Catholicism - Their God

This GCSE RE quiz on Catholicism looks at their God. Obviously enough, without God there could be no Church (Catholic or otherwise); but how do Catholics recognise, understand and approach Him ~ insofar as they can?

In common with most mainstream forms of Christianity, they hold that God has revealed Himself to humankind in three forms or ‘Persons’: the creator Father, the redeeming Son, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Support in this belief comes from the Holy Bible (the combined scriptures of the Jewish tradition, in the ‘Old Testament’; plus the Jesus stories [‘Gospels’], history and writings of the early Church in the New Testament); from two millennia of church, and specifically Catholic, tradition, interpretation and doctrine; and through the experience of believers living lives of faith.

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Previous and admirable believers include a legion of saints; Catholics also trust the angels, and in particular the Blessed Virgin Mary (mother of Jesus), to bring their prayers before God.

This God, though manifest in the three Persons, is ultimately One, and who uniquely combines the qualities of power, justice, love and mercy. His chief temporal agent on earth at any one time is the pope, who from the Vatican (in Rome) bears responsibility for the church’s care of over 1 billion adherents across the world.

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  1. The regular channelling of one's thoughts, words and actions can be helpful disciplines in stilling the mind and focusing on God and Godly things. Which of these would be the shortest, quickest and perhaps most 'lightweight' that a Catholic might do?
    Though none the less sincere, these are generally quite brief ~ almost reflex ~ actions, and to most intents non-verbal. There is clearly a due place for these practices within the scheme of things, but compared with the others which are more sustained, concentrated and deliberate, they might be considered merely a 'nod to God'
  2. In common with all Christians, Catholics rejoice in the diversity, complexity and richness of God's created world ~ and that He has seen fit to equip us with the ability to recognise, appreciate and respond to these through our senses and intellect. Drawing closer to God in the context of worship will usually and fairly obviously engage the sense of hearing; which of the following other pathways is the LEAST pertinent?
    Catholics necessarily believe in transubstantation, i.e. that during Mass the outward tokens of bread and wine are to deeper intents transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ crucified. Through what is doctrinally referred to as 'accident' (not in the everyday ~ or preferably occasional ~ sense of 'haphazard and unwished'), this is accomplished wherever Mass is celebrated. A lively sense of taste might perhaps be seen as a potential obstacle to full acceptance of this key belief
  3. Catholics readily accept that various things God has said to individuals or groups in scripture, are applicable and indeed mandatory for all who follow Him. Which of these such key pronouncements should be regarded as the most important?
    Others such could be identified, but these three are plainly crucial and none of them could be discarded
  4. Which of the following appears to be the clearest and most important, with regard to Catholics and their ongoing experience of God?
    There may well be substance in each of these answers; but in terms of the question and 'knowing God', there is probably nothing to beat the Sacraments. Other branches of Christianity share several of these in common, but not necessarily (for instance) Penance, and their understanding of what actually goes on at various levels during the Eucharist ~ from the Catholic point of view ~ stumbles crucially on at least one point (see elsewhere on this)
  5. As well as believing in God, what other distinctive core beliefs are held and shared by all Catholics?
    We will look more closely into the matter of Papal Infallibility (Ans.3), elsewhere!
  6. In necessarily broad-brush terms here, how do Catholics compare and contrast God's revelation of Himself across the two Testaments of the Bible?
    Ans.1 is a paraphrase of the explanation in the Letter to the Hebrews (within the New Testament); Ans.2 is all very well as far as it goes, but fails to take account of any need for confession before forgiveness; Ans.3 is over-simplistic, not least since 'Jesus was never a Christian' ~ that label only emerged for His followers after His death and resurrection, and in any case it could very fairly be argued that the missionary aspects of the New Testament concentrate about as much on reaching and converting not-yet-Christians as on nurturing those who already are, during the period of expansion of the early Church (itself under persecution within the Roman Empire for its first three centuries or so). Ans.4 addresses merely the linguistic level without any reference to the deeper meaning of it all
  7. The Bible, uniquely precious though it is, cannot ultimately be the only channel of religious wisdom or route to salvation. Which of the following points does NOT help explain this?
    Ans.2 is broadly true but outside the terms of the question, not least since it offers nothing particularly positive about the role of the Church
  8. At one or another time God has made Himself (or His presence or Word) manifest to people on earth in a variety of ways. Which of the following is the 'oddest one out'?
    We concede that there could be other ways of slicing this question, but would suggest Ans.3 because the Samaritan was 'merely' an imagined character in a story told by Jesus. He Himself is meanwhile elsewhere referred to as The Good Shepherd (Ans.2); the 'theophanies' (appearances of God, or at His clear and direct behest) in our outer two answers are more immediate and startling than the telling of a simple ~ if surprising ~ verbal parable
  9. In what kind of God do all Catholics believe?
    This is known as the doctrine of the Trinity: one God in three Persons (Father, Son and Spirit)
  10. Catholics hold that God can be encountered through the Sacraments, so if they are that serious about nurturing and developing this faith, they should be in regular contact with Him. Which of the following is NOT, as such, a sacramental pathway?
    Surprisingly perhaps, prayer in itself is not a sacrament, though confession (an essential preliminary to any other form of intercessory prayer) is. The spiritual and general life of a communicant Catholic will meanwhile be grounded in the sacramental status of others around them as in Ans.4

Author: Ian Miles

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