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abba The Aramaic word that begins the Lord’s Prayer; the English equivalent is “daddy” or “papa.”
abortion The deliberate termination of a pregnancy by killing an unborn child. It is a grave sin.
actual sin A personal thought, word, or deed that violates God’s law.
Annunciation The visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her that she would be the Mother of God and give birth to the Savior.
Anointing of the Sick One of the Sacraments of Healing for people who are seriously ill, elderly, or in danger of dying. In the sacrament, the person’s forehead and hands are anointed with the blessed oil of the sick.
Apostles The twelve men Jesus chose to be his closest followers and to share in his work and mission in a special way.


Baptism The sacrament of new life in Christ through the forgiveness of sins and incorporation into the Church; the first Sacrament of Initiation.
Beatitudes Jesus’ eight teachings about the meaning and path to true happiness; they depict the attitudes and actions that followers of Christ should have and the way to live in God’s kingdom today. They describe the way to attain the eternal holiness or blessedness to which God calls all people.
Bible God’s word written by humans acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Blessed Trinity The mystery of one God in three divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Blessed Trinity The mystery of one God in three divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


canon The Church’s official collection of inspired books of sacred Scripture.
cardinal virtues The four most important moral virtues to which all others are connected: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
chastity A moral virtue that helps individuals maintain the right balance of body and spirit in human sexuality. Chastity helps individuals express their sexuality in the right way for their state of life (married, single, ordained, or consecrated).
Church The community of all baptized people who believe in the Blessed Trinity and follow Jesus.
Confirmation The Sacrament of Initiation through which the spiritual life received in Baptism is strengthened and the person is sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
conscience The God-given ability that helps individuals know the difference between right and wrong.
consecrated life A state of life lived by religious sisters, brothers, and priests in community and characterized by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
contrition True sorrow for disobeying God and the commitment to try to avoid sin in the future.
conversion A sincere change of mind, heart, and desire to turn away from sin and evil and turn toward God.
Corporal Works of Mercy Actions that care for the physical needs of others.
covenant A sacred promise or agreement between humans or between God and humans.


discernment The process by which a person reflects, discusses, and prays about how God might be calling him or her to live out a particular vocation.
doctrines Official teachings of the Church.
domestic Church A term for the Christian family, which is as a holy community where children first learn about God through the love, teaching, and good example of parents and other family members.


encyclicals Official letters written by the pope, usually addressed to all Church members.
eternal The term that means “God is” and “has always been,” even before the beginning of time, and will be forever.
Eucharist The Sacrament of Initiation during which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ and all who receive him in Holy Communion are brought closer to him and one another.
euthanasia The deliberate action or non-action that causes the death of someone who is sick, dying, or suffering because of disabilities or a debilitating condition. It is a grave sin.
evangelist One of the four authors of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The word is also used for those who actively spread the Christian faith.


free will The God-given ability to choose and make decisions on your own without being forced to choose or act in a certain way.


grace The free and undeserved gift God gives us of his life so that we can become his adopted children.


heaven The state, or experience, of being happy with God forever; eternal life with God.
hell The state, or experience, of eternal separation from God.
hierarchy The organization of the Church into different levels of leadership and membership.


Incarnation The mystery that the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, assumed human nature and became man while remaining God; Jesus Christ is both true God and true man.
inspiration The process by which the Holy Spirit assisted the human authors in writing the Bible.
intellect The God-given ability that makes it possible for humans to think, reason, and judge.


justice The constant and firm desire to give God and other people what is their due as children of God made in his image and possessing equal human dignity.


kingdom of God God’s rule of love, peace, and justice in our hearts, lives, and world.


last judgment Christ’s judgment of both the living and the dead that will occur at his Second Coming at the end of time.
lay person A baptized member of the Church who shares in Jesus’ mission and witnesses to him and his message in his or her home, work place, school, and in the broader community.


miracle A sign or wonder such as a healing, which can take place only through the power of God.
modesty A moral virtue that helps individuals respect their sexuality by being discreet and decent in the ways they dress, talk, and act.
mortal sin A grave (very serious) sin by which someone turns completely away from God. The conditions of mortal sin are: the matter must be serious, the person must know the sinful action is serious, and the person must freely choose to do it.
murder The deliberate killing of another person. It is always gravely sinful because it shows the contempt the murderer has for the dignity of human life as well as for the holiness and goodness of God the creator.
mystery A truth of faith that cannot be fully understood but that is believed because God has shown it in Scripture, in the life of Jesus, or in the teachings of the Church.
Mystical Body of Christ An image or description for the Church, which unites all believers through the Holy Spirit into one holy people, with Christ as their head and themselves as the body.


Nativity The birth of Jesus.
natural law God’s fatherly instruction that is written on the hearts of all people and understood through intellect.


original sin The sin of the first humans that wounded human nature and introduced sin, suffering, and death into the world; all humans are born with original sin and are thus tempted to sin.


parable A simple story or analogy used to describe something larger or more mysterious.
particular judgment The judgment that takes place at the moment of death at which each person’s soul is rewarded with the blessings of heaven, given a time of purification in purgatory, or condemned to eternal separation from God in hell.
Paschal mystery Christ’s work of redemption through his Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension.
prayer Raising one’s mind and heart to God.
purgatory A state of purification between death and heaven that removes any remaining personal obstacles to eternal union with God. Purgatory frees the person from the temporal punishment (being deprived of the entrance into heaven for a time) due to sin.


Reconciliation The Sacrament of Healing in which, through God’s mercy and forgiveness, the sinner is reconciled with God and also with the Church.
reparation An attempt to directly or indirectly “repair” the damage done by the sin.


sacraments Effective signs of God’s grace, established by Jesus and given to his Church, by which God shares his life through the work of the Holy Spirit.
scandal The destructive behavior by which a person deliberately leads, through his or her own action or inaction, another person to sin.
Sermon on the Mount The well-known section of the Gospel of Matthew that gathers many of Jesus’ teachings.
solidarity A Christian virtue that motivates believers to share their spiritual gifts as well as their material ones.
soul The spiritual principle of humans.
Spiritual Works of Mercy Actions that care for the spiritual needs of others.
Spiritual Works of Mercy Actions that care for the spiritual needs of others.
spiritualities Ways of praying and living as a disciple.


temporal punishment The process of purification after death that is necessary before entering heaven.
Ten Commandments The ten fundamental moral laws recorded in the Old Testament and given by God to his people to help them live by the covenant.
theological virtues Gifts from God that help us believe in him, trust in his plan for us, and love him as he loves us; they are faith, hope, and love.
Transubstantiation The process by which, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the words and actions of the priest, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass.


universal A mark of the Church. The Church is for all people at all times and in all places.


venial sin A less serious sin that weakens, but does not destroy, a person’s relationship with God and other people.
virtue A strong habit of doing good that helps people make good moral decisions.
Visitation The event of Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist.
vocation A holy calling to love and serve God and others as a lay person (married or single), a consecrated religious (sister, brother, priest), or a member of the ordained ministry.