What Do Catholics Believe?
Catholics make up an astounding number of the world’s population, a whopping 1.3 billion people – that’s nearly 20% of the world! Though our numbers are great, many tend to be poorly catechized (educated) in their own faith and may not be able to succinctly explain the basic tenets of the Catholic faith beyond belief in Christ.
Our core beliefs are summed up in the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven, (bow)
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand
of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father
and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
I confess one Baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
We are the original Christian Church, which began when Jesus himself said to the Apostle Peter, “You are the rock on which I will build my church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Every pope since then has been part of an unbroken line of succession since Peter, the first pope.
Early in the history of the Church, there was the belief that when Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Take this and eat – this is my body; take this and drink – this is my blood,” he was giving us the gift of his real presence – his very body and blood – in the form of bread and wine. We call this the Eucharist – a name that comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. The Catholic Mass is a Eucharistic celebration and a celebration of God’s word in Scriptures.
We believe that holy men and women who have come before us still pray for us and aid us. We call them saints, and many of our churches are named for them. First among the saints is Mary, a virgin who gave birth to the child Jesus, and who is honored as both the mother of God and the Church.
From the beginning of Christianity, the Catholic Church has handed on God’s word to each new generation and defined what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Through the centuries, it is the Catholic Church that preserved the Bible, as well as many other written works, through its monasteries and libraries. It instituted the university system in order to educate.
We also believe that beauty is a sign of God’s loving presence, so we have commissioned and preserved some of the world’s greatest artworks. Without the sponsorship of the Church, Michelangelo would never have painted his famous Sistine Chapel nor carved the Pietà.
Today, the Church is the world’s largest charitable organization; we provide a significant portion of social service needs for Americans. There are nearly 250 Catholic universities and colleges in the United States alone, and we also operate this nation’s largest nonpublic school system.
Mostly, we are the body of Christ on every continent who profess and express a faith in Jesus that spans two millennia.