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Catholicism - The Church

This GCSE RE quiz on Catholicism looks at the church. Nowadays the word ‘church’, to many English-readers, probably most instantly connotes a fairly substantial traditional building; perhaps vague memories of a few occasional, sentimental, mysterious &/or boring obligatory visits inside one; and maybe, by extension, the belief system and hierarchy that go with the people at the building (probably also with a sense of resentment that the church ‘regulars’ are stern, humourless, opinionated, exclusive, dismissive or whatever). Anyone who thinks that way from the word ‘church’ is probably not too fussed about the range of traditions, denominations and architecture.

But if you had been that iconic early missionary St Paul (himself, dramatically converted from persecuting Christians), arriving ~ let’s say ~ off a ship to visit, or even found, a believing community: and if you had asked quietly, ‘Where’s the church?’, you would not have been taken to such a purpose-built structure.

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The Church, in those original days, meant the living community of people who honoured and served God through personal knowledge of salvation in Jesus and faithfulness to His Spirit. In the broader primal sense, that indeed is still the chief meaning of the word.

One of the most fundamental Catholic beliefs is that theirs is the True Church, in direct succession to St Peter as the very first Pope; from which other whole branches, such as since the Great Schism with the Orthodox about 1,000 years ago, or since the Reformation which brought about Protestantism around halfway as far back, are pitiful deviations.

So ‘the Church’ to Catholics is both the institution and the typical building in which its congregants worship week by week from cradle to grave. This particular quiz will offer a mixture of questions on the physical ‘fixtures and fittings’, plus some on the wider nature of the global Roman Catholic communion.

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  1. Which of the following would you NEVER be likely to see in a Roman Catholic church?
    For a range of reasons, it seems pretty certain that within the presumed working lifetime of this quiz there will be no ordination of females within the Catholic communion. Answer 1 will almost certainly be seen on any visit to a Catholic worship service; 'two kinds' (Answer 2) would be unusual but is not unheard-of; the Last Rites (Ans.4) may be offered by a priest in circumstances outside the physical church, but a special service may well be held from time to time within it, using the relevant special materials
  2. Some religions (and certain more puritanical Christian denominations) believe it is blasphemous ~ i.e. idolatrous, or at least distracting ~ to have decorations in the place of worship which represent living (or once-living) things or people, including animals but also likenesses of holy people (Saints &/or Biblical figures), however well-intentioned and beautifully rendered. For Catholics there is no such problem since we should rejoice in craftsmanship and embrace it as a means of responding to God and 'giving back to Him' as an adjunct and encouragement for our worship. There may well be depictions of Bible stories, unashamedly showing God Himself (usually as a 'wise old man'-type character), the young (and, of course, baby) Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, often in the form of a Dove of Peace. Who else will be much in evidence, in statue, portrait and/or icon form, in a Catholic church?
    The others may each well put in an appearance, or indeed several; but for Catholics, Mary is particularly special (see elsewhere on this)
  3. Why might one see one, or quite possibly several, youngish (well-pre-adolescent) children around a Catholic church, dressed like little brides ~ or bridesmaids ~ or groomsmen, when there is no wedding on?
    Don't be fooled by the pompous but vaguely plausible language in our 'distractors' at Answers 3 & 4. In the Catholic Church, First Communion is a major initiation step but it is not causally linked with Confirmation as it would be in most Protestant denominations. Provided the child professes understanding or acceptance of the cruciality of Transubstantiation within the Mass, they are able to receive communion, and the more detailed background will be studied when they are more cognitively mature. There will be more on Transubstantiation in a parallel quiz on Catholic doctrine and beliefs
  4. Almost all Catholic church interiors have a generic smell about them ~ smoky, spicy, one would probably say ~ and cynics might add with some truth that there is a direct causal connection between this and the lack of woodworm which might otherwise attack the pews (seats), organ-case (if any) and other furniture, and some of the likely carvings around the place. What, in worship, gives rise to this smell?
    This again is not entirely exclusive to Catholic churches, but you will usually be able to detect it in the majority of 'branches' that use it. There is quite an art to maintaining and handling a loaded censer (watch a film or telecast of a Mass, and see; pity you couldn't smell it onscreen too)! Members of some less ritualistic parishes and denominations sometimes comment on the 'bells and smells' in Catholic worship, but these elements of the ritual are symbolically important, and contribute powerfully to what should rightly be a special atmosphere (in a number of senses of that term!)
  5. One feature you would almost certainly spot, spaced at regular intervals clockwise around the inside wall of the main space in a Catholic church of any size (though also within some others, unsurprisingly including the 'Anglo-Catholic'), would be a matching series of pictures or carvings showing the key stages of the Passion / Crucifixion story so central to Christian faith. Which of the following is the most correct collective description of these?
    You might like to explore these by finding a series of them online, or better still inside an actual church (better again, with someone suitable alongside you to explain them). At very least, if you are studying Christianity at all seriously, you should acquaint yourself with the sequence of Gospel references and read them thoughtfully in order
  6. While the Anglican Church within Britain is divided into two provinces of York and Canterbury, who is the top Catholic for England and Wales?
    This gentleman is also automatically a Cardinal (identifiable as such, not least, by the red hat that goes with this rank)
  7. Which of the following is NOT a true label or description for the Pope?
    'Pontiff' (Ans.3) essentially means 'bridge-builder', i.e. the one who, at any time, helps act as mediator between God and His (Catholic) people. He is also known as the 'Vicar of Christ' ... an initially surprising title, until you research &/or consider it a bit!
  8. Regarding meanings and definitions, in this context: what does 'catholic' (note the lowercase 'c') actually mean?
    One occasionally hears someone being described as having 'catholic tastes' : i.e., far from 'just' preferring (for instance) the 'theatrical' aspects of worship ~ dressing-up, solemn music, 'bells & smells' etc. ~ they might be keen on a wide range within other fields entirely, such as both rock and classical music, or junk-food and fine wine, or traditional craftsmanly figurative art alongside modern abstract or 'concept' works
  9. Of course, before a practising Catholic can arrive for Mass, there is something else they mandatorily must have done: what?
    Confession is a key and dynamic part of practising the Catholic faith, which we will aim to deal with elsewhere under Rites and Sacraments. The main point is that it would be sacrilegious to approach the Eucharist while knowingly unworthy through unabsolved mortal sin
  10. There are many ways a person may approach God in worship; Jesus Himself proposed quite a simplistic one in urgent or even ordinary circumstances, where a believer might step aside into a quiet place and simply commune with God in prayer. But organised corporate worship (especially, though by no means only, within the Catholic mainstream of Christianity) suggests a more deliberate, respectful, ritualistic approach. Which of these best defines an instinctual Catholic arrival at church for Mass, or some other service?
    There may well be other preparatory stages, but these are quite characteristic. It might be noted that Muslims are also steadily insistent on bodily cleanliness before worship, and also keen on respectful posture. A Protestant ~ such as your author ~ suddenly feels a touch slovenly alongside such observances

Author: Ian Miles

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