Note: All terms are defined as they relate to Catholicism and the Catholic Church.

A ruling by an ecclesiastical tribunal that a marriage once thought to be valid by the Catholic Church fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for marriage, and therefore was never valid.

The act through which one receives the Eucharist. See Sacrament.

A ceremony through which a marriage that did not occur in the Catholic Church is recognized by the church.

The central act of worship in the Catholic Church. Mass consists of two main parts: liturgy of the word, which includes readings from the Bible and a homily or sermon, and liturgy of the Eucharist.

A period of 40 days before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday, during which Catholics are encouraged to give money to the poor, fast (limit consumption of certain foods) and spend time in prayer. Many Catholics choose to abstain from a chosen item or custom as an act of penance or self-denial. This is commonly referred to as “giving something up for Lent.”

The ritual order in which Mass and all the sacraments are enacted.

Ordained priests are responsible for administering the church’s sacraments, including baptism, Communion and reconciliation. Priests also serve in a variety of other capacities, including running parishes and counseling lay Catholics. All priests must be male and most are required to be unmarried and celibate.

One who left the Catholic Church at some point but later returned.

A rite believed to be instituted by Jesus as a means for grace. The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments, some of which can only be received once (for instance, baptism) while others are intended to be received frequently (for example, the Eucharist).12

  • Baptism – The sacrament through which one joins the Catholic Church; in baptism, culpability for original sin is washed away and all previous personal sins are forgiven. Baptism is often received by infants, but it also can be received by older children and adults who convert to Catholicism.
  • Confirmation – The sacrament through which one becomes a full member of the Catholic Church. In contrast with baptism, which is often received by infants, confirmation is received by baptized individuals who have decided for themselves to become members of the church. In the United States, confirmation is generally received by adolescents, but it is also received by adults who convert to Catholicism.
  • Eucharist – Bread and wine that are consecrated as the body and blood of Jesus Christ and distributed through the act of Holy Communion.
  • Reconciliation (also known as penance or penance and reconciliation) – The act through which one seeks forgiveness by confessing sins.
  • Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Extreme Unction) A ritual of healing. Anointing of the Sick is distinct from Last Rites, which, when possible, are performed shortly before death and may include Anointing of the Sick.
  • Holy Orders (also known as ordination) – The sacrament through which one becomes a priest, bishop or deacon.
  • Matrimony – The sacrament of marriage.

An action that is offensive to God.