1. How long have you been Catholic?
My whole life; at least, since I was baptized soon after my birth.
3. What does being a Catholic mean to you?
It means I have chosen to form a relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church according to the tradition handed on through the centuries by the Apostles and their successors. It means I am in a covenant-relationship with God, not in virtue of myself, but because of the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, I am beholden to live a life of grace, doing the good works that I was created for.
4. What makes you different from a Protestant?
I accept the authority of the visible Church that the Lord founded, as well as the visible hierarchy that he gave this Church. I accept all that the Catholic Church teaches as revealed by God. This includes, in particular, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Church in certain circumstances, the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) over all local churches, and that the sacraments were instituted by Christ to dispense grace to the Church and her members.
5. What does the Mass mean to you?
The Mass is the Church’s corporate (bodily) worship of God, offering the eternal and holy sacrifice of the Son, through the Spirit, to the Father. It is the source and summit of my life. In the Mass, I am present mystically in the heavenly worship of God. It is the means by which the perfect sacrifice is eternally presented to us as it is presented before the altar of the Father in Heaven, and, because God is so gracious, it is also the means by which the Eucharist is made available to us in Holy Communion.
6. What does it mean when a priest blesses something?
An object blessed by a priest is essentially a “sacramental”. The purpose is to consecrate the object to God so that by devoutly using it, we may be brought closer to God.
7. How does one have something blessed by a priest?
You simply present the object and ask the priest. I had a priest bless a crucifix just a couple of evenings ago, because it was a gift to someone entering the Church this Easter Vigil.
8. Are saint medals common? Do you have any? What is their purpose exactly?
These are time-honored sacramentals of the Church. Their purpose, generally speaking, is to call upon the intercession of that saint to pray for those who use the medal.
9. What exactly is a rosary?
Some history is in order. A traditional practice of monks was to pray all 150 psalms daily. For lay-people who could not devote the time to this task (nor to memorizing the psalms), other prayers were substituted, such as the Our Father or some pious ejaculation to Christ like “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!” The Hail Mary became a popular “substituted” prayer. This practice became known as the Rosary. Through an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Dominic around the year 1214, the Rosary was cultivated into a particular devotional prayer, meditating on fifteen (now twenty) mysteries of the life of Christ.
Long story short, the Rosary is a meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ, set against the backdrop of the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and prayers for the salvation of souls.
10. What do all of the things that the priest does mean?
The Mass is a liturgical rite. It’s not something we make up as we go along. Each of the prayers, postures, movements, gestures, and other actions have a deep symbolic meaning. The Mass can be looked at from many perspectives; here is one way to understand the Mass, starting from the fact that the word “Mass” comes from the Latin word missa which means “dismissal”, and is the origin of the English word “mission”.
The Mass is an entrance into the conclusion of Christ’s ministry on earth. The entrance procession commemorates the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death. The Penitential Rite (praying for mercy for our sins) corresponds to the cleansing of the Temple and the healing of the sick that Christ did upon his entrance into the city. The Gloria (which begins with the song of the angels from the nativity of our Lord) is a joyful response to the Lord’s mercy. The Liturgy of the Word corresponds to the teaching that the Lord did in the days between Sunday and Holy Thursday. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, which he mystically pre-presented to the Apostles on Holy Thursday in the Last Supper; it is also re-presents to us his Resurrection. The Concluding Rite, which is comprised of a final blessing and the dismissal, brings us to the hill from which the Lord blessed his disciples and bestowed on them the mission of going into the whole world to preach the Gospel and baptize: just as the disciples received this mission, so do we. And the Mass provides us the graces necessary to fulfill such a daunting mission!
11. What is the tabernacle?
The tabernacle is an ornate box in which the Blessed Sacrament (the consecrated hosts, the Eucharist) is reserved for safety. It is reserved for emergency use (giving the sacrament to those who are sick or dying) as well as for adoration: because the Eucharist contains the WHOLE Jesus Christ as God and man – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – the Church rightfully gives the Blessed Sacrament that worship which is due to God alone.
12. What does the crucifix mean to a Catholic?
It reminds us that Christ bears forever the wounds he received for our salvation. To paraphrase the late great Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the cross without Christ is a burden without a redeemer, and Christ without the cross is a man without a mission. As St. Paul wrote, we preach Christ crucified. (1 Cor. 1:23) The cross itself is an important sign (cf. Ezek. 9:4-5).
*13. Are prayer cards common? *
Yeah. Prayer cards, at a purely functional level, are reminders of what a particular prayer is. They also often contain images of saints or of a scene from the life of Christ; this image is meant to offer a spiritual “direction” for the thoughts of the person praying.
*14. What is the purpose of the candles that I saw on a table in a corner of the church? *
Lit candles are symbols of Christ, who is the light of the world. As a candle burns, it gives off light and heat and is consumed: it makes a sacrifice of itself for the illumination and warmth of those who need it. It is a common pious practice to light a candle when offering a prayer.