What is Catholicism

Table of Contents

The Catholic faith is based on The Apostles’ Creed.
And this is divided into twelve parts. These parts are The 12 Articles of the Catholic Faith

The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the Apostles, but is based on the writings of the Apostles in the Bible, and on the tradition of their teaching carried by the Early Church Fathers. Like the Nicene Creed it is the foundation of the Catholic faith.

The Rosary, a Scripture-based prayer prayed regularly by devout Catholics begins with the Apostles’ Creed, a summary of the fundamental truths of the Catholic faith.

The Apostles’ Creed is divided into 12 sections, refer to as the Twelve Articles.

The Twelve Articles Of The Catholic Church

  1. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;
  2. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
  3. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary,
  4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died, and was buried.
  5. He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead;
  6. He ascended into Heaven, And is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty;
  7. From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
  8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  9. The Holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints,
  10. The forgiveness of sins,
  11. The resurrection of the body,
  12. And life everlasting. Amen.

Similar to this is the Nicene Creed, which is worded differently, but is essentially the same profession of faith or credo. This is the fundamental belief held by any Christian, Reformed, Protestant, or Evangelical. The Nicene Creed is an expanded, fuller version of the Twlve Articles of Faith.

1. God the Creator

Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Isaiah 44:6

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11:3

Who or what God is, is the first statement. If we study one specific scripture about God, we get one understanding of God. With a different verse we get a different understanding. When we study all the verses referring to God then we get a more nuanced and complex concept of God.

God is all powerful, knows everything, and is present everywhere at the same time. God even knows the subconscious intent of our hearts, something we are often not consciously aware of ourselves. God is eternal, without beginning or end. How can we then understand God?

God is one. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are one God, one nature, one substance, all are one everlasting essence or being. There is only one God.

2. Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:1-3

Catholics believe, Jesus, Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary. By this, Jesus (God) took on the nature, and substance of man’s nature, and was thereby united in an everlasting and indivisible bond together God and mankind.

Jesus Christ was, is, and ever will be in the same person, perfect God and perfect man. This work, of God appearing in a bodily form, was not a natural act of procreation, but the work of God through the Holy Spirit

3. Conception – Virgin Mary

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.


Born of the Virgin Mary.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

Luke 1:27

4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died, and was buried

And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

Mark 15:15

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Jesus Christ in his human form with his human nature could feel pain and physically die, like any other human being. Thus emphasizing the true human nature of Jesus. Naming the then Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, gives a defined historical context. and and emphasizes that the blame of Jesus’ crucifixion cannot be laid on all Jews. Pontius Pilate represented the secular world.

Jewish leaders wanted Jesus’ death, and the Jewish mob following these leaders, were baying for Jesus’ blood. But the sentence was given by a Roman, and the crucifixion was a Roman punishment, carried out by Roman soldiers.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

5. On the Third Day He Rose Again

The hell Jesus descended into for three days was not the hell of the damned. This hell was merely a concept that Jews and early Christians used to describe the place of the dead. The hell of the damned, prepared for the devil, his demons and anyone who chooses to follow them, instead of turning to God, is a different place.

On the third day Jesus rose, meaning that Jesus came back from the dead with his own divine power. He rose not as a spirit, but with a glorified body. This proves his divinity and fulfilled prophecy.

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Matthew 12:40

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1 Corinthians 15:4

6. He ascended into Heaven

Jesus Christ ascended back to heaven to meet with His Heavenly Father, to sit at the Father’s right hand-side of authority in heaven. This ascension to heaven before the eyes of His followers assures the faithful that all of them who follow His path will someday dwell with him and the Father in heaven.

The ascension was also a reminder that Jesus divine and human natures were not separated after His resurrection.
Catholicism teaches that his human body will exist forever.
Where Jesus went, body and soul, into heaven, the faithful hope one day to follow.

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Luke 24:51

So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

Mark 16:19

7. Judgement

Jesus Christ will return and judge all of us, both the living and the dead, in the Last Judgement. Then will He separate the just from the wicked, the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-34):

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 3Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Mathew 25:31-34

The “sheep” to the peace of eternal life and joy in heaven, while the “goats” will eternal regret in hell.This judgement

This judgement is set when we die. It is based actions, and the intents of our actions (the intents of our hearts) in this life. Important points are how we responded to God’s grace, and also not only what we have done, but also what we did not do, but should have done.

And Jesus said:

For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son

John 5:22

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Timothy 4:

8. The Holy Spirit

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me

John 15:26

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Of sin, because they believe not on me;

Luke 11:13

The Holy Spirit guides and instructs the Catholic Church. Jesus himself sent the Holy Spirit, whom He called the comforter, to help build His church.

This Article 8 affirms the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is traditionally depicted with four symbols:

  • Dove symbolizing the purity of our soul at baptism.
  • Water symbolizing a cleansing of our soul at baptism,
  • Oil symbolizes our consecration to Christ. Anointing oil was a foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
  • Fire symbolizing the Holy Scripture occurs throughout Scripture.

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, behold, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

Mattew 3:16

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

John 16:13

9. The Communion of Saints

Catholics believe the unity of the Church flows from Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit guiding and preserving the Catholic Church, which is made up of the individual believers, who are the Communion of Saints. These include all Catholics, living, dead and in purgatory.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:23-25

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

10. The Forgiveness of Sins

God forgives Catholics their sins through the Church’s sacraments of penance.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Colosians 1:12-14

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

11. The Resurrection of the body

Catholics human beings are a union of body and soul. At death there is a temporary separation of the body and the soul. This condition remains until the Second Coming of Christ, at the end of the world and the Great Judgment. This is followed by the resurrection of the dead, when the just will be raised up to heaven, with their glorified bodies united with their souls, and the damned go, body and soul, into hell.which we at the Last Judgment.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

12. Everlasting Life

Our Saviour Jesus Christ died for us to take our sins on Himself. Christ rose from the dead so that we may do so too. Death is the separation of the body from the soul. When we die, our body is buried, while our soul goes in front of Jesus Christ for a private judgement. At the moment of death Christ judges the soul. Each soul is judged privately.

If a person dies with unconfessed sins or unforgiven mortal sins, will be damned to hell. Mortal sins are sins committed knowingly, in full awareness that the sinner was rebelling against God.

Catholics whose sins are not mortal sins and can still be repented of and forgiven, are not straight away damned to hell, but enter Purgatory, a state of being between heaven and hell. This is where the soul that is not good enough for heaven, and not evil enough for hell, spends some time being cleansed of any stains of sin before being allowed into into Paradise.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

John 17:1-3

Other Core Beliefs

The Virgin Mary

Mary is held as an example to Catholics to submit to God’s will. Mary accepted God’s will when the angel Gabriel came to her with the message, that she was to bear God’s son. Although she was sinless, she still had free will to obey or reject God, Mary accepted God’s will saying. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” This means she had the power to say “yes” or “no” to God.

Catholics say they do not worship Mary, but they venerate her.

Mary is the foremost of the Catholic saints. Catholics ask Mary to pray for them to her son Jesus, and to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

The name “Mother of God” was an early term, but the idea of that Mary was born sinless, “Immaculate Mary” was a later development from the Middle Ages.

Pope Pius IX in his papal encyclical (8th December 1854) Ineffabilis Deus, (the Indescribable God)stated the defined infallibly that:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Pope Pius IX Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854.

In his encyclical, Pius IX quoted Pope Alexander VII from the 1661 apostolic constitution Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum:

“Concerning the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, ancient indeed is that devotion of the faithful based on the belief that her soul, in the first instant of its creation and in the first instant of the soul’s infusion into the body, was, by a special grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and the Redeemer of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin. And in this sense have the faithful ever solemnized and celebrated the Feast of the Conception.”


The History of Purgatory

The concept of purgatory in the Jewish religious culture started a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus. In the apocryphal book 2 Maccabees 12, “The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.” Then:

He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin-offering. In doing this he acted very well and honourably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

2 Maccabees 12:43-45

The prayer for the dead can be traced to Jewish tradition, that was incorporated into some groups of early Christians. The concept of an interim state, between physical death and Judgement, began forming during the Early Middle Ages.

Scriptures used to justify this belief were Scriptures such as:

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

1 Corinthians 3:11-13

Catholics read these verses to justify purgatory, while Protestants read these Scriptures as our actions in life, that will be judged for the purpose of rewards in heaven, not for punishment. For example if two Christians spread the Gospel: one out of a pure love for God and caring for lost souls, that is gold, silver, precious stones, The other does the exact same work, also for the love of God, but there is an element of selfishness and striving to be popular for doing it, that is wood, hay, and stubble.

the word “purgatory” emerged in the 1100s, in Latin as purgatorium. This is from the Latin verb purgare, to purge.

The idea of purgatory was best defined by Thomas Aquinas, published posthumously. He considered purgatory to be a way to make amends for venal sins (lesser sins) and where punishment for other unconfessed sins takes place. According to Thomas Aquinas, the souls in purgatory are in a state of peace, because they are sure of their salvation, and may be helped by the prayers of the faithful and the offering of the Eucharist, because they are still part of the Communion of Saints.

The real bad souls with unconfessed sins, and unforgivable mortal sins, are judged at death and sent to hell.

Catholic Sacred Tradition

The Catholic doctrines are based on the Bible. But what is written there is not always absolutely clear. The Bible is not an engineering text book. It is the Word of God. Some doctrines are explicit, stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for doubt or confusion. While other doctrines not directly expressed and need to be interpreted.

To bring clarity to this and avoid the confusion that comes from private interpretations with their own “I think,” and “I believe,” the Church relies on what the Early Church Fathers wrote. These were Christians who knew Jesus’ Apostles, and the disciples of the Apostles. These traditions were passed down the generations through bishops, who taught the truth revealed in the Gospels.

This is the tradition which is also called the living transmission of the Word of God. It is distinct from Scripture, which is the Word of God. Tradition flows the entire life of the Church, and together with Scripture, makes up the deposit of Faith of the Word of God.

The Church definition of Sacred Tradition is:

“The Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes”.

What is a Catholic Mass?

The tradition of the Eucharist or Catholic Mass comes from the belief that when Jesus said at the Last Supper, he was giving us the gift of his real presence in the form of bread and wine. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word ευχαριστία which means “thanksgiving.”

The Catholic Mass is a thanksgiving celebration of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Matthew 26:26-28

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.

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In this last part; “I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church,” the “catholic and apostolic church” refers to the universal Christian Church and not specifically to the Roman Catholic Church. So it is said and believed by all Christians (all Christians who are truly part of Christ’s Body) as a credo or profession of faith. This term is used to describe universally accepted Christian beliefs.

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