Glossary of Catholicism


This glossary of Catholicism provides definitions of terms related to Catholicism, with links to full articles where available.

canon law
The body of ecclesiastical law, especially of the Roman Catholic Church as promulgated in ecclesiastical councils and by the pope.
cult of the saints
The body of religious beliefs and practices pertaining to the veneration of saints and their relics. Prayers are addressed to the saints in the hope that they will intercede with God on the behalf of believers. Saints are believed to have accumulated a "treasury of merit" which can be used for the benefit of believers.
ex cathedra
(Latin "from the throne.") Authoritative statements made by the Pope in Roman Catholicism, which are believed to be infallible.
A Catholic religious order founded in the early 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi. .
Name given to the Franciscans in England because of their gray robes.
holy water
Generally, water dedicated to sacred uses and used for ritual purification of persons and things. More specifically, water blessed by a priest and used in various rites and devotional acts, such as baptisms and blessings. .
Immaculate Conception
The Christian doctrinal concept that the Virgin Mary was free from sin from the moment of her conception of Jesus Christ. Although this belief was promulgated as Roman Catholic dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854, it has always been rejected as unbiblical by Protestants and, since 1854, the Orthodox Church has rejected it as well.
(Latin, "let it be printed"). Official authorization to print a book or other work, usually granted by a bishop for Catholic publications.
The practice of bestowing an office or patronage on one's relatives. It was especially rampant among 16th-century popes, and was condemned by Pope Pius V in the bull "Admonet Nos" (1567).
The philosophical systems and speculative tendencies of various Medieval Christian thinkers, who, working against a background of fixed religious dogma, sought to solve anew general philosophical problems (as of faith and reason, will and intellect, and the provability of the existence of God), initially under the influence of the mystical and intuitional tradition of patristic philosophy, and especially Augustinianism, and later under that of Aristotle.
stations of the cross
Series of 14 events in the Passion of Christ, beginning with his condemnation and ending with his body being laid in the tomb. The stations are a popular subject of public and private devotion in Catholicism, especially during Lent.
A person who reports experiencing the wounds of Christ (nails in hands and feet, crown of thorns) in a physical way, such as bleeding in the hands.
treasury of merit
Doctrine in which certain saints performed more good works than was necessary to save them, and that this surplus can be applied to other believers in order to shorten purgatory. This was the logical basis for the sale of indulgences in the Middle Ages.
Vicar of Christ
Title for the Pope since the 8th century, which replaced the older title "Vicar of St. Peter." It expresses the Pope's claim to be the appointed representative of Christ on earth, based in part on Jesus' command to Peter to "feed my sheep" in John 21:15.

Article Info

Title Glossary of Catholicism
Last UpdatedFebruary 3, 2021
MLA Citation “Glossary of Catholicism.” 3 Feb. 2021. Web. Accessed 22 Jan. 2022. <>