Glossary – C


The place of Jesus’ crucifixion. The word comes from the Latin for skull. This comes from the Hebrew name for the site, Golgotha, which means ‘place of the skull’. Scholars dispute the exact location of the site which, in Jesus’ time, was outside the walls of Jerusalem. Many scholars support the traditional location on which stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


These are underground cemeteries constructed by Christians from about the late second to the early fifth centuries. Most are in Rome where several hundred miles of catacombs still survive. They developed into a complex system of galleries, rooms, and corridors, dug and maintained at Church expense. By the fourth century Eucharistic celebrations at the tombs of martyrs had become popular. Today, the catacombs still testify to the early Church’s determination to give all its members a decent burial in the expectation of their bodily resurrection. More details  about the history of the Catacombs.


A book or manual explaining the beliefs, moral teachings, and prayers of the Church.


In general terms a catechist is someone who teaches others about the Christian faith so that they may grow towards maturity of faith. In some parts of the world the role of Catechist is officially designated within the local Church.


A catechumen is an unbaptised person who is undertaking a process of instruction and formation in preparation for baptism. This process, called the Catechumenate, existed in the early centuries of the Church. It has been revised since the Second Vatican Council by the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Strictly speaking only the unbaptised are catechumens. People already baptised who are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church are referred to as ‘candidates’.

Catholic Church

The word catholic in the original Greek meant ‘universal’ or ‘general’. First used of the church by St Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35-107), it was applied to the Christian faith believed ‘everywhere, always and by all’. Later the term Catholic was used to distinguish orthodox believers from various heretical groups. After the Eastern Schism of 1054 A.D. Catholic was used to distinguish those who recognised the primacy of the Pope from those in the Eastern Church which came to be called Orthodox. After the Reformation of the 16th Century, Catholic also distinguished those loyal to the Pope from the Reformers or Protestants.

Christians such as the Orthodox and some parts of the Anglican communion who profess an Apostolic succession of Bishops and priests and a continual tradition of faith and worship also refer to themselves as Catholic. The term Roman Catholic is thus sometimes used to distinguish the Church which recognises the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.


From the Latin caelibatus meaning ‘single life’, celibacy is the state of being unmarried. Since the 3rd Century, following the example of Christ, some Christians have felt called to take a vow of celibacy in order to live a life of greater dedication to God. Today, the forgoing of the pleasure of marriage and children is seen not so much in terms of renunciation, as in providing a greater freedom to love and serve God and others.


From the Latin calix, meaning cup, a chalice is the container or cup used for the wine which becomes the Lord’s Precious Blood at the celebration of the Eucharist. Chalices are consecrated with chrism by a Bishop. They may be made of any suitable material and are often silver or gold. They usually have a wide base and stem between the base and cup.


A charism is a gift given by God to an individual or a group for the good of the community. St Paul lists various charisms in a famous passage about these spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:1-14. They include; preaching, teaching, administration as well as prophesy, healing and miracles.

Chastity (N.2331-2391, 1832)

From the Latin castus, meaning chaste or pure, chastity is a virtue that all are called to practise. It is related to the virtue of temperance and is concerned with the appropriate expression of sexual desires, according to one’s state in life. Thus for those in religious life the vow of chastity is virtually synonymous with celibacy. For all, chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person. Chastity, as well as being a virtue, is traditionally listed among the fruits of the Holy Spirit.


The sleeveless outer garment or vestment worn over the alb by a priest when presiding at the Eucharist.

Chi Rho

(Pronounced kye-roe) an ancient symbol for Christ. It is a monogram formed from the first two letters (XP) of Christos, his title in Greek. It was found in the catacombs of the second century, and the Emperor Constantine used it as an emblem on his banners.

Chosen People of God (N.59-64, 761-62, 781)

The Old Testament reveals how God called Abraham and promised to favour his descendants. These descendants came to be known at different times as the Children of Israel, the Hebrews, the Israelites and the Jews. The Book of Exodus describes how God made a covenant with Israel after freeing them from Egypt by which they became his people and he became their God.

The Church teaches that with the New Covenant instituted by Jesus his followers became spiritual heirs of Abraham “our father in faith”. This new People of God are in a sense, grafted onto the root of the original Chosen People.


A mixture of olive oil and balsam (or other perfume). Chrism is a holy oil. Consecrated by a Bishop, it is used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders and for some other purposes.


Our word Christmas has its origins in the Anglo Saxon Cristes Maess (Christ’s Mass). From early times the Church celebrated the Feast of the Nativity with a special mass.

Christmas Eve

The evening, or the whole day, before Christmas Day.

Christmas Season

This season of the Liturgical Year extends from midnight on Christmas Eve to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.


From the Greek Kiborion, meaning cup, a ciborium is a vessel used to hold consecrated hosts. Similar to a chalice, a ciborium has a lid.


This is the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis. For ritual or religious reasons it is practised among a number of peoples and religions today most notably Judaism and Islam. In the ancient Middle East, circumcision was practised among the Egyptians and some other peoples. For Jews circumcision is a mark or sign of the covenant. It was first required of Abraham (Gen 17:10-14). Jewish boys are circumcised at eight days old in a special ceremony.


God’s plan that humans develop the world in partnership with God. God loves humankind to the extent that he invites us to work with him to build a world where his intentions are more fully realised.

Commandments (N.2052ff)

Usually referred to as the Ten Commandments, these are rules, received by Moses from God as part of the covenant between God and His people, Israel. They are found in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, and lay down strict obligations for the sort of behaviour expected from God’s people. Jesus emphasised that the central message of the Commandments was that we should love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbour as ourself. Following the example of Jesus and in conformity with Scripture the Church has always acknowledged the importance of the Ten Commandments for Christians.

Communion (N.946-62, 1108)

As a Christian term this is a translation of the Greek ‘koinonia’ meaning sharing or fellowship. St Paul used the term to describe the close union that Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have with God and with each other. In itself this communion reflects the unity among the persons of the Holy Trinity. The link between the vertical (with God) dimension and the horizontal (with people) dimension of this communion is both signified and strengthened in the celebration of the Eucharist when the members of the Church (the body of Christ) share in the ‘body of Christ’ in ‘holy communion’ (see entry on Body of Christ).

Communion of Saints

Those Christians who have died are still part of the Church and form a community with the living. Christians living and dead all belong to Christ and all live in Christ. So when we speak of the Church, we also speak of all those who have died and gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. This relationship is called the Communion of Saints because it refers to the community made up of all Christ’s followers, both living and dead.

Communion Rite (N.1355, 1384-90)

The part of the celebration of the Eucharist that follows the Eucharistic Prayer and culminates in the reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord under the forms of bread and wine. It begins with the Lord’s Prayer and ends with the Prayer after Communion.


Latin for ‘I Confess’. This is an optional prayer that forms part of the Penitential Rites at the beginning of the celebration of the Eucharist. It is recited by the priest and congregation and begins with the words “I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters….”.

Conscience (N.1776-1802)

Conscience is the innate ability of a person to judge what is right and what is wrong. It helps a person choose to do something because it is good or to avoid doing evil. It may also bring a person to realise that they have already done wrong and so lead the person to repentance and conversion of life. Conscience is the core of a person, their truest self. Conscience needs to be formed through prayer and reflection on the Word of God, by listening carefully to the teaching of the Church, and through the example and advice of responsible people. Formation of conscience needs to continue throughout the whole of life. When the Church teaches that a person is seriously obliged to act according to their conscience, it assumes an informed conscience which is always open to ongoing conversion. This is a demanding process of growth, but without it a person remains morally immature.

Consecration (N.1353, 1375)

This is the term traditionally used to describe the part of the Eucharistic Prayer when the priest says the words of institution (used by Christ at the Last Supper) and the bread and wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body and Blood of Christ. This part of the Eucharistic Prayer is often called the Institution Narrative.

Consecration (N.1352-54, N.1538, 1573, 1597)

To consecrate is to make holy or sacred, to sanctify. In the Catholic Church ‘consecration’ is commonly used of:

1) That moment in the Eucharistic Prayer when the presiding priest recites the Lord’s words of institution over the bread and wine. By the action of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. This part of the Eucharistic Prayer is often called the Institution Narrative.

2) The prayer of ordination that the presiding bishop pronounces over the candidates whom he is ordaining as bishop, priest, or deacon. This prayer of consecration invokes the Holy Spirit on the candidates. Together with the laying on of hands, it is an essential element of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The text of the prayer over the candidate varies for ordaining a bishop, a priest, or a deacon.

Conversion / Conversion of heart (N.1427-28)

Conversion involves a change of heart, a complete turning around in a person’s beliefs, attitudes and way of life. This was what Jesus was asking when he called on his listeners to “Be converted and believe the Good News” (Mk 1:15). There are many famous examples of dramatic conversion experiences such as those of St Paul or St Augustine. True conversion however, is not a single event but rather a life-long process. Christians are called to continual conversion and Lent is traditionally a period for people to examine their lives and to seek to be converted anew through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.


From the Latin “to turn around’. One who has turned to belief in Christ or religious faith.

Covenant (N.56-67, N.1962-64)

A solemn agreement often involving the taking of an oath by the parties concerned. In the Old Testament there are a number of instances of God making a covenant with people, e.g. Noah (Gen. 9) and Abraham (Gen. 17). The most important was the Sinai Covenant. This defined the people of Israel by their relationship with God. Led by Moses the people promised, ‘All that the Lord has said we will do’ (Ex. 19:8). In return God promised, ‘I will be your God and you shall be my people’ (Lev. 26:12). God remained ever-faithful to the Covenant even though the Israelites had to be continually called back to it by the Prophets.

The New Covenant, inaugurated by Jesus (see Luke 22:20) does not revoke the Old Covenant, but fulfils it.

Creation (N.290)

The act by which the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself. Creation also refers to the created universe or totality of what exists, as often expressed by the formula “the heavens and the earth”


Latin “I believe”, the first word of the Apostles’ Creed.

Credence Table

A small table or shelf in the wall, near the altar, that holds the paten, chalice, small basin and finger towel for the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy. It may hold cruets and unconsecrated bread if these are not presented by the faithful.

Creed (N.170-197)

A creed is a statement of belief. Many religions use creeds as concise, authoritative summaries of their essential beliefs, often in worship or initiation rites. These syntheses or formulae are also referred to as professions of faith.

In the Christian Church the two most important creeds are the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (see entries).


Also known as a crèche, this is a Nativity scene often displayed in homes and churches during the Christmas season. It has figures such as shepherds and the Wise Men with the animals gathered around the Holy Family in the stable. The custom is derived from the practice of St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.


A moment or situation that contains the potential for both danger and opportunity. How a person chooses to respond to such a moment or situation will largely determine whether it becomes a positive or a negative experience for that person


From the French, cruette, meaning “little jug”. Small flasks for holding water and wine for the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy. Together with unconsecrated bread, they may be presented to the priest by two of the faithful during the Preparation of the Gifts.


The word has several meanings. As used in Catholic documents it usually refers to the totality of a society’s inherited way of life. It includes such things as traditions, customs, attitudes, language and institutions.

The word has several meanings. As used in Catholic documents concerning education it usually refers to the totality of a society’s inherited way of life. It includes such things as traditions, customs, attitudes and institutions which usually have roots in the society or group’s history.