What and Who is a Catholic?
Catholics are Christians, this means that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, the Son of God, their friend, liberator, Lord and Saviour. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ set up the Church (Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 16, verse 18) to pass on the fullness of his teaching, his life, and to carry on his work. They are ordinary people who have many different jobs, faces and interests.
Catholic means universal. There are over one billion people worldwide who are members of the Catholic Church which was founded by Jesus Christ in the first century AD. It is made up of a large family of people from every race, colour and social background, who share a common vision and beliefs. Whatever part of the world they live in, they are in communion (united) with one another in a special way through their leaders, who they believe to be chosen and appointed by God.
The head of the Catholic Community worldwide is the Pope, currently Benedict XVI. Locally, the Church is led by bishops and priests. The Pope is the Head of State of The Holy See – the Vatican in Rome, Italy. His mission is to share the Good News that God loves us unconditionally and is merciful. It’s this reality – of God’s love and mercy – that is his primary message and is one that lies at the heart of the Catholic Faith.
‘Church’ means the gathering of the people of God. The church building is the focal point for Catholic community gatherings, and is a place where friendships are made and lives shared. People gather there to pray, and to learn about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
The ‘sacraments’ are a very important part of Church life. These are God-given spiritual channels through which life flows. The ‘Eucharist’ is a very special sacrament. When Catholics come together to celebrate ‘Mass’ they share a holy meal and believe that through it they are fed, under the appearance of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ.
During the Mass a miracle takes place. When the priest says a special prayer over the bread, it is changed by God’s power, so that Jesus is present in it in a unique way. Though it still looks like bread, Jesus’ living presence is there, and this is what Catholics call ‘Holy Communion’ because they are united with God when they receive it.
The seven sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders.
Jesus taught that we should love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 31). Catholics try to put this into practice and find it to be a life-giving and fulfilling way to live. They are involved in a wide variety of charitable works such as running hostels for the homeless and caring for the elderly.
- God loves us
- Believing in him is the way to true freedom, peace and happiness
- We should love God and one another, especially the poor and needy
- Our messes, mistakes and wrongs can be put right – we can be forgiven and know peace
- We can be healed from deep wounds and hurts by calling on the name of Jesus
- If we believe in Jesus we will inherit eternal life and live with him in heaven
A summary of the Catholic Faith can be found in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed contains brief statements which express the fundamental basis of Christian belief. According to tradition, it is considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith; the apostles were the first followers of Jesus Christ. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 194). Article from the Catholic Encyclopaedia
The Nicene Creed was adopted at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 to be used as a simple summary of the Christian Faith. Such a summary was needed because during the fourth century A.D. a number of groups were teaching errors and were distorting the message of Christ (known as heretics). The Nicene Creed is accepted by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. Article from the Catholic Encyclopaedia
“This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.” (St. Ambrose, Expl. symb . I: PL 17, 1193)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the Church’s teaching document. It is arranged in four main parts:
- The Profession of Faith (the Creed)
- The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Sacraments)
- Life in Christ (including the Ten Commandments)
- Christian Prayer (including The Lord’s Prayer)
When presenting the Compendium of the Catechism in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI described it as being for: “every human being, who, in a world of distractions desires to know the Way of Life, the Truth, entrusted by God to His Son’s Church.”
Jesus has many amazing things to offer you and those you love. His life and message is about wholeness, love and freedom. Jesus will not force you to get to know him and receive all the good things on offer. You are free to choose. It is up to you…
If you are interested in finding out more about the Catholic Faith or if you are a Catholic and have lost touch with your local parish, you are very welcome to visit your local parish Church to find out more.
Further general information is also available at the Catholic Enquiry Office at www.catholicfaith.org.uk. For free publications and general enquiries please email:
or tel: 0207 901 4863. All enquiries are confidential. Free materials are sent in a plain envelope and there are no callers or obligations.
If you are a Catholic, please see the wide range of resources which are designed to help you share your faith, at CASE Resources (Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation): www.caseresources.org.uk Alternatively, telephone them on: 0207 901 4863, or email: