Catholic Beliefs

"Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God's works."

---the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 198

Catholic belief is succinctly expressed in the profession of faith or credo called the Nicene Creed:

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,
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 apostolic Church.
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. Amen.

 

Questions about the Bible

How many versions of the New American Bible are there?
 

The original version of the New American Bible (NAB) was published in 1970. The translation of the New Testament was revised and published in 1986. The translation of the Book of Psalms (the Psalter) was revised in 1991. A revision of the translation of the Old Testament, including the Psalter, was published in March 2011.

Besides the various versions of the Scriptural text, many different publishers have produced editions of the NAB. Each publisher has added other material, such as photographs, maps, devotions and prayers, and reference matter, to the basic text.

In what formats is the New American Bible available?
The New American Bible is available in the following formats: print, audio (cassette and CD), electronic (including CD-ROM and for handhelds), and digital (at www.usccb.org/bible/ and www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM. . . ).

 

What's the difference between a "Catholic Bible" and a "Protestant Bible"?
Catholic and Protestant Bibles both include 27 books in the New Testament. Protestant Bibles have only 39 books in the Old Testament, however, while Catholic Bibles have 46. The seven books included in Catholic Bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. Catholic Bibles also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel which are not found in Protestant Bibles. These books are called the deuterocanonical books. The Catholic Church considers these books to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

 

Do we read from the Bible at Mass?
Readings from Scripture are part of every Mass. At least two readings, one always from the Gospels, (3 on Sundays and solemnities) make up the Liturgy of the Word. In addition, a psalm or canticle is sung.

These readings are typically read from a Lectionary, not a Bible, though the Lectionary is taken from the Bible.

What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?
A Lectionary is composed of the readings and the responsorial psalm assigned for each Mass of the year (Sundays, weekdays, and special occasions). The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Introductions and conclusions have been added to each reading. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Individual readings in the Lectionary are called pericopes, from a Greek word meaning a "section" or "cutting." Because the Mass readings are only portions of a book or chapter, introductory phrases, called incipits, are often added to begin the Lectionary reading, for example, "In those days," "Jesus said to his disciples," etc.

How can anyone own the copyright on the Bible? Isn't it free to everyone?
No one owns the copyright on the Bible itself. Rather, the copyright is held on particular translations or editions of the Bible. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) owns the copyright on the New American Bible translation. Some versions of the Bible, such as the King James Version (not the New King James Version) are in the public domain.

The copyright allows the owner to protect the integrity of the text so that individuals may not introduce changes without permission. Royalty fees earned by licensing the text to companies who publish and sell Bibles help to provide funds for Scripture scholarship and other educational needs.

Questions about the Lectionary

  1. What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?
    A Lectionary is composed of the readings and the responsorial psalm assigned for each Mass of the year (Sundays, weekdays, and special occasions). The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Introductions and conclusions have been added to each reading. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.
  2. How is the Lectionary arranged?
    The Lectionary is arranged in two cycles, one for Sundays and one for weekdays.

    The Sunday cycle is divided into three years, labeled A, B, and C. 2017 is Year A. 2018 is Year B, 2019 is Year C, etc. In Year A, we read mostly from the Gospel of Matthew. In Year B, we read the Gospel of Mark and chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. In Year C, we read the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of John is read during the Easter season in all three years. The first reading, usually from the Old Testament, reflects important themes from the Gospel reading. The second reading is usually from one of the epistles, a letter written to an early church community. These letters are read semi-continuously. Each Sunday, we pick up close to where we left off the Sunday before, though some passages are never read.

    The weekday cycle is divided into two years, Year I and Year II. Year I is read in odd-numbered years (2017, 2019, etc.) and Year II is used in even-numbered years (2018, 2020, etc.) The Gospels for both years are the same. During the year, the Gospels are read semi-continuously, beginning with Mark, then moving on to Matthew and Luke. The Gospel of John is read during the Easter season. For Advent, Christmas, and Lent, readings are chosen that are appropriate to the season. The first reading on weekdays may be taken from the Old or the New Testament. Typically, a single book is read semi-continuously (i.e., some passages are not read) until it is finished and then a new book is started.

    The year of the cycle does not change on January 1st, but on the 1st Sunday of Advent (usually late November) which is the beginning of the liturgical year.

     
  3. In addition to the Sunday and weekday cycles, the Lectionary provides readings for feasts of the saints, for common celebrations such as Marian feasts, for ritual Masses (weddings, funerals, etc.), for votive Masses, and for various needs. These readings have been selected to reflect the themes of these celebrations.
  4. Is the New American Bible the only translation of Scriptures we can read from at Mass?
    Since May 19, 2002, the revised Lectionary, based on the New American Bible is the only English-language Lectionary that may be used at Mass in the dioceses of the United States, except for the current Lectionary for Masses with Children which remains in use.

    The 1970 edition of the New American Bible is used in the Scripture readings and canticles of the Liturgy of the Hours (except the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc dimittis.)


 

Changes in Catholic Attitudes Toward Bible Readings

By Msgr. Daniel Kutys

Average Catholics asked today how often they read the Bible likely would say that they do not read the Bible regularly. However, if asked how often they read Scripture, the answer would be different. Practicing Catholics know they read and hear Scripture at every Mass. Many also recognize that basic prayers Catholics say, such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary, are scriptural. But for most Catholics, the Scripture they hear and read is not from the Bible. It is from a worship aid in the pew.

Scripture always has played an important role in the prayer life of the Catholic Church and its members. For the ordinary Catholic in earlier centuries, exposure to Scripture was passive. They heard it read aloud or prayed aloud but did not read it themselves. One simple reason: Centuries ago the average person could not read or afford a book. Popular reading and ownership of books began to flourish only after the invention of the printing press.

Once the printing press was invented, the most commonly printed book was the Bible, but this still did not make Bible-reading a Catholic’s common practice. Up until the mid-twentieth Century, the custom of reading the Bible and interpreting it for oneself was a hallmark of the Protestant churches springing up in Europe after the Reformation. Protestants rejected the authority of the Pope and of the Church and showed it by saying people could read and interpret the Bible for themselves. Catholics meanwhile were discouraged from reading Scripture.

Identifying the reading and interpreting of the Bible as “Protestant” even affected the study of Scripture. Until the twentieth Century, it was only Protestants who actively embraced Scripture study. That changed after 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. This not only allowed Catholics to study Scripture, it encouraged them to do so. And with Catholics studying Scripture and teaching other Catholics about what they were studying, familiarity with Scripture grew.

Scripture awareness grew after the Second Vatican Council. Mass was celebrated in the vernacular and so the Scripture readings at Mass were read entirely in English. Adult faith formation programs began to develop, and the most common program run at a parish focused on Scripture study. The Charismatic movement and the rise of prayer groups exposed Catholics to Scripture even more. All of this contributed to Catholics becoming more familiar with the Bible and more interested in reading the Scriptures and praying with them.

In a round-about way, aspects of U.S. culture also have encouraged Catholics to become more familiar with the Scriptures. References to John 3:16 appear in the stands at sporting events. Catholics who hear of and see other Christians quote or cite Scripture verses wonder why they cannot. Such experiences lead Catholics to seek familiarity with the Bible.

Such attitudinal changes bode well for Catholics, especially when reading and praying with the Word of God leads to lessons learned, hearts inspired and lives profoundly moved for good.

- - -
Monsignor Daniel Kutys is a pastor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Questions about the Scriptures used during Mass

Do we read from the Bible at Mass?

Readings from Scripture are part of every Mass. At least two readings, one always from the Gospels, (3 on Sundays and solemnities) make up the Liturgy of the Word. In addition, a psalm or canticle is sung.

These readings are typically read from a Lectionary, not a Bible, though the Lectionary is taken from the Bible.

What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?

A Lectionary is composed of the readings and the responsorial psalm assigned for each Mass of the year (Sundays, weekdays, and special occasions). The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Introductions and conclusions have been added to each reading. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Individual readings in the Lectionary are called pericopes, from a Greek word meaning a "section" or "cutting." Because the Mass readings are only portions of a book or chapter, introductory phrases, called incipits, are often added to begin the Lectionary reading, for example, "In those days," "Jesus said to his disciples," etc..


In addition to the Sunday and weekday cycles, the Lectionary provides readings for feasts of the saints, for common celebrations such as Marian feasts, for ritual Masses (weddings, funerals, etc.), for votive Masses, and for various needs. These readings have been selected to reflect the themes of these celebrations.

 

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