Ten Frequently Asked Questions About the Catholic Church
We realize that these FAQ’s may not represent all the questions you have, and it may not be in the depth you need. So we encourage you to reach out to us by phone, email, Facebook, or otherwise. We have many wonderful people who would enjoy a welcoming conversation with you over a cup of coffee or over the phone.
Confession: Why do you confess your sins to a person, to a man?
Scripture: John 20: 20-23. “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Actually, we confess our sins to God, through Jesus Christ. Christ has set up the Church to be his visible presence “until the end of time.” In some churches, people confess sin before the whole congregation on Sunday morning. The Catholic Church delegates the local pastors to represent the Church. It is important to confess out loud – otherwise you might just be engaging in “wishful thinking.” In this passage from John, all the disciples are feeling guilty because they abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and crucified. They need to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive each other. That is the only way they can come to peace of heart.
Eucharist: Why do you believe bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus?
Scripture: John 6: 51-58 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Who-ever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
When we use the expression “flesh and blood” in ordinary speech, we mean to get down to real life, where things really matter. In this passage from John, people question where Jesus came from. He answers that the people in the desert knew God’s love when God sent them bread from heaven – manna. Jesus is the New Manna. We know God is really present when the Risen Christ speaks God’s Word to us and gives his very life for us, body and blood, soul and divinity.
Blessed Virgin Mary: Why does Mary have such a prominent place?
Scripture: Luke 1: 26-28 “Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you…. Be it done unto me according to your word.” Luke 1: 46-55 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. …The Lord has done great things for me.”
Mary has a place of honor in our Church because of her willingness to respond to God’s invitation. She heard the Angel Gabriel and believed. She was the first to hold the Word of God (Jesus) within her and to accept God’s promise of the Messiah. We don’t pray to Mary, but we ask her to join her prayers with ours as we ask God to help us bring the Word Made Flesh into our world, as Mary did.
Leaders: Why do you have a Pope?
Scripture: Matthew 16: 18. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”
Every Catholic church has an “overseer” (a bishop) who traces his commission back to the Apostles. All the bishops keep in touch with each other by net-working with the bishop of Rome, the church where Peter was the first bishop. This is how every Catholic knows that he or she is in solidarity and communion with all other Catholics in the world. The Pope maintains our unity.
Intercessory Prayer: Why do you pray to statues and saints?
Matthew 18: 20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Catholics believe that death is not the end of life, it is simply changed. We believe that people in heaven are still connected with us on earth. We call this the “Communion of Saints.” The statue or picture is like a photograph of a loved one, placed in the Church so we remember the person. We don’t pray to saints alone, but ask them to join their prayers with ours before Jesus – just as I might ask a good friend to pray with me or for me about a difficult situation. Bottom line: We don’t pray to statues.
Celibacy: Why can’t your priests and sisters marry?
Scripture: Matthew 19: 12. “Some cannot marry, and others choose not to marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
Mark 12: 18-27.“For when they rise from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
I Corinthians 7: 29-31. In these last days, it is better to remain as you are. Let those who have spouses live as if they had none; those in mourning as if no one had died; those rejoicing as if there is nothing to celebrate; those who buy and sell as if they had no possessions. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
St. Paul promotes celibacy as a sign of the Reign of God, which may come at any time. This is the single-mindedness that Jesus has when he calls his disciples to leave all things. Nuns and monks live in communities as families, and priests make their parish their family. Deacons may be married when they are ordained, but are not free to marry again if their wife dies. Lay persons can do this as well. A celibate member of the Church shines a spotlight on the Reign of God for all Christians to see.
History: Is the Catholic Church mainly Irish, Polish and Italian?
No. Scripture: Matthew 28:19“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations.”
Acts 13:47-49 “This is what the Lord commanded us: I have made you a light to the nations, so my salvation may reach to the remotest parts of the earth. It made the Gentiles very happy to hear this and they gave thanks to the Lord for his message.”
The Apostles traveled to the ends of the known world – Greece and Rome, North Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia, Cush, Hippo and Cyrene), Spain, India. It took a thousand years to get to England, Ireland, Germany, Poland and Russia. Pope Victor I (AD 200) was African. There are 2.4 billion Christians in the world; one-half are Catholic, that is “the whole household” – all are welcome!
Do Catholics use the Bible?
Absolutely! Scripture: John 20: 30-31 “There are many other things that Jesus did, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
The Catholic Church has always seen the Bible as central in revealing God’s saving works among the peoples of the earth. The Old Testament is devoted to the Hebrew people; the New Testament concerns the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. If you come to church every Sunday for three years straight, you will hear from every book of the Bible. The priest always preaches from the Scripture assigned for that day. Everyone is encouraged to have a Bible, and there is a reading guide to help you read the whole Bible in two years.
What is a Sacrament?
Scripture: Luke 22:19 “Then he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them saying: This is my Body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Sacraments are visible actions that give us the Grace of Christ. They make God’s saving love present here and now. Catholics have seven sacramental experiences:
We strive to imitate Christ in all we do. The sacraments help us realize his presence at important moments and events of our lives.
Do I have to be Catholic to visit a Catholic Church?
No, everyone is welcome to worship with us. Scripture: Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in hope.”
Let an usher or greeter know you are visiting so they can help you with any questions. We stand and sit and kneel, so just follow along. Like most Christian churches, we believe that receiving Holy Communion is reserved for members, but we believe that God’s Grace is for everyone. The very fact that you come to visit is a response to Grace, to open your heart to hear God’s word, to be inspired by the hymns and the sermon, and to enjoy the fellowship after the service. Be sure to introduce yourself as a guest, and we look forward to meeting you personally.