POPE (Head of the Church) - in the Vatican City, Rome.
CARDINAL: They are directly appointed by the Pope. They advise the Pope and, upon death, elects a new one.
ARCHBISHOP: A senior member of the Christian clergy, in charge of a main diocese (also known as the “archdiocese”).
BISHOP: Similar to above.
PRIEST: An ordained minister who can perform Baptism, Eucharist and Marriage. He is typically committed to serving a congregation.
DEACON: A “transitional” deacon is one whom is preparing at the seminary for priesthood. A permanent deacon can be married and assists a priest.
THE CONGREGATION: Parishioners, Church-goers, others part of the Christian faith.
There are Seven Sacraments which affects Catholics from the cradle to the casket:
1. Baptism: Welcoming someone, typically a child but can also be a converted adult person, into the Christian world. Baptism forgives the Original Sin (committed by Adam and Eve) which humans are born with. The child's head is poured with holy water, symbolising the cleansing of sins.
2. Reconciliation (Sacrament of Penance): In which sins are forgiven by a minister/priest acting in the name of God. The penitent recites an Act of Contrition (prayer of repentance) before confessing sins to the priest who, in turn, gives suitable advise and penance.
3. Eucharist: This becomed Holy Communion. When the Lord's body and blood are symbolically received for the first time by consuming blessed bread and wine. This is re-enacted in accordance to Jesus and His Last Supper, with the priest as the teacher and the attendees His followers.
4. Confirmation: This is an initiation ceremony that welcomes people, typically aged 10-13 years, into the Church as mature, understanding adults. This sacrament echoes some convictions from Baptism only this time, they are speaking for themselves.
5. Marriage: In which a man and a woman are bound by the church in holy matrimony. Aside from marrying each other, they are also accepting God's presence and gift through each other's love.
6. Holy Orders: In which an individual is ordained into the Church ministry.
7. Anointing of the Sick: In which a priest offers spiritual strength to the sick, suffering, and elderly. It unites them with the presence of God and offers peace and courage in their endurance.
The Bible is the single most important text in the Catholic Church. It provides the basis of the Christian Catholic faith through parables, stories and the creation myth. Jesus’ power and miracles are showcased in the Bible as well as copious lessons or “guidelines” for His people.
The Bible is in two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the Christian foundation with the New Testament being comprised of stories about Jesus, his apostles and the new “covenant” God had created with his chosen people.
There is a plethora of symbols that the Catholic Church uses. Some symbols are linked to certain Sacraments.
Catholic Christian ethics come from the Ten Commandements dictated to Moses by God on Mount Sinai:
The Commandments speaks of monotheistic views; respecting God's holy image; saving the Sabbath day for the Lord; fulfilling your responsibility as the child of your parents; not committing adultery and theft; and not coveting or lying.
My individual experience:
Catholicism has been instilled in me from a young age. I was born and spent the first 10 years of my life in the Philippines---a country where Christianity thrives, and conservatism is widespread. In fact, it is the only nation in which there is no law legalizing divorce, stemming from the country's very Catholic background. Just over 81% of Filipinos consider thesmelves Catholic and it shows in most aspects of our culture.
I have attended Catholic schools since I was three years old. Morning and before-meal prayers rolled off my tongue as did many other traditional prayers, hymns and the rosary. Within the culture, it would have been strange to not be attending mass every Sunday. There are even masses held in most shopping centres (a completely normal thing)! And that was the Philippines.
Moving to Melbourne in 2005, I was exposed to a whole different culture. It was not a great culture shock but I did find it unnerving. Through the years, though, I found I really liked this new approach to religion. The new approach I encountered tapped more into the "heart" and feelings and genuine understanding of the religion rather than reciting prayers and knowing the books of the Bible. Perhaps I matured, perhaps the Australian approach suited me better, probably both. I found I was more able to gain emotional access into Jesus and His teachings. It doesn't matter if I can recite the Apostle's Creed by memory (since when I did, it was almost mechanical, rather than a real conviction), it matters that I understand what I'm saying.