Engage & Learn

Catholicism 101

Catholicism is over 2000 years old. Here, you can find some of the basic precepts that guide the Catholic faith.

The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed outlines the basic points of the Catholic faith. It is a profession of faith that is recited at every mass. The first creed was written in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, however, Catholics use the adapted Nicene-Constantinopolitan from the 381 A.D. council in Constantinople. It follows:

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.

The Apostles’ Creed is a shorten version of this profession and made used in place of the Nicene Creed.

Rules of the Church: The Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes and Others

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are the basic rules given to Jews, the predecessors of the Catholics, by God through Moses. They spell out how God asks us to conduct our lives in the best way possible. The Ten Commandments can be found in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament of the Bible and are condensed as:

1. I am the LORD, your God. You shall not have other gods before me.

2. You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.

3. Keep holy the Sabbath day. (In Catholicism, Sunday is considered the Sabbath because when creating the world God rested on the 7th day, Sunday.)

4. Honor your father and 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.

The Commandments of Love and The Golden Rule

Pre-Christian faith painted God as jealous and vengeful. Catholics are taught rather that God is all-loving and only asks that we love him and our fellow man as much as He loves us. Thus, Jesus Christ gives Christians an additional two commandments, known as the Commandments of Love:

1. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

2. You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.
In addition, Jesus also gives Christians the “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Beatitudes

In the Sermon on the Mount, a famous passage in the New Testament, Jesus lays down a list of eight Beatitudes that provide an example of right living and their reward. They are given in the form of blessings:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and  thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Holy Rituals of the Church: The Seven Sacraments

The Seven Sacraments are important rituals within the Catholic Church that create a sense of community with God and within a parish. They are the pillars of worship in the Catholic faith.

1. Baptism

Baptism is the first and basic sacrament of initiation into the Catholic community. Unlike other Christian faiths, Baptism is usually performed on an infant. Only do newcomers to the Catholic faith receive Baptism at a later age. Catholics believe that because of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge and were cast out of Paradise, everyone is born with original sin. Baptism cleanses members of this sin and allows for God to accept them into heaven.

2. Confirmation

Confirmation is the second sacrament of initiation and is an indicator that one has been fully accepted into the Church. Like Baptism, this sacrament may only be performed once and is usually administered around the age of 13, when one becomes aware of their importance in the Catholic Church. Confirmed Catholics are asked as part of their faith, to go and spread the Word of Christ.

3. Eucharist

Catholics believe in transubstantiation, when a priest, through the power of God, transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. By ingesting the transubstantiated bread and wine, Catholics believe that they are communing with Christ. Therefore, this third sacrament of healing is also known as Communion. A Catholic’s First Communion is usually performed around the age of 8. Communion is an essential part of every Christian worship, especially weekly and daily mass.

4. Penance/Reconciliation

This first sacrament of healing is also known as confession and is a cleansing of sins after baptism. For the sacrament to occur, one must come to a priest with a contrite heart, confess their sins and ask for penance, usually in the form of prayer or deed. The priest will absolve the sinner of wrong doing through the power of God. Catholics believe that despite wrong doing, God still loves them. He only asks that we ask for forgiveness and try our best not to sin in the future.

5. Anointing of the Sick

This is the second sacrament of healing. It is administered to those who are near death due to illness or old age. It prepares them to enter the kingdom of heaven by cleansing them all sins and giving them comfort in their time of passing.

6. Holy Order

This is a sacrament specific to clergy. Priests, deacons, bishops, and nuns take on the Sacrament of the Holy Order. It is an induction into the Church and the holy life and can be seen as a marriage to Christ and the Church.

7.  Matrimony

This final sacrament shows the sacredness of the union between a man and a women within the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, scripture dictates that only a man and a women may receive this sacrament in the eyes of God. Therefore, homosexual and polygamous relationships are not sanctioned by the Catholic Church.


Sin is what prevent Catholics from entering into the kingdom of heaven. Catholics believe in two types of sin: Mortal Sin and Venial Sin.

Mortal Sin

Mortal Sin is more serious than Venial Sin and if left, unrepented can cause eternal damnation. Mortal Sin must suffice these precepts:

  1. Its subject must be a grave (or serious) matter.
  2. It must be committed with full knowledge, both of the sin and of the gravity of the offense (no one is considered ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are inborn as part of human knowledge, but these principles can be misunderstood in a particular context).
  3. It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent, enough for it to have been a personal decision to commit the sin.

For example, murder is a mortal sin.

Venial Sin

Venial Sin is less severe than Mortal Sin. If it goes unconfessed, one may spend time in Purgatory repenting these sins before they ascend into heaven. However it weaken’s one’s connection with God and is repented through penance.

The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins or Vices are constant evils that Catholics must be aware of and repent. They are:








The Five Precepts of the Church

The minimum participation of in the Church by a Catholic includes:

1. Attending mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

2. Confessing one’s sins and receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year.

3. Receiving the sacrament of Eucharist at least during the Easter season.

4. Abstaining from meat and fasting as established by the Church

5. Helping to provide for the Church’s material needs to best of one’s ability.

Compiled by Daniel Tobin of the McCarter Theatre Centre and edited by Liz Rice