social commandment.
PARTICIPATION IN SOCIAL LIFE
405. What is the foundation of the authority of society?
Every human community needs a legitimate authority that preserves order and contributes to the realization of the common good. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature because it corresponds to the order established by God.
406. When is authority exercised in a legitimate way?
Authority is exercised legitimately when it acts for the common good and employs morally licit means to attain it. Therefore, political regimes must be determined by the free decision of their citizens. They should respect the principle of the “rule of law” in which the law, and not the arbitrary will of some, is sovereign. Unjust laws and measures contrary to the moral order are not binding in conscience.
407. What is the common good?
By the common good is meant the sum total of those conditions of social life which allow people as groups and as individuals to reach their proper fulfillment.
408. What is involved in the common good?
The common good involves: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person, the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of persons and society, and the peace and security of all.
409. Where can one find the most complete realization of the common good?
The most complete realization of the common good is found in those political communities which defend and promote the good of their citizens and of intermediate groups without forgetting the universal good of the entire human family.
410. How does one participate in bringing about the common good?
All men and women according to the place and role that they occupy participate in promoting the common good by respecting just laws and taking charge of the areas for which they have personal responsibility such as the care of their own family and the commitment to their own work. Citizens also should take an active part in public life as far as possible.
411. How does society ensure social justice?
Society ensures social justice when it respects the dignity and the rights of the person as the proper end of society itself. Furthermore, society pursues social justice, which is linked to the common good and to the exercise of authority, when it provides the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain what is their due.
412. On what is human equality based?
All persons enjoy equal dignity and fundamental rights insofar as they are created in the image of the one God, are endowed with the same rational soul, have the same nature and origin, and are called in Christ, the one and only Savior, to the same divine beatitude.
413. How are we to view social inequalities?
There are sinful social and economic inequalities which affect millions of human beings. These inequalities are in open contradiction to the Gospel and are contrary to justice, to the dignity of persons, and to peace. There are , however, differences among people caused by various factors which enter into the plan of God. Indeed, God wills that each might receive what he or she needs from others and that those endowed with particular talents should share them with others. Such differences encourage and often oblige people to the practice of generosity, kindness and the sharing of goods. They also foster the mutual enrichment of cultures.
414. How is human solidarity manifested?
Solidarity, which springs from human and Christian brotherhood, is manifested in the first place by the just distribution of goods, by a fair remuneration for work and by zeal for a more just social order. The virtue of solidarity also practices the sharing of the spiritual goods of faith which is even more important than sharing material goods.
God's Salvation: Law and Grace
THE MORAL LAW
415. What is the moral law?
The moral law is a work of divine Wisdom. It prescribes the ways and the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude and it forbids the ways that turn away from God.
416. In what does the natural moral law consist?
The natural law which is inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every person consists in a participation in the wisdom and the goodness of God. It expresses that original moral sense which enables one to discern by reason the good and the bad. It is universal and immutable and determines the basis of the duties and fundamental rights of the person as well as those of the human community and civil law.
417. Is such a law perceived by everyone?
Because of sin the natural law is not always perceived nor is it recognized by everyone with equal clarity and immediacy.
For this reason God “wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts.” (Saint Augustine)
418. What is the relationship between the natural law and the Old Law?
The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. It expresses many truths naturally accessible to reason and which are thus affirmed and authenticated in the covenant of salvation. Its moral prescriptions, which are summed up in the Ten Commandments of the Decalogue, lay the foundations of the human vocation, prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor, and prescribe what is essential to it.
419. What place does the Old Law have in the plan of salvation?
The Old Law permitted one to know many truths which are accessible to reason, showed what must or must not be done and, above all, like a wise tutor, prepared and disposed one for conversion and for the acceptance of the Gospel. However, while being holy, spiritual, and good, the Old Law was still imperfect because in itself it did not give the strength and the grace of the Spirit for its observance.
420. What is the New Law or the Law of the Gospel?
The New Law or the Law of the Gospel, proclaimed and fulfilled by Christ, is the fullness and completion of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is summed up in the commandment to love God and neighbor and to love one another as Christ loved us. It is also an interior reality: the grace of the Holy Spirit which makes possible such love. It is “the law of freedom” (Galatians 1:25) because it inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity.
“The New Law is mainly the same grace of the Holy Spirit which is given to believers in Christ.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
421. Where does one find the New Law?
The New Law is found in the entire life and preaching of Christ and in the moral catechesis of the apostles. The Sermon on the Mount is its principal expression.
GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION
422. What is justification?
Justification is the most excellent work of God's love. It is the merciful and freely-given act of God which takes away our sins and makes us just and holy in our whole being. It is brought about by means of the grace of the Holy Spirit which has been merited for us by the passion of Christ and is given to us in Baptism. Justification is the beginning of the free response of man, that is, faith in Christ and of cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
423. What is the grace that justifies?
That grace is the gratuitous gift that God gives us to make us participants in his trinitarian life and able to act by his love. It is called habitual, sanctifying or deifying grace because it sanctifies and divinizes us. It is supernatural because it depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative and surpasses the abilities of the intellect and the powers of human beings. It therefore escapes our experience.
424. What other kinds of grace are there?
Besides habitual grace, there are actual graces (gifts for specific circumstances), sacramental graces (gifts proper to each sacrament), special graces or charisms (gifts that are intended for the common good of the Church) among which are the graces of state that accompany the exercise of ecclesial ministries and the responsibilities of life.
425. What is the relationship between grace and human freedom?
Grace precedes, prepares and elicits our free response. It responds to the deep yearnings of human freedom, calls for its cooperation and leads freedom toward its perfection.
426. What is merit?
In general merit refers to the right to recompense for a good deed. With regard to God, we of ourselves are not able to merit anything, having received everything freely from him. However, God gives us the possibility of acquiring merit through union with the love of Christ, who is the source of our merits before God. The merits for good works, therefore must be attributed in the first place to the grace of God and then to the free will of man.
427. What are the goods that we can merit?
Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods, suitable for us, can be merited in accordance with the plan of God. No one, however, can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion and justification.
428. Are all called to Christian holiness?
All the faithful are called to Christian holiness. This is the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity and it is brought about by intimate union with Christ and, in him, with the most Holy Trinity. The path to holiness for a Christian goes by way of the cross and will come to its fulfillment in the final resurrection of the just, in which God will be all in all.
THE CHURCH MOTHER AND TEACHER
429. How does the Church nourish the moral life of a Christian?
The Church is the community in which the Christian receives the Word of God, the teachings of the “Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), and the grace of the sacraments. Christians are united to the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ in such a way that their moral life is an act of spiritual worship; and they learn the example of holiness from the Virgin Mary and the lives of the Saints.
430. Why does the Magisterium of the Church act in the field of morality?
It is the duty of the Magisterium of the Church to preach the faith that is to be believed and put into practice in life. This duty extends even to the specific precepts of the natural law because their observance is necessary for salvation.
431. What purpose do the precepts of the Church have?
The five precepts of the Church are meant to guarantee for the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer, the sacramental life, moral commitment and growth in love of God and neighbor.
432. What are the precepts of the Church?
They are: 1) to attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation and to refrain from work and activities which could impede the sanctification of those days; 2) to confess one's sins, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year; 3) to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season; 4) to abstain from eating meat and to observe the days of fasting established by the Church; and 5) to help to provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
433. Why is the Christian moral life indispensable for the proclamation of the Gospel?
Because their lives are conformed to the Lord Jesus, Christians draw others to faith in the true God, build up the Church, inform the world with the spirit of the Gospel, and hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God.