1. What are some beliefs, practices, or traditions of the Catholic faith?
What we believe is enshrined in what we call the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (or just Nicene Creed), formulated in the 4th century (from the first two ecumenical Councils occurring in 325 A.D. and 381 A.D.)
I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with 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,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
There is much more we believe, but this is a good summary. For further details, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
We have lots of practices, but the chief practice we participate in is one of weekly public worship of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) on the Lord's Day, Sunday, in the Mass or the Divine Liturgy. In the liturgy, we read the Sacred Scriptures, reflect on them, and most importantly offer sacrifice to God and participate in a ritual meal with him. We call this ritual meal "Communion" because through it we believe that we have union together with God. (The word for "Communion" can also be translated "fellowship".) We also call it "Eucharist" from the Greek word for "thanksgiving" (which in turn comes from the two words for "good" and "grace" or "gift"), because we give thanks to God for all he's given us. In this sacrificial meal, we commemorate and make present the One Sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, willingly made on the Cross of Calvary 2,000 years ago. This Sacrifice is constituted by bread and wine which we offer to God, and in return, He gives us what we believe is the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ. As St. Justin Martyr said in the 2nd century (First Apology):
"Not as ordinary bread or as ordinary drink do we partake of them, but just as, through the word of God, our Savior Jesus Christ became Incarnate and took upon Himself flesh and blood for our salvation, so, we have been taught, the food which has been made the Eucharist by the prayer of His word, and which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is both the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."
Because we believe Jesus is the Son of God; we believe also that He is God, God made flesh; and because He is God made flesh, His flesh is divine; and because we partake of His flesh in Communion, we believe that we are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and because we are partakers of the divine nature, we believe that we are transformed into the likeness of God and thus divinized, much like iron put into the fire will itself take on the nature of the fire.
We have other practices, called sacraments or mysteries. In addition to Communion or the Eucharist they are:
- Baptism (being washed with water to be initiated into the Christian life.)
- Confirmation or Chrismation (laying on of hands and anointing with oil to receive the Holy Spirit.)
- Confession or Reconciliation (where we receive God's mercy through the hands of a priest to whom we reveal our sins.)
- Holy Anointing (when the sick are anointed with oil to request healing.)
- Holy Matrimony (Marriage), and
- Priestly Ordination (where we commission new deacons, priests, and bishops.)
These are our chief practices. We also have traditions like:
- praying the Rosary (a meditative sequence of prayers focused on the life of Christ and his mother)
- Eucharistic adoration (when we worship [adore] the Eucharist which we believe to be the Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, our God)
- Lectio Divina (when we study Sacred Scripture in a traditional way), and
Having monks, nuns, sisters, and brothers consecrated to serve God in a community or the eremetical life is also a tradition we have.
2. Why is Baptism important for children or infants?
Baptism is important for everyone because it:
- confers the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39)
- makes us participate in the life-giving death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3–11)
- gives us a new heart and a new spirit that are obedient to God (Ezekiel 36:25–27)
- saves us (1 Peter 3:20-22), and seals us in the new covenant (or sacred family bond) of Christ, much like circumcision did for the Jews in the Old Testament.
(See Colossians 2:11-12)
Jesus said no one can be saved unless they are born again or born from above (John 3:3); this refers to Baptism. Baptism is the way you enter the family of God and receive those benefits, put simply. We want even our infants to have the benefits of and graces that God confers through Baptism.
3. What is Communion and how often do you have Communion?
I answered what is Communion above – summarized: it is bread and wine which by the prayer of the priest we believe has been transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in such a way that it can no longer be called bread and wine, which, when we receive it, effects our union with God and divinization.
A typical parish (local church) will have Communion multiple times a day, but especially on the Lord's Day (Sunday), the day when Jesus rose from the dead. Typically, Catholics worship and receive Communion once on Sundays and certain holy days, but it is usually offered at least once daily and often, if you count funerals and weddings where often it is celebrated, multiple times a day.
4. Why is it important to confess sins to the priest?
It's important for a few reasons.
- First of all, it cultivates humility and accountability. We are less likely to commit sins if we know we will need to disclose them to someone else.
- Second, it is helpful to get counsel on how to respond to our sin — how to avoid it in the future, how to deal with it, etc.
- Third, sin is not a private matter — the whole People of God is affected by our sins, no matter how secret they may be (See 1 Corinthians 12:26). In the Old Testament, the whole nation might be punished for the sin of one person. Sin has a communal aspect, and because of that, grave sin needs to be reconciled through the priest, who represents the community.
- Fourth, Confession, like all the sacraments, is a channel of grace, and participating frees us from bondage to sin and satan and gives us the power to overcome sin.
- Fifth, Sacred Scripture bids us to do it (James 5:16) and says Jesus gave the Apostles (and their successors, and those to whom they delegate it, the priests) the power to forgive sins or hold sins unforgiven (John 20:22-23). Obviously, to make this decision in the exercise of this power, they need to know what the sins are.
5. What is the role of a nun in the Church?
Typically the role of a nun is contemplative prayer for the Church and the needs of the people however most people confuse nuns with sisters. Sisters have a more general role. They:
- may teach
- help out at a parish
- nurse sick people
- assist the poor, or
- do whatever needs to be done that a priest has no time to do and that can be done by a non-ordained person.
6. What is the pope's role and how do you elect a pope?
The pope's role is as a shepherd to feed Christ's sheep and take care of them (John 21:15-17). He is the servant of the servants of God. He leads the People of God, administering and teaching. He has the ability to teach with certainty ("infallibility") on matters of faith and morals when the situation requires it (which is rare).
A pope is elected in a vote by previously selected individuals (typically bishops) known as cardinals (technically, cardinal-electors) in an event known as a "conclave." Typically (almost exclusively) the cardinals will choose one of their own, though they could theoretically choose any baptized male. The cardinals meet in a tightly closed session at the Vatican and are sworn to secrecy about the proceedings. There are elaborate procedures for a conclave I won't get into; you can google it for more information, but the most interesting part is that the paper ballots are burned after each round of votes, and the smoke which escapes the chimney of the building tells the world what happened:
- Black means no pope (inconclusive vote).
- White means a pope has been elected and accepted.
7. What is the rose of Guadalupe?
I am not going to go into detail as you are better off with a Google search for this, but in brief, the mother of Jesus appeared to a Mexican Indian named Juan Diego in the dead of winter in the year 1531, and instructed him to ask the bishop to build a church where she appeared.
Not surprisingly, the bishop was dubious, and asked for a sign. Diego went back to the site of the apparition to find a crop of roses that had miraculously appeared there (this was winter you'll recall). He gathered them up in his tilma (a kind of indigenous article of rough clothing) and presented them to the bishop, and when he did so, it was apparent that an image of the apparition had miraculously appeared on his tilma, an image which used symbolism meaningful to the pagan Indians of the area that indicated that she would overcome their gods (these Indians were practicing human sacrifice).
The image and associated miracle was so powerful that millions of Indians converted to Catholicism, which is why Mexico is predominately Catholic today. You can still see the tilma and its image today, 500 years later; miraculously, it has not faded, and scientists cannot explain how the image was formed. Anyway, you asked about the "rose". That would probably be the roses found at the apparition site and placed in the tilma, although there are also specific cultivars of roses with this name and even a TV series by this name.
8. Who is Mary and why is she important to the Catholic Church?
Mary, or Miriam in Hebrew, as I've indicated, is the human mother who gave birth to the incarnate Jesus and raised him from infancy (together with St. Joseph, her spouse). Since we believe that Jesus is God, we call her the Mother of God, which is not to imply that she pre-existed God, the Son, but we call her "Mother of God" because it neatly and concisely refutes so many heresies about Jesus and his nature.
We consider Mary to be the greatest creature (this excludes Jesus, who is not a creature, but God). She is "higher than the cherubim, more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim" (i.e., the highest angels), because we believe that God prepared her to be a perfect mother for the Son of God by preserving her from sin. We believe that she lived her life completely free from subjection to sin and Satan (See Genesis 3:16), and because "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). (We believe that the holy people — or saints — that have fallen asleep in the Lord before us are able to hear our requests and pray for us from heaven; see Revelation 5:8.)
We venerate (but do not worship) her with a special veneration. We consider her to be an image and prototype of the Church Herself; by which I mean to say that many of the characteristics of the Church are embodied in her, and vice-versa. In ancient Semitic cultures, kings would often have multiple wives, and so it became customary to make the mother of the King, the Queen. And so we believe Mary is Jesus's Queen (See Revelation 12:1-5, Psalm 45:9-17). We believe her intercession is particularly effective (See John 2:1-11).
9. Why is the priest called "father"?
Because the Church is a family, directed toward God, from whom all fatherhood is derived (Ephesians 3:14).
Historically this is the way that leaders in the People of God have been called. (See Romans 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, 1 Thessalonians 2:1,11, Philemon 1:10, Acts 3:24-26, Acts 7:2) Human fatherhood is patterned after God's fatherhood. And the priest, being a leader in the church, is like a father to us.
10. What does being Catholic mean to you?
It means being an adopted son of the Creator of the Universe: becoming, by grace, what Christ is by nature. It means being a friend of God. It means being fully alive and in a right relationship with God, with others, and with all my faculties. It means love, peace, joy, and happiness both in this life, and forever in the life to come.
I hope this answers your questions!