Catholicism - Rites and Sacraments

This GCSE RE quiz on Catholicism will challenge you on rites and sacraments. While the very term ‘religion’ refers to common beliefs and practices that bind faith-communities together (like ‘link’ and ‘ligature’ and indeed, even ‘intel-lig-ent’: capable of discerning the bonds between ideas), each individual religion will of course have its own range of special artefacts and procedures. A cross would be potentially confrontational to a Muslim; a symbolic or ritual dagger would be seen as anathema to a pacifist Buddhist, or indeed to certain more ascetic Christians.

Two such sets of concepts are particularly important to Catholics. The first of these are Rites, several of which mark the ‘life milestones’ or Rites of Passage similarly to how other faiths do: birth &/or naming; transition into being an adult member of the faith community; marriage and the foundation of a household / family; and in due course, death. In the case of Catholicism there are a handful of other significant ones as we shall see.

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The second such ‘set’ are the Sacraments (‘special things’), some again of which are core to all Christian traditions such as the Sacrament of Communion, but here too Catholics value certain others that divergent denominations may not rate quite so ‘highly nor holy’. Let’s get stuck into investigating what these are!

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  1. After Baptism, Catholic belief and practice identify six further Sacraments (totalling seven: a deeply holy and symbolic tally, like the seven days in the week or the Seven Joys and Sorrows of Mary). Probably the most obvious and regular one for most observant Catholics is the Holy Eucharist (the taking of communion in the context of the Mass); but nobody may approach that without first engaging with another of the seven. Which is this?
    You need not have been Confirmed (Ans.1) to receive First ~ or subsequent ~ Communion; you could not offer Mass to others unless you were Ordained (Ans.3); Anointing is not a prerequisite. But Confession (Penance) is most definitely a precondition, because you cannot approach God in the Mass while still knowingly encumbered with sin and guilt
  2. Catholics accept Baptism 'in good faith' from other traditions, provided water was used and the name/s of the Trinity invoked. This means that you would not need to be re-baptised from scratch if you were converting to Rome from many other mainstream Christian denominations. However, baptism into ONE church or group in this list is NOT acceptable as a genuine sacrament to Catholics: which one?
    It may seem a shame that there can be key differences of interpretation even in so initial a common cause. But clearly it would be wrong to seek to blame any sincere party for that state of affairs
  3. Which of the following would NOT normally form a part of the Last Rites?
    The dying person might well not be capable of sustained thought or speech, in which case insistence on Confession would seem rather harsh, though, if still practicable, it could be done. These Last Rites are also known as Anointing of the Sick, or Extreme Unction
  4. Most of the Sacraments can be administered by priests, but for Confirmation (as is also true in many Protestant churches) the authority has to be higher: how high?
    A bishop will do this duty. His characteristic hat ('mitre') represents the flames alighting on the heads of the Apostles at Pentecost, the 'birthday of the Church' when ~ led by Peter ~ its missionary work first began
  5. A valid Catholic marriage requires three sincere intentions on the part of those committing to it. Which is the 'non-essential' among this list of four?
    Catholic marriage can only ever be heterosexual (i.e. one each of male and female) but only one of these need be a baptised Catholic. The other may have been baptised in any of a range of different but compatible traditions, provided they can prove so with a certificate, else a bishop's dispensation is required
  6. The Sacrament of Anointing is administered to people in what sort of needy circumstance?
    Depending on the nature of the illness, since quite ancient times people have been encouraged to 'put something on it' ~ certain such things being more effective than others down the ages. But anointing with holy oil is potently symbolic, and while it does not replace nor supplant formal medication, it can certainly bring an additional measure of hope
  7. Among non-Catholics there is a fair (or maybe unfair?) amount of misunderstanding regarding the Sacrament of Penance at the confessional. All but ONE of the following are at least broadly true: which is NOT?
    Confession is a complex matter of faith and psychology, which you may wish to explore carefully through your own research and perhaps by gently asking practising Catholics that you know, to explain and discuss it with you
  8. The Sacrament of Marriage is a key and happy occasion in the Catholic Church. Which ONE of the following would you NOT be at all likely to experience while present at such a service?
    Nuptial Mass (Ans.1) is the assumed custom when the wedding is between two Catholics, and a full complement of Scripture readings (Ans.2) leaves little room for external material. On this point at least, your lifelong Anglican author is happy to concur, having (in his role as an organist) sat through any number of mawkish light-verse and folk wisdom read by well-intentioned ~ but often self-conscious if not downright giggly ~ family members at weddings and indeed also funerals. Last weekend at time of writing, he played out a couple to the strains of 'I'm forever blowing bubbles', as a requested reference to the groom's football allegiance. 'Why not?', you may fairly ask ... well, just consider for a few moments ... a happy occasion is one thing, but where on earth is the sanctity or dignity in that? Meanwhile the floral offering (Ans.4) refers to Mary as the instigator of Jesus' first public miracle (water into wine) at the Wedding at Cana in Galilee ~ itself usually alluded-to in the preamble to the heart of the wedding service
  9. Holy Orders (the Priesthood: as deacon, priest or bishop) are collectively another form of Sacrament, conferring as they do the Church's authority to administer other sacraments such as marriage and confession. Which of the following is NOT a mandatory prerequisite for an aspirant Catholic priest arriving at the seminary to train?
    For the foreseeable future the Catholic priesthood is only open to male candidates, for a range of unalterable doctrinal reasons whose details need not detain us here, but which to Christians from more liberal traditions can seem increasingly hardline and even self-defeating ~ in an age when fewer ordinands are coming forward from among only 50% of the population who happen to be male.

    The baptism stipulation (Ans.2) is genuine but not exclusive, in that baptism into several other churches is acceptable: within the past 20 years or so, several alienated ex-Anglican priests (for instance) have converted en-bloc to Rome by special dispensation ~ sometimes bringing entire congregations across with them ~ after differing with the 'C of E' over gender issues such as women priests or the sanctioning of marriage between same-sex couples, divorcees or whatever.

    Further to Ans.3, a first degree is a marker that someone has a trained and capable mind, potentially able to assimilate all the complex information needed for priestly ministry; but the seminary will then provide not only that information, but also the crucial 'soft' pastoral skills of dealing with everyone from committees to the sick and those in all manner of need
  10. Quite apart from the 'rites' such as baptism, the Catholic Church also distinguishes Rites in the sense of different liturgical traditions, often which have developed along geographical lines. Which of these is NOT such a Rite?
    There are of course plenty of Catholics in both North and (particularly) South America, but there is no American Rite as such. If you have heritage or other cultural interests in Rites from further afield, we encourage you to conduct your own careful research

Author: Ian Miles

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