Friday, December 12, 2014

A Baker's Dozen: Thirteen Words Every Catholic Should Know

It makes perfect sense to call the thirteen words every Catholic must know a “Baker’s dozen.” 

Christ, after all, used such references as “yeast” and “leavening,” in his parables. So, with yeast as the foundation of baking, these thirteen words, when part of the Catholic’s every day journey, will grow and expand into a vibrant and exciting understanding of faith.

Redemptive Suffering

What do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news?

The good news is that Jesus suffered and died for us. He bore our wounds, his stripes healed us.

The bad news is that this does not eliminate suffering in the world.

Enter the often misunderstood teaching of “redemptive suffering.”

This isn’t to say that what Christ suffered was insufficient or lacking; rather, redemptive suffering is the ability to be a co-worker of Christ’s. It is the anointed opportunity to join your own difficulties and afflictions with Christ’s for the sake of others. It is the beautiful way for you to lay your hardships at the foot of the Cross where Christ will pick them up and distribute them as gifts of love to others in need.

Offering your suffering to Christ’s is the ultimate act of service that you can offer the world in imitation of Jesus.


You’ve said it thousands of times in your life.


When you say “amen” you are saying, from the depths of your heart, that you are in complete and total agreement with whatever words or phrases came before it. It ought not be an empty word but should, instead, be offered as a verbal oath that you are in concurrence with, for instance, the proclamation of the Apostle’s Creed or the belief that the priest has just changed the bread into the body and blood of Christ.

Jesus used “amen” to begin much of what he said (Amen, Amen I say to you…). He was putting the listener on alert before he spoke so that they could get their minds and heart in alignment for what he was sharing.

“Amen” is a voluntary response to verbally accept teachings and doctrines of the faith.


Infallible is another often misunderstood word in regards to it and the pope.

Is the pope infallible? Nope. (He isn’t free from sin, either. Now wasn’t that simple?)

However, in his role as successor to Peter, and by the very nature of his office, when he teaches about the doctrine of the faith, he is guided by the Holy Spirit and in that way is infallible. Bishops who are in union with the pope are also to proclaim the truths of Christ infallibly. ("He who hears you hears me." Luke 10:16)

Infallibility is not a new teaching of the Catholic Church; it is in regards to the “solemn, official teachings on faith and morals.” The pope doesn’t tend to walk around spouting “infallible” things but, rather, issues infallible statements when doctrines of the church as called into question—which doesn’t happen too often.


For many, the word “vocation” tends to mean “priesthood” or “celibacy” or “consecrated life.” The fact is, though, that every baptized person has a vocation.

A vocation is simply a call from God.

It is the beautiful truth that God has a plan for every person and that every person is most happy when fulfilling the vocation to which he or she is called.

Marriage is a vocation.

Parenthood is a vocation.

Remaining single and chaste is a vocation.

Everyone is called to Christ in one way or another and that is a vocation. Certain vocations—or calls—are shared by all: the call to sanctity or holiness is an example of a vocation everyone shares.

Praying about guidance for the vocation to which each is called is an important part of the development of the life of a Catholic.  


The Charismatic movement received a nod of approval when Pope Francis called it a gift to the church. Simply speaking, charisms are specific gifts that each believer has been given in which to serve God and his kingdom on earth. Most people think of speaking in tongues when they think of charismatic gifts but that is but one example.
Other gifts—or charisms—include the gift of knowledge, prophecy, wisdom, helps, teaching, and healing to name just a few that have been identified and practiced.

Charisms are meant to be shared and discovering these gifts can be a beautiful part of fulfilling a vocation.  For instance, you may be called to the vocation of marriage and parenthood and find that your gifts are in teaching and helps. You flesh out your life, then, as a married parent who may be a teacher and volunteer as a server for funerals in your parish.


Mary’s role as co-redemptrix has elicited as much (if not more than) controversy as the pope’s infallibility. However, identifying her role as co-redemptrix does not lessen the full and complete redemption offered through Christ. Rather, it expands it to rightfully include the full and freely given cooperation of Christ’s mother.

Seeing Mary as co-redemptrix is easy when you take into consideration her very important, often overlooked words of John 2:5: “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary always directs to the Son; she never detracts and is never contrary.

It is human nature to turn eyes, ears and hearts towards a feminine nature as it typically tends to be nurturing and forgiving. Mary as co-redemptrix doesn’t take eyes, ears and hearts from Christ; rather, she redirects—or directs them for the first time—to her Son.

Immaculate Conception

Mary is called the “Immaculate Conception” because she was prepared by God to carry his Son in her womb. Just as God had requirements, restrictions and divine expectations for the Ark in the Old Testament, so, too, would he have had those for his Son—thus the immaculate conception of Mary. In fact, one of Mary’s many titles is “Ark of the New Covenant.”

Did God’s preparation of Mary preclude her, then, from saying no to Archangel Gabriel? No, it did not. Consider the immaculate conception—the preparation—as way that should she say yes, she was ready to carry the Christ child.


Mystics are considered great receivers of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They represent a small portion of the Catholic Church and are given honor and respect for the teachings they bring to the faithful.

St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila are considered mystics and are also Doctors of the Church (a title bestowed on those who do, indeed, bring great knowledge to the flock as a result of their own understandings of the Truth as revealed in private revelations).

St. Hildegard of Bingen is yet another popular mystic and doctor and the church. Her own work includes chants that have been recorded far and wide, healing with gems, and even an extensive work on the physical and spiritual ailments of man.

Not all are called to mysticism and the church even warns against those not called to it to be wary of pursuing it.


The priest holds up the bread and proclaims, as he stands in for Christ, “This is my body.”

These words of consecration form the basis of transubstantiation where the bread and wine are literally—not figuratively—changed into the body and blood of Christ.

The biggest roadblock to understanding transubstantiation often lies in the misunderstanding of the words “in memory of me.” Because the current definition of “memory” is used, the belief is that the bread and wine are only symbols; but in the Catholic Church, the word “memory” is more closely related to the way Jesus would have used the word which was to, essentially, go outside of time and space and “re-live” Exodus (“remembered” during Passover—the Last Supper).

Complicated?  Not really.

Jesus wasn’t saying “do this and remember me” but was saying “do this and join me right here, right now as I’m doing this: This is my body.”


In a culture that seems to deplore authority, nothing seems to rankle more people than the fact that the Catholic Church stands in authority over the flock—the faithful and the not-so-faithful.

Scripture confirms God recognizing the authority of some people over others (Colossians 3:22, Ephesians 6:5). Of course all these men and women in positions of power are under the ultimate authority of God.

The authority of the Catholic Church rests in the Magisterium. An important work of the Magisterium is to safeguard that the tradition of the Apostolic faith does not succumb, so to speak, to the culture. While there are certain rules that may change with the times, the adherence to the faith of the Apostles of Christ as given by Christ himself, is rigorously guarded by the Magisterium and in doing so the faith that is practiced today is the same faith that was practiced thousands of years ago.


Grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit; it sanctifies and justifies the recipient. It cannot be earned, borrowed, begged for or bought. It is God’s to give and God’s to take.

Grace moves us in the ways that serve God. Being in God’s grace is being in the company of God and while we cannot do things or act a special way to get into God’s grace, we can certainly be reminded how, with a humble heart, St. Joan of Arc said to her accusers who asked her if she was in God’s grace: “If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.”

Sacramental Graces are those associated specifically with the Sacraments. They are special graces to continue to strive for holiness and are received through the Sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation etc.)


Jesus died for our sins.

Everyone sins.

No one is free from sin.

But what is sin? Exactly?

We are made in the image and likeness of God who is sinless. Sin, then, muddies that likeness; in a state of sin we look less like our Creator. This, of course, indicates that we have a potential to be very much like our Creator and should be buoyed by that knowledge.

Everyone sins but not everyone is a murderer or thief (mortal sins that turn man away from God and destroy charity of the heart).

Typically, people’s sins are venial sins. Venial sins are those that offend and wound but have not completely destroyed charity. The Catholic Church warns that constant, unrepented venial sins may have an aggregate effect that could lead to mortal sin.
Reconciliation and sincere repentance are necessary to remove the damages of all sin.


Heaven is where the constant presence of God is seen, felt and lived. It is where the holiness, perfection and joy that we are striving for on earth is fully experienced.

The Catholic Church teaches that we are here to know, love and serve God so that we can live with him in eternity—in Heaven. Earth, then, is the practice, the preparation and the taste of things to come. While on this earthly journey, God gives us a great many ways to find him and know him and serve him.

How we do that—and to what extent—is totally up to each of us. Keeping a spiritual eye on heaven and the eternal rewards helps guide us towards our heavenly destiny, if we so choose.

That is our free will.

1 comment:

  1. You explained it all so simply and beautifully. May this post be widely read!