How do you keep your Catholic faith?

Catholic Church

In a Catholic service

The Roman Catholic Church is a community of believers. Most of the Christians in the world are Roman Catholics. There are more than a billion Catholics, that is, more than a thousand million. That's as many people as there are in China.

Catholics live in many countries around the world. There are particularly many in Italy, France, Poland, Mexico and the Philippines, for example. A third of Germans and Swiss are Catholic, as is most of the Austrians. The Catholics therefore have many different opinions. Its head is the Pope. He is also ruler of the Vatican in Rome. It is not always easy for him to represent everyone equally well.

What is important in the Catholic faith?

Tabernacle with keyhole to the left of Jesus

Many paintings and statues can be seen in Catholic churches. They show Jesus or saints, i.e. people who have lived a particularly Christian life. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is very important. The Way of the Cross is also important. This is a kind of picture story, mostly with 14 pictures or sculptures. They show Jesus' death path from his condemnation to the scene when he is laid in the grave. There are also crossroads outside the churches that lead across the fields or through the forest.

A cross and an altar belong in a Catholic church. This is a table on which the priest repeats the Lord's Supper. It is actually called the Eucharist. The altar has its roots in the story of Abraham and in the passion of Jesus. Catholics do not celebrate the Eucharist just as a memory. They believe that bread and wine really transform into the body and blood of Jesus, even if it doesn't taste like that in the mouth. Catholics are very careful with the remnants of the Eucharist. You keep them in a kind of safe. It is called the tabernacle and is often very richly decorated.

A baptismal font also belongs in the Catholic Church. Catholics baptize babies, not adults. Unless an adult converts from another religion.

Eternal light is also part of it. It should always burn and thus show that God is always with people. It is usually an oil light and is always in a red glass. There is a holy water font at the church entrance. It contains water that the priest has blessed. The believers cross themselves with it. Frankincense is only available in special church services.

How do Catholics get to Heaven?

The people in purgatory plead with Mary.

On the one hand, Catholics trust that they redeemed Jesus through his death on the cross and that that is why they will go to heaven after death. That's what the Bible says. In the early Middle Ages, however, the idea of ​​purgatory developed: after death, everyone had to atone for their sins in purgatory. This went so far that it was determined exactly how many days, weeks or years a person would have to burn in the fire for one sin. You could buy yourself away from it by donating money. This is called indulgences or indulgences.

The sale of indulgences angered the reformers. This was one of the main reasons for the second split in the church. The Catholic Church stuck to its doctrine of purgatory. Officially, it still applies today. But it is hardly mentioned any more.

There are seven sacraments to get to heaven. These are ways of salvation or signs of salvation. They are baptism, confession, confirmation, marriage, the anointing of the sick, the ordination of priests and bishops as well as the Eucharist, i.e. the Lord's Supper. It's pretty much the same as in the Orthodox Church.

How is it with Maria?

Mary is the most important saint. The Bible says that an angel came to tell her that she was going to give birth to a special child. She should call it Jesus. Josef didn't know about this pregnancy and got angry at first.

Much is not clear: Was Joseph the biological father? Or was God himself the Father, that is, the Holy Spirit? Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? Some say that Joseph was the father. Others deny this. Still others even claim that Mary remained a virgin to the end of her life. Yet the New Testament enumerates its siblings. There have been many wars over these issues. They have not yet been answered.

Another point of contention is how Mary died. The Bible says nothing about this. In the 6th century the idea arose that Mary went straight up to heaven, that is, without dying. In 1950 the Pope established this thought as a truth of faith. Catholics always celebrate this day on August 15th.

Catholics pray to Mary, but they do not worship her like all saints. The most important Mary prayer begins with: "Hail Mary, full of grace ...". The angel had said that to her. At the end of the prayer it says: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and when we die.” Catholics believe that Mary can put in a good word with God for people.

Is the Catholic Church the General Church?

Peter with the key to the kingdom of heaven on the seal of Cologne in the 13th century

The word catholic comes from the Greek language and means something like "general". The Roman Catholic Church sees itself as the real Church, just as Jesus Christ wanted it to be. In the Bible, Jesus said to Peter: “You are the rock on which I want to build my church.” The bishops of Rome saw themselves as the successors of Peter. So they are the representatives of Jesus, that is, of God, on earth. Consequently, the Pope always sees himself as the head of the right church.

There were two major splits: In the Middle Ages, the Orthodox Church split off in the east. Greek is used there in worship. At the end of the Middle Ages, many Christians in Europe turned away from the Roman Catholic Church. They did not find some things good, for example the indulgences and the rule of the Pope. These churches are usually called the Reformed or Protestant churches.

How is the Catholic Church organized?

The Pope is the bishop of the Vatican in Rome. At the same time he is the head of all Catholic bishops around the world. A bishop is the head of his diocese. This is the name of his area with all the churches that are in it. All priests are therefore subordinate to their bishop. When a priest is the head of a parish, he is called a pastor.

Only men can become priests. You are not allowed to marry, this is called celibacy. The priests are called “presbyters”, which is Greek and means “elder”. The name priest is derived from the word presbyter. The deacons are one step below. This can also be women. Men and women are allowed to marry as deacons.

The Catholic Church is not linked to the state to the same extent in all countries. In France, for example, full separation has been in place since 1905. The churches have to organize themselves like any association. The state does not collect church taxes. The schools do not offer religious education and are not allowed to hang religious symbols such as crosses there.

In Switzerland and Germany the connection between church and state is closer. For example, the state collects church tax. He also supports the training of pastors at universities. Catholic schools and kindergartens may receive money from the state.


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