Catholicism 101

An Introduction to the Beliefs and Practices of the Catholic Church

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." These words of Our Savior in Matthew 16:18 form the core of the Catholic Church's claim to be the one, true Church founded by Jesus Christ: Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia—"Where Peter is, there is the Church." The Pope, the successor of Peter as bishop of Rome, is the sure sign that the Catholic Church remains the Church of Christ and His apostles.

The links below will help you explore the beliefs and practices of Catholicism.

Cardinal O'Malley Distributes Communion

For Catholics, the seven sacraments are the center of our life as Christians. Our baptism removes the effects of Original Sin and brings us into the Church, the Body of Christ. Our worthy participation in the other sacraments provides us with the grace we need to conform our lives to Christ and marks our progress through this life. Each sacrament was instituted by Christ during His life on earth and is an outward sign of an inward grace.

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A woman holds rosary beads while she prays

After the sacraments, prayer is the single most important aspect of our life as Catholics. Saint Paul tells us that we should "pray without ceasing," yet in the modern world, it sometimes seems that prayer takes a back seat not only to our work but to entertainment. As a result, many of us have fallen out of the habit of daily prayer that characterized the lives of Christians in centuries past. Yet an active prayer life, like frequent participation in the sacraments, is essential to our growth in grace.

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Saints in Stained Glass

One thing that unites the Catholic Church to the Eastern Orthodox Churches and separates both from most Protestant denominations is the devotion to the saints, those holy men and women who have lived exemplary Christian lives. Many Christians—even Catholics—misunderstand this devotion, which is based on our belief that, just as our life does not end with death, so too our relationships with our fellow members of the Body of Christ continue after their deaths. This Communion of Saints is so important that it is an article of faith in all Christian creeds, from the time of the Apostles' Creed.

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Resurrection of Christ

Many people think that Christmas is the most important day in the Catholic liturgical calendar, but from the earliest days of the Church, Easter has been considered the central Christian feast. As Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." Without Easter—without the Resurrection of Christ—there would be no Christian Faith. Christ's Resurrection is the proof of His Divinity.

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Flying Dove

After Easter Sunday, Christmas is the second-greatest feast in the Catholic calendar, but Pentecost Sunday is not far behind. Coming 50 days after Easter and ten days after the Ascension of Our Lord, Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. For that reason, it is often called the "the birthday of the Church."

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