Prayer and worship
The sacraments are the most important part of the religious life of Catholics. The seven are
Sacraments of sick
There are many aids to private prayer used by Catholics. One of these is to pray before the image of a saint, and perhaps light a candle placing it on the rack which usually stands in front of the statue. This is not the same thing as worshipping the saint which would be idolatry, since Christians teach that God alone should be worshipped.
Catholics use the virgin in this way. A very popular prayer is the ‘Hail Mary’ blah Hail Mary prayer.
Catholics sometimes say rosary, a repetition of prayers to help them think about events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Catholics, like Orthodox frequently make the sign of the cross on themselves. They touch the left shoulder before the right. When they enter the church building, they may dip their fingers into a bowl of holy water by the entrance and make the sign of the cross. They may also go down for a moment on to one knee as an act of worship before the cross or the high altar. In the middle ages it became popular to go on pilgrimages.
The most important act of worship for Catholics is called the Mass, in which bread and wine are consecrated as the Body and Blood of Christ. This service is called Holy Communion. The names ‘Mass’ comes from the Latin word Missa meaning ‘dismissal’ used when the people are sent out at the end of service. Until 1963, Mass was spoken in the language of Latin. This has the advantage of unity- a person could go into a Catholic Church anywhere in the world and hear a familiar service. On the other hand many people did not know much Latin, and therefore did not fully understand the meaning of all parts of the service. Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass every week, and priests usually say Mass every day. Before receiving the Sacrament, Catholics usually confess their sins to a priest and receive forgiveness. This sacrament is called Penance. The word means ‘punishment’ and refers to what the priest tells them to do to help them overcome their faults. Some priests prefer to speak of the Sacrament of Peace and Reconciliation. This is because, when christens sin by going against gods laws they hurt other people as well as making themselves unhappy. This sacrament is a way of asking gods help to put things right again. Traditionally, there are two categories of sin for Catholics – venial and mortal. The first is the result of minor matters, but the latter is more serious, and Catholics believe that if a person does not confess a mortal sin and receive forgiveness for it, then he or she is choosing to be separated off from God.
In the first part of the Mass there are readings from the Bible and prayers. Then comes the Offertory, when bread, wine and gifts of money from the people are taken to the altar, where he bread and wine are consecrated (made holy). Christens believe that Christ died up the cross as a sacrifice, which could overcome sin and bring people back into a right relationship with God. That one sacrifices and receives its benefits, as Christ comes to them in the Communion (the consecrated bread and wine. Since Catholics see the Mass as joining in the sacrifice of Christ, the table upon which it is celebrated is called an altar, meaning that it is a place of sacrifice. Also, the consecrated bread is called the Host, which comes from the Latin word for a sacrificial victim.
In consecrating the bread and wine, the priests uses the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. Over the bread he says: ‘Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.’ And over the wine he says: ‘Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of men.’ Catholics take