Doctrine – an official teaching of the Church. Doctrinal beliefs do not change, but they may be elaborated upon or explained in new ways.
Dogma – a Church teaching which is considered part of Divine Revelation.
Encyclical – a circular letter written by a Pope and shared with all of the bishops, clergy, and Christian Faithful. In the last few decades encyclicals have been social in nature – addressing the whole world and the problems facing it.
Ecumenism – efforts on the part of leaders of different Christian denominations to work toward unity of belief or practice.
Laity – all the Christian faithful who have not received the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Consecrated life – a life set aside for service to God and man by professing vows. Typically consecrated individuals live in community with others and according to a particular Religious Rule.
Vows – binding promises or agreements such as those between a husband and wife, between a priest and his bishop, or between the member of a religious order and his or her superior.
Religious / diocesan – Religious Priests are members of a particular religious order whereas diocesan priests serve the Church within a particular diocese.
Deacon – a clergyman who is dedicated to charitable service. Catholic deacons can either be men who are in the final phase of preparation for the priesthood or men (even married men) who have secular jobs but are committed to ministry.
Priest – a clergyman ordained to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass, hear confessions, and celebrate other sacraments. Priests serve as pastors of parishes and fulfill other duties. They are co-workers with the bishops in serving the people of God.
Bishop – a clergyman ordained to the fullness of the priesthood, a bishop is the successor to the Apostles. His ministry is that of overseer or administrator of a diocese. He ensures unity within the diocese and with the universal Church.
College of cardinals – the group of advisors selected by the pope to assist him in the affairs of the Church. Upon the death of a pope, the cardinals gather at the Vatican, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and select a new pope. Typically the new pope is himself one of the cardinals, and typically the cardinals are bishops, though neither of these is the rule.
Pope – the bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter as head of the Universal Church, he is the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
Eschatology – The study of the End of Time or the “last things”, namely death, judgment, heaven, & hell.
Parousia – the second coming of Christ at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.
Pantocrator – the title of a particular style of image portraying Jesus as the Divine Lawgiver and Judge, it is usually a stern-faced Christ holding a book of the Gospels.
Communion of Saints – the union of all believers, past, present, and future – in the one Body of Christ. This union transcends space, time, and even death.
Veneration – the rightful respect that we show toward persons and sacred objects (relics, images, the book of the Gospels, etc.)
Worship – praise and adoration, this is reserved for God alone. To offer worship to anything other than God would be idolatry and a violation of the Commandments.
Purgatory – the state of purification of the soul that follows death. Purgatory is always a temporary state before the soul passes on to heaven. Guilt is forgiven by Christ, but temporal consequences of sin remain. It is during purgatory that the soul is purified of the consequences of one’s sinful actions.
Heaven – The ultimate spiritual happiness of fully seeing, knowing, and loving God for all eternity.
Hell – The state of eternal separation from God for those who refuse his mercy and forgiveness.
Final Judgment – the universal judgment of the souls of all the living and the dead at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. (sometimes called general judgment)
Personal Judgment – the judgment of the individual soul by God immediately upon death. (sometimes called particular judgment)
Indulgence – the remission of the temporal consequences of sins (already forgiven). This remission flows from the charitable nature of the deed performed and the degree to which one performs it.
St. Ignatius of Antioch – a first Century bishop of Syria, ordained by St. Peter. He wrote a series of letters expounding upon the nature of the bishop and his role within the Church, Christian morality, and the grace of martyrdom. He was martyred at Rome in the early 2nd Century, being eaten by wild beasts.