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Catholic Doors Ministry


Act by which a priest, acting as the agent of Christ, grants forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Penance.


One who assists in the celebration (i.e., carrying candles, holding the Pope's staff miter, etc...).

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament:

Prayer to Christ, who is recognized as being truly present in the Sacrament, which is displayed for the people.


Refers to the external acts of reverent admiration or honor given to a thing or person.


The white garment covering one's street dress.

Alleluia Acclamation:

This acclamation of praise to God follows the second reading and serves to prepare the assembly for the Gospel.


A table on which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. It is the center of importance in the place where the Mass is celebrated. Also called: The Table of the Lord.


The place where the Scriptures are proclaimed. Avoid using the word "Pulpit."


1) Hebrew word meaning truly, it is true. As concluding word of prayers it expressed assent to and acceptance of God's will;

2) called the great Amen, it is the acclamation by the people expressing their agreement with all that has been said and done in the Eucharistic prayer.


Properly called the degree of nullity, this is the declaration by authorities that a marriage is null and void, because it was never valid.


Technically called a decree of nullity, an annulment of a marriage is a decision by a church court, confirmed by an appellate court, that a putative marriage was not valid from the start because something was lacking: full knowledge and consent by both parties, freedom from force or grave fear, or some other factor needed for a valid marriage. "Putative" (meaning apparent or seeming) is a key word in the entire process: It refers to a marriage in which at least one party acted in good faith, believing it was valid at the time it took place. Children from a putative marriage are considered legitimate even if the marriage is later ruled to be invalid. This has been a source of one of the major popular misunderstandings of annulments; namely, that an annulment somehow makes the children of that union illegitimate. Church law explicitly rejects this interpretation, saying that children of a putative marriage are legitimate even if the marriage is later judged to be invalid.

Apostle - Apostolic - Disciple:

Literally "one sent." Normally this refers to the 12 men chosen by Christ, to be the bearers of his teachings to the world. Term apostolic generally refers back to the 12 apostles. In the Church it characterizes certain documents, appointments or structures initiated by the pope or the Holy See. Disciple is one who follows the teachings of Jesus.


The ministry or work of an apostle. In Catholic usage, a term covering all kinds and areas of work and endeavor for the service of God and the Church and the good of people.

Apostolic Nunciature:

The offices of the Holy Father's representative to a country or to the Church in that country.

apostolic nuncio:

Church term for the Vatican ambassador to another country and the papal liaison with the church in that country. An apostolic nuncio, also called a papal nuncio, is always an archbishop, and it is his religious title that is capitalized as a title before his name, e.g., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, not Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi. See religious titles before names. In a country with which the Vatican does not have diplomatic relations, the official Vatican liaison with the church there is called an apostolic delegate. Papal representatives in the United States were apostolic delegates until 1984, when full diplomatic relations were established. There was a brief period, from 1984 to 1991, when the Vatican ambassador to the United States was called the pro-nuncio because he was not the dean of the world's ambassadors to the United States (a position that under a Vienna convention is automatically given to the Vatican ambassador in many countries but in other countries is given to the senior foreign ambassador, wherever he is from). In 1991 the Vatican quit using pro-nuncio as the title for its ambassadors who were not deans of the ambassadorial corps and began calling all papal representatives with full rank of ambassador nuncio.


The title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses. It is also given to certain other high-ranking church officials, notably Vatican ambassadors (apostolic nuncios: see that entry), the secretaries of Vatican congregations and the presidents of pontifical councils. Adj. archepiscopal.


The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province (see province and metropolitan). It is governed by an archbishop. Adj. archdiocesan. See diocese and archeparchy.


The chief diocese of an Eastern Catholic ecclesiastical province. In most contexts it can be called an archdiocese, but if some legal distinction between Eastern and Latin Catholic jurisdictions is important, it may be necessary to introduce the term. The head of an archeparchy is called an archeparch, but in most contexts he can be called an archbishop. There are only two Catholic archeparchies in the United States: the Byzantine Catholic Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. See eparchy.


A vessel or device used for sprinkling holy water. The ordinary type is a metallic rod with a bulbous tip which absorbs the water and discharges it at the motion of the user's hand.


Those present to celebrate the liturgy.

Other terms: to use: "The Community," "The Church (as people not building)," "The Worshipers," "The Faithful," or "the congregation." Avoid the words: Spectators, Crowd Audience (all passive words which do not reflect what those present do.)

auxiliary bishop:

A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop. Whether in a diocese or archdiocese, his title is bishop.


A church to which special privileges are attached. It is a title of honor given to various kinds of Churches.


Final step toward canonization of a saint.


The highest order of ordained ministry in Catholic teaching. Most bishops are diocesan bishops, the chief priests in their respective dioceses. But some (auxiliary bishops) are the top assistants to their diocesan bishops, and some priests are made bishops because of special posts they hold in the church, such as certain Vatican jobs. Diocesan bishops and their auxiliaries are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. In some cases diocesan bishops are assigned a coadjutor bishop, who is like an auxiliary except that he automatically becomes the diocesan bishop when his predecessor resigns or dies. See auxiliary bishop and coadjutor. In addition to their diocesan responsibilities, all bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the church. Adj. episcopal.

bishops' conference:

A national (or in a very few cases regional) body of bishops that meets periodically to collaborate on matters of common concern in their country or region, such as moral, doctrinal, pastoral and liturgical questions; relations with other religious groups; and public policy issues. It is also called an episcopal conference. The U.S. conference is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB. See that entry.

Blessed Sacrament:

The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, whether at the Mass or reserved in a special place in the Church (put this after Liturgy of the Eucharist)

Book of Gospels:

The book which contains the Gospel texts, from which the priests or deacon proclaims the Gospel of the day.

Bread and Wine:

The elements used in the celebration of Eucharist (unleavened bread and natural pure wine).

NOTE: After the Eucharistic Prayer the bread and wine is referred to as: the consecrated bread and wine or the body and blood of Christ.

Breaking of the Bread:

The celebrant recreates gestures of Christ at the Last Supper when He broke the bread to give to His disciples. The action signifies that in communion we who are many are made one in the one Bread of Life which is Christ.


A man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood. Sometimes he is called a lay brother to distinguish him from clerical members of religious orders. See lay.

Cana Conference:

A Catholic family movement, originally designed to aid married couples and families in their spiritual and interpersonal relationships. The program is now divided into Pre-Cana, for couples engaged to be married, and Cana Conferences, programs for married people.


Greek word that means rule, norm, standard or measure. It is used in several ways in church language.

(1) The canon of Sacred Scripture is the list of books recognized by the church as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

(2) Before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the single eucharistic prayer used universally in the Latin Mass was called the Roman Canon. Now that there are four eucharistic prayers in general use, they are usually referred to as Eucharistic Prayer I, II, III or IV, but they may also be called canons. The first of these is still called the Roman Canon because it is nearly identical to the original Roman Canon.

(3) Canon is another name for a law in the Code of Canon Law. Adj. canonical. See also canon law.

canon law:

A code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church. In the Latin or Western Church, the governing code is the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a revision of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. A separate but parallel Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, issued in 1990, governs the Eastern Catholic churches. That document was the first comprehensive code of church law governing all Eastern Catholic churches.


A declaration by the pope that a person who died a martyr or practiced Christian virtue to a heroic degree is in heaven and is worthy of honor and imitation by the faithful. Verification of miracles is required for canonization (except for martyrs).


One who sings during the liturgy (i.e., the responsorial psalm).


They are the highest-ranking Catholic clergy below the pope. By church law cardinals are regarded as the pope's closest advisors, and when a pope dies those who are not yet 80 years old meet in a conclave in Rome to elect a new pope. Most cardinals are archbishops; canon law since 1983 says they must at least be bishops, but exceptions have been made in several cases where a noted priest-theologian over the age of 80 has been named a cardinal to honor his theological contributions to the church. See College of Cardinals.


A non liturgical, full-length, close fitting robe for use by priests and other clerics under liturgical vestments; usually black for priests, purple for bishops and other prelates, red for cardinals, and white for the Pope.


Religious instruction and formation for persons preparing for baptism (catechumens) and for the faithful in various stages of spiritual development.


Referring to catechesis.


From the Greek meaning “to echo the teaching,” it is the procedure for teaching religion.


The major church in an archdiocese or diocese. It is the seat of the local Ordinary (diocesan bishop, religious superior or other authority).


Greek word for universal. First used in the title Catholic Church in a letter written by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians of Smyrna about 107 A.D.

Catholic Campaign for Human Development:

The US Catholic bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program. Started in 1970, it is funded through an annual collection in Catholic parishes.

Catholic Relief Services:

Overseas aid agency established by Catholics in the United States.


The one who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Celebrant’s Chair:

The place where the celebrant sits during the Liturgy. It expresses his office of presiding over the assembly and of leading the prayer of those present.


Used only to describe a participant in a non religious celebration.


Refers to a decision to live chastely in the unmarried state. At ordination, a diocesan priest or unmarried deacon in the Latin rite Catholic Church makes a promise of celibacy. The promise should not be called a "vow." Adj. celibate. See chastity.


The cup used to hold the wine that is consecrated to become the Blood of Christ.


The chief archivist of a diocese's official records. Also a notary and secretary of the diocesan curia, or central administration; he or she may have a variety of other duties as well. It is the highest diocesan position open to women.


A spiritual gift given for the good of the Church to an individual or a group of people, especially in a religious community. Men and women religious reflect a specific aspect of the life of Jesus Christ and contribute to the building up of the Church through their charism. Examples: Christ the Preacher (Dominicans), Christ the Healer (brothers and sisters who serve in health care).


Gifts or graces given by God to persons for the good of others and the Church.


In its general sense chastity does not mean abstinence from sexual activity as such, but rather moral sexual conduct. Marital chastity means faithfulness to one's spouse and moral conduct in marital relations. The religious vow of chastity taken by brothers, sisters and priests in religious orders is a religious promise to God to live the virtue of chastity by not marrying and by abstaining from sexual activity. When diocesan priests and unmarried deacons make a promise of celibacy, they are not taking religious vows; their commitment to live chastely in an unmarried state should be described as a promise, not a vow. See celibacy.


The vestment worn over the alb by priests, bishops and Pope when celebrating the Mass.

Chor bishop:

In the Maronite rite and the Greek Orthodox Church an auxiliary bishop may be called a chor bishop. When used in other Eastern Catholic rites it is an honorary term for a close assistant of a bishop, usually the equivalent of a vicar general.


The title of Jesus, derived from Greek translation Kyrios of the Hebrew term Messiah, meaning the Anointed of God.


Apart from its obvious use to refer to a building where Christians gather to worship God, the word church has a rich theological and doctrinal meaning for Catholics that also sets limits on how it is applied.

The local or particular church means the (arch)diocese, the community of faithful gathered around the altar under its bishop. Each particular church has all the necessary means of salvation according to Catholic teaching, that is, fidelity to apostolic teaching, assured by ordained ministry in apostolic succession; the seven sacraments accepted throughout Christianity before the Reformation; and all the communal means to holiness that God grants through his graces.

The universal church, the meaning of catholic church, lowercased, is the communion of all those particular churches spread throughout the world who are in union with the bishop of Rome and who share in fidelity to apostolic teaching and discipleship to Christ. Catholics also recognize the mainline Orthodox churches as churches; and until the recent ordination of women in several Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Catholic Church had recognized Union of Utrecht churches as churches. Christian churches which share partially in the historic apostolic communities of Christian discipleship, but which in the Catholic Church's perspective do not have the fullness of apostolic succession in their bishops or ordained ministry, are called ecclesial communions, rather than churches. This position, strongly affirmed by the world's Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council and reaffirmed in numerous church documents since then, remains a topic of considerable disagreement in ecumenical dialogues. In Catholic teaching the church embraces all its members, not only those still living on earth, but also those in heaven or purgatory.

The ancient teaching that outside the church there is no salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) has been officially nuanced in church teaching to include many who do not explicitly embrace the church and all its teachings, or even many who join no Christian religion. The teaching affirms the central role and responsibility of the church to reach out to all people with the Gospel message while acknowledging that those who have not been apprised or convinced of that message may still be saved if they live upright lives in accord with their own convictions and understanding of God.


A vessel used to hold the consecrated bread for the distribution of the Body of Christ during communion.


In Catholic usage, a collective term referring to all those ordained, (the bishops, priests and deacons), who administer the rites of the church. Adj. clerical.


Part of a convent or monastery reserved for use by members of the order that live in that facility.


Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. Organization of major superiors approved by the Holy See for the purpose of assisting the individual institutes of the members, transacting common business, and fostering suitable coordination and cooperation with the conferences of bishops and also with individual bishops.


A bishop appointed to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist the diocesan bishop. Unlike an auxiliary bishop (see auxiliary bishop), he has the right of succession, meaning that he automatically becomes the new bishop when the diocesan bishop retires or dies. By canon law, he is also vicar general of the diocese. If the diocese is an archdiocese, he is called coadjutor archbishop instead of coadjutor bishop. In recent years a growing number of U.S. bishops in larger dioceses or archdioceses have requested and received a coadjutor in the final year or two before their retirement, in order to familiarize their successor with the workings of the (arch)diocese before he has to take over the reins.

College of Cardinals:

A group of men chosen by the pope as his chief advisers. Most are heads of major dioceses around the world or of the major departments of the Vatican, or are retired from such posts. In the interregnum following the death of the pope, the College of Cardinals administers the church, and those under the age of 80 meet in a conclave to elect a new pope.

College of Consultors:

A consultative group of priests, appointed to five year terms by the Archbishop from among members of the Presbyteral Council, which fulfills various functions specified in the Code of Canon Law and assists the Archbishop as needed.


The shared responsibility and authority that the whole college of bishops, headed by the pope, has for the teaching, sanctification and government of the church.

Communion Song:

The music that is used as the consecrated bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ, are distributed to the faithful.


Those priests and bishops who join the Celebrant in celebrating the Mass.


The gathering of the world's Catholic cardinals, after the death of a pope, to elect a new pope. Only cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed into a conclave under current church rules.

Concluding Rite:

The brief rite which consists of the celebrant’s greeting to all present, final blessing and dismissal; followed by a concluding song and concluding procession.

Conference of Major Superiors of Men:

(CMSM) Organization of major superiors representing communities of men religious in the United States.


Part of the sacrament of penance or reconciliation, not a term for the sacrament.


One of the three sacraments of initiation, along with Baptism and Eucharist.


(1) A term used for some Vatican departments that are responsible for important areas of church life, such as worship and sacraments, the clergy, and saints' causes.

(2) The proper legal term for some institutes of men or women religious, all of which are commonly called religious orders. The difference between a religious congregation and a religious order is technical and rarely of significance in news reporting.

(3) Any gathering of Christians for worship.


A meeting of cardinals in Rome. It can be an ordinary consistory, attended only by cardinals in Rome at the time of the meeting, or an extraordinary consistory, to which all cardinals around the world are summoned.


A religious man or woman who devotes his/her entire life in the cloister to prayer and reflection.


In common usage, the term refers to a house of women religious.

Crosier (pastoral staff):

The staff which a bishop carries when he presides at the liturgy.

Cross bearer:

The one who carries the cross in the procession (entrance and recessional).


An object is a crucifix only if it depicts Christ on a cross, otherwise it is a cross.


The personnel and offices through which:

(1) the pope administers the affairs of the universal church (the Roman Curia), or

(2) a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese (the diocesan curia).

The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors and notaries. When referring to the Roman Curia, Roman Curia and Curia used alone are usually capitalized (like Senate when referring to the U.S. Senate), but curia is not capitalized in reference to a diocesan curia unless it is part of a full proper name.


The vestment the deacon wears over the alb on solemn occasions.


An ordained minister who assists the Celebrant during the Liturgy of the Word and at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

deacon, diaconate:

In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests. Adj. diaconal.


The title of a priest appointed by the bishop to aid him in administering the parishes in a certain vicinity, called a “deanery.” The function of a dean involves promotion, coordination, and supervision of the common pastoral activity within the deanery or vicariate.

Deaneries / Deanery:

A regional subdivision of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of St. Louis comprises 10 deaneries: North City and South City (comprising the City of St. Louis); Northeast County, Northwest County, Southeast County, and Southwest County (comprising St. Louis County); Ste. Genevieve (comprising Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, and Perry counties); Festus (comprising Jefferson and Washington counties); Washington (comprising Franklin and Warren Counties); and St. Charles (comprising St. Charles and Lincoln counties).


See laicization:


The church term for a crime. Church crimes are spelled out in the Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite and in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches for Eastern Catholic churches.


See deacon, diaconate:


A church term for one of the major departments of the Roman Curia, the Secretariat of State, Vatican congregations, tribunals, pontifical councils and a few other departments. The term does not appear with this definition in most English dictionaries, which is part of the reason it is listed here. It ordinarily does not come into play in news coverage of the Vatican, but it may do so in certain limited contexts. Generally, it is more appropriate to refer to a Vatican dicastery by its more specific proper name: congregation, pontifical council, etc...

diocesan bishop:

A bishop who heads a diocese. He may be assisted by auxiliary bishops or a coadjutor bishop (see auxiliary bishop and coadjutor). Also sometimes referred to as a residential bishop.

diocesan curia:

The personnel and offices assisting the bishop in directing the pastoral activity, administration and exercise of judicial power of a diocese.


A particular church; the ordinary territorial division of the church headed by a bishop. The chief diocese of a group of dioceses is called an archdiocese; see that entry. Adj. diocesan.


An exemption from Church law.


The response of the people acclaiming the sovereignty of God.

Eastern Catholic churches:

The Catholic churches with origins in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that have their own distinctive liturgical, legal and organizational systems and are identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Each is considered fully equal to the Latin tradition within the church. In the United States there are 15 Eastern church dioceses and two Eastern church archdioceses. In addition, there is one non-territorial Eastern church apostolate in the United States whose bishop is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. See archeparchy and eparchy.


Having to do with the church in general or the life of the church.


Refers to official structures or legal and organizational aspects of the church.

Ecumenism / Interdenominational/ Ecumenical Movement:

A movement for spiritual understanding and unity among Christians and their churches. The term is also extended to apply to efforts toward greater understanding and cooperation between Christians and members of other faiths.


A pastoral letter addressed by the Pope to the whole Church.

Entrance procession:

Priest, deacon, altar servers, lectors, enter the church or designated place for celebration of the liturgy.

Entrance song/music:

The song/music which takes place during the entrance procession.


Eastern Catholic equivalent to a diocese in the Latin Church. It is under the pastoral care of an eparch (bishop). Unless some legal distinction between a Latin rite diocese and an Eastern Church eparchy is relevant to a news report, in most cases it is appropriate to refer to an eparchy as a diocese and to its leader as a bishop. Adj. eparchial. See archeparchy.


Refers to a bishop or groups of bishops, or to the form of church governance in which ordained bishops have authority.

episcopal vicar:

A priest or auxiliary bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in a specific part of the diocese, over certain groups in the diocese, or over certain areas of church affairs. Some large dioceses, for example, are divided geographically into several vicariates or regions, with an episcopal vicar for each; some dioceses have episcopal vicars for clergy or religious or for Catholics of certain racial or ethnic groups. See vicar general.


Doctrine concerning the last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell, and the final state of perfection of the people and the kingdom of God at the end of the world.

Eucharistic Prayer:

The prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. It is the center and high point for the entire celebration.


Refers to Christians who emphasize the need for a definite commitment to faith in Christ and a duty by believers to persuade others to accept Christ.


A preacher or revivalist who seeks conversions by preaching to groups.

evening prayer:

Evening Prayer, most commonly known as Vespers, is the official prayer that marks the end of the day. It consists primarily of sung psalms and other readings from Scripture.


A church jurisdiction, similar to a diocese, established for Eastern-rite Catholics living outside their native land. The head of an exarch, usually a bishop, is an exarch.


A penalty or censure by which a baptized Catholic is excluded from the communion of the faithful for committing and remaining obstinate in certain serious offenses specified in canon law. Even though excommunicated, the person is still responsible for fulfillment of the normal obligations of a Catholic.

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