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Basics of Catholicism 

THE NICENE CREED 
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. 
 
The Beatitudes 
The Fulfillment of the Christian Life 
The Eight Beatitudes form the core of the Christian life. As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., writes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, they are the "promises of happiness made by Christ to those who faithfully accept his teaching and follow his divine example." That happiness is not in the future but now for those who conform their lives to Christ. 
 
There are two versions of the Beatitudes, one from the Gospel of Matthew and one from the Gospel of Luke. Both are delivered by Christ during the Sermon on the Mount. The text of the Beatitudes given here is from Saint Matthew, the version most commonly quoted and from which we derive the traditional count of Eight Beatitudes. (The final verse, "Blessed are ye . . . ," is not counted as one of the Eight Beatitudes.) 
 
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) 
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land. 
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. 
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. 
Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. 
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. 
Catholic Ten Commandments 
The Catholic Ten Commandments are a summary of "the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin" (Catechism, 2057). 
They must be understood in relation to the "law of love": Love of God and love of neighbor summarize all of Catholic morality. The law of love is also the first principle & source of the moral law. It contains "all the law and the prophets" (Mt 22:40). 
 
The Catholic Ten Commandments are a description of the minimum that love requires. 
 
Christian life itself requires much more than simply following the Ten Commandments. See the full article on Catholic morality for a discussion of this important point. 
"What's 'Catholic' about them?" 
While the entire Judeo-Christian tradition uses the same Scriptural content for the Ten Commandments, their exact division and numbering varies. 
The Catholic tradition uses the division of the Commandments established by St. Augustine. (The Lutheran confessions also use this numbering, while some other confessions & traditions use slightly different numberings.) 
 
Here are the Catholic Ten Commandments: 
1. I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve. 
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 
3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. 
4. Honor your father and your mother. 
5. You shall not kill. 
6. You shall not commit adultery. 
7. You shall not steal. 
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. 
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. 
"What do they mean?" 
Again, the Ten Commandments are a description of the basic freedom from sin that is necessary to live as a Christian. 
They are a minimum level of living, below which we must not go. 
 
The Ten Commandments and Catholicism have been bound together since the time of Christ. In fact, Jesus refers to the Ten Commandments and assures their validity in his dialog with the rich young man in Matthew's Gospel (Mt 19:16-21). The Catechism refers to this in item #2052. 
It's important to note that each Commandment is simply a summary of a whole category of actions. Don't be legalistic, searching for a way around them because their wording doesn't fit you perfectly! 
 
• For example, "bearing false witness against your neighbor" covers any kind of falsehood: perjury, lying, slander, detraction, rash judgment, etc. 
 
The Catholic Ten Commandments are linked together to form a coherent whole. If you break one of them, you're guilty of breaking all of them (Catechism, #2069). 
 
The Commandments express man's fundamental duties to God and neighbor. As such, they represent grave obligations. To violate them knowingly & willingly in a significant way is to commit mortal sin. (See Catechism, #2702-3) 
The Precepts of the Church 
Whence has the Catholic Church the right to make laws? 
The Catholic Church has the right to make laws from Jesus Christ, who said to the apostles, the first bishops of His Church: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven." 
Amen I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 18:18) 
By whom is this right to make laws exercised? 
This right to make laws in exercised by the bishops, the successors of the apostles, and especially by the Pope, who as the successor of the chief of the apostles, Saint Peter, has the right to make laws for the Universal Church. 
And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) 
Which are the chief commandments, or laws of the Church? 
The chief commandments, or laws, of the Church are these six: 
 
1. To assist at Mass on all Sundays and holydays of obligation. 
2. To fast and to abstain on the days appointed. 
3. To confess our sins at least once a year. 
4. To receive Holy Communion during the Easter time. 
5. To contribute to the support of the Church. 
6. To observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage. 
What sin does a Catholic commit who through his own fault misses Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation? 
A Catholic who through his own fault misses Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation commits a mortal sin. 
Keep you my Sabbath; for it is holy unto you. (Exodus 31:14) 
Which are the holy days of obligations? 
The holydays of obligation: (it may vary in different countries) 
 
• Christmas Day (December 25) 
• The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1) 
• Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter) 
• The Assumption (August 15) 
• All Saints' Day (November 1) 
• The Immaculate Conception (December 8) 
 
Note: Christmas is always a holy day of obligation on whatever day it falls. 
When the feasts of the Assumption, All Saints or the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1) are celebrated on a Saturday or Monday, there is no obligation to participate in Mass. 
The Immaculate Conception remains a holy day of obligation except when December 8 falls on Sunday. Then the feast is transferred to Monday, in which case it is not considered a holy day. However, the faithful are still encouraged to participate at Mass on these days. 
What else does the Church oblige us to do on holy days of obligation? 
The Church obliges us to abstain from servile work on holy days of obligation, just as on Sundays, as far as we are able. 
Why were holy days instituted by the Church? 
Holy days were instituted by the Church to remind us of the mysteries of our religion and of the important events in the lives of Christ and of His Blessed Mother, and to recall to us the virtues and the rewards of the saints. 
 
 
Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the Devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights he at last became hungry (Mt 4:1-2) 
What is a fast day? 
A fast day is a day in which only one full meal is taken; the other two meals together should not equal a full meal. In the United States the only fast days are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices, are allowed. 
Who are obliged to observe the fast days of the Church? 
All baptized persons between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine are obliged to observe the fast days of the Church, unless excused or dispensed. 
Who are obliged to observe the abstinence days of the Church? 
All Catholics who have passed their fourteenth birthday and have attained the use of reason are obliged to observe the abstinence days of the Church, unless excused or dispensed. 
Why does the Church command us to fast and to abstain? 
The Church commands us to fast and to abstain in order that we may control the desires of the flesh, raise our minds more freely to God and make satisfaction for sin. 
 
But thou, when thou dost fast, anoint thy head wash thy face, so that thou mayest not be seen fasting by men, but by thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who sees in secret, will reward thee. (Matthew 6:18) 
Why does the Church make Fridays of Lent days of abstinence? 
The Church makes Fridays of Lent days of abstinence in order that we may do penance for our sins, and also in order that we may prepare ourselves more worthily for Good Friday, when we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. 
How can we know the days appointed for fast or abstinence? 
We can know the days appointed for fast or abstinence from the instructions of our bishops and priests. 
What is meant by the commandment to confess our sins at least once a year? 
By the commandment to confess our sins at least once a year is meant that we are strictly obliged to make a good confession within the year, if we have a mortal sin to confess. 
Confess, therefore, your sins to one another. (James 5:16) 
Why should we go to confession frequently? 
We should go to confession frequently because frequent confession greatly helps us to overcome temptation, to keep in the state of grace, and to grow in virtue. 
What sin does a Catholic commit who neglects to receive Holy Communion worthily during the Easter time? 
A Catholic who neglects to receive Holy Communion worthily during the Easter time commits a mortal sin. 
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:55-66) 
What is meant by the commandment to contribute to the support of the Church? 
By the commandment to contribute to the support of the Church is meant that each of us is obliged to bear his fair share of the financial burden of the Holy See, of the diocese, and of the parish. 
So also the Lord directed that those who preach the gospel should have their living from the gospel. (1Corinthians 9:14) 
What is the ordinary law of the Church to be observed at the wedding of a Catholic? 
The ordinary law of the Church to be observed at the wedding of a Catholic is this: A Catholic can contract a true marriage only in the presence of an authorized priest and two witnesses. 
Does the Church forbid Catholics to contract marriage with certain persons? 
The Church does forbid Catholics to contract marriage with certain persons, and the following are examples: first, a marriage with a non-Catholic; this is a mixed marriage; second, a marriage with a second cousin, or any relative closer than a second cousin. 
Why does the Church forbid Catholics to marry non-Catholics? 
The Church forbids Catholics to marry non-Catholics because mixed marriages often bring about family discord, loss of faith on the part of the Catholic, and neglect of the religious training of the children. 
And it is better to die without children, than to leave ungodly children. (Ecclesiasticus 16:4) 
Does the Church ever permit mixed marriages or marriages between close relatives? 
For grave reasons the Church sometimes permits mixed marriages or marriages between close relatives; such a permission is called a dispensation. 
Does the Church allow Catholics to marry during Lent and Advent? 
The Church allows Catholics to marry during Lent and Advent, though they should do so without much festivity. A Nuptial Mass is now allowed during these seasons. 
What is a Nuptial Mass? 
A Nuptial Mass is a Mass which has special prayers to beg God's blessing on the married couple.