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Catholicism - Their God
Catholics pray to their God.

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.

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.
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'?
The Annunciation (by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary)
The Good Shepherd
The Good Samaritan
The blinding light accompanying the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus
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
2.
In necessarily broad-brush terms here, how do Catholics compare and contrast God's revelation of Himself across the two Testaments of the Bible?
In the Old Testament God established Himself as the Creator, with a special relationship with His chosen people (the Jews) despite their various failings; in the New Testament, in Jesus, he made Himself open to all people who accept their own shortcomings and sincerely want forgiveness
The Old Testament God seemed very keen on disciplining His people and occasionally causing, or at least allowing, others to suffer; the New Testament shows God loves everyone unconditionally
The Old Testament is about God and the Jews; the New is about Jesus and Christians
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek
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
3.
In what kind of God do all Catholics believe?
God the Creator, Ruler and Sustainer, who is our Heavenly Father
The Living God as revealed amongst humankind in the person of Jesus (Christ) of Nazareth, approximately 2,000 years ago, and His deeds and teachings
God as expressed through the power of the Holy Spirit ~ in apparitions and manifestations through scripture, and dwelling in the hearts of living believers at any time
All three of the above
This is known as the doctrine of the Trinity: one God in three Persons (Father, Son and Spirit)
4.
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?
Penance, through the confession of sins
Prayer
Receiving the Holy Eucharist at Mass
Fellowship within the church family through matrimony (one's own, or one's parents'), baptism and congregant interaction with a priest (who embodies the sacrament of holy orders)
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
5.
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?
There would be no hope for anyone who could not access, read or understand it (which was most of the people, during most of Church history) unless the Church could train and provide experts, i.e. priests
If the only 'evidence' of God at work were stories from the past (in the Bible), that could only weaken the case for Christianity being in any sense a living religion
The Bible as we broadly know it (Old and New Testaments) only took shape about 2,000 years ago; but for the first 3/4 of that timespan, the Western / Christian world had no form of printing to make it widely &/or economically available to ordinary everyday believers
The Bible contains many transferable examples and eternal truths, but it can only refer very generally to any saints, miracles, apparitions etc occurring beyond its own historical timescale, nor to such specifics of our modern life as technology. The Spirit, through and in the Church, is responsible for 'work in progress' among the ongoing community of believers
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
6.
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?
The Ten Commandments given through Moses to God's chosen people in the Old Testament: four rules with respect to their individual and corporate relationship with God Himself, then six outlining model patterns of behaviour between and amongst themselves
Jesus' commandment to His disciples that they should, as necessary, leave all that was familiar to them and 'Follow me'
Jesus' institution (at the Last Supper) of the Communion rite: 'This [Passover bread] is My body, this wine My blood of the new covenant; do this in remembrance of Me' ~ whereby Mass became a key sacrament for all followers and believers
(All three of these are integral elements of Christian discipleship and Church membership)
Others such could be identified, but these three are plainly crucial and none of them could be discarded
7.
As well as believing in God, what other distinctive core beliefs are held and shared by all Catholics?
That Baptism ~ within the only true Church ~ is a precondition for salvation of the soul and eternal life
That the Holy Bible is another essential form of God's revelation, inspired by Him and free of any error, and by which believers should seek to abide and conduct their lives
That the mother Church is God's agency on earth, governed under Him by the Pope ~ whose official pronouncements on all matters of faith and doctrine is guided by the Holy Spirit, and can therefore never be mistaken
All of the above
We will look more closely into the matter of Papal Infallibility (Ans.3), elsewhere!
8.
Which of the following appears to be the clearest and most important, with regard to Catholics and their ongoing experience of God?
Being omnipotent (capable of anything), He can choose to perform miracles wherever it pleases Him, even if these seem to run counter to our otherwise normal understanding of the 'laws' of nature. On several occasions these have included apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to believers ~ by no means always particularly learned, scholarly nor pious people
He can be known through each of a series of Sacraments such as Baptism, Penance, Marriage and the Mass (communion)
'Catholic' means 'universal' or 'worldwide', and the Church can bring God's presence and comfort into any corner of the globe
Through prayer and study we can continually seek to discern His presence and purpose, even in the toughest of situations
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)
9.
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?
Genuflecting (going down on one knee) &/or signing oneself with the cross
Saying the rosary (a prayer-sequence aided by beads)
Reciting the creed, individually or collectively within an act of worship
Reading a portion of scripture, perhaps with the aid of an approved commentary
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'
10.
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?
The sense of taste and flavour, principally in the Eucharist
The sense of smell: in particular, for the fragrance of incense, with all its traditional worshipful connotations, and of holy oils
Sight ~ and hence, appreciation and recognition of liturgical colours, devotional architecture and artworks, sculpture and stained glass; candles, processional use of space
The sense of touch and posture (kneeling, holding hands [e.g. between a new wedding couple]; the touch of the transmission of faith or status in such rituals as baptism, confirmation and the anointing of the sick)
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
Author:  Ian Miles

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