Top Secret Catholic Vocabulary

The Catholic Faith can seem enigmatic at times, but you will never need one of these. Read on.

Recognising that we often talk past each other, and in the interests of communication, here are some definitions for words used in the Catholic universe:

  • AMEN: The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.
  • BULLETIN: Your receipt for attending Mass.
  • CHOIR: A group of people whose singing allows the rest of the Parish to lip-sync.
  • CONSERVATIVE: Someone who disagrees with my most cherished prejudices. Also see Liberal.
  • HOLY WATER: A liquid whose chemical formula is H2OLY.
  • HYMN: A song of praise usually sung in a key three octaves higher than that of the congregation’s range.
  • RECESSIONAL HYMN: The last song at Mass often sung a little more quietly, since most of the people have already left.
  • INCENSE: Holy Smoke!
  • JESUITS: An order of priests known for their ability to find colleges with good basketball teams.
  • JONAH: The original ‘Jaws’ story.
  • JUSTICE: When kids have kids of their own.
  • KYRIE ELEISON: The only Greek words that most Catholics can recognize besides gyros and baklava. (for you non-Catholics it means Lord have mercy)
  • LIBERAL: Someone who disagrees with my most cherished prejudices. Also see Conservative.
  • MAGI: The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.
  • MANGER: Where Mary gave birth to Jesus because Joseph didn’t have travel insurance.  (The Bible’s way of showing us that holiday travel has always been rough.)
  • PEW: A medieval torture device still found in Catholic churches.
  • PROCESSION: The ceremonial formation at the beginning of Mass consisting of altar servers, the celebrant, and late parishioners looking for seats.
  • RECESSIONAL: The ceremonial procession at the conclusion of Mass led by parishioners trying to beat the crowd to the parking lot.
  • RELICS: People who have been going to Mass for so long, they actually know when to sit, kneel, and stand.
  • TEN COMMANDMENTS: The most important Top Ten list not given by David Letterman.
  • USHERS: The only people in the parish who don’t know the seating capacity of a pew.

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
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10 Responses to Top Secret Catholic Vocabulary

  1. Sharon says:

    Dear Joyful Papist, I was searching for web sites to link to our RCIA page and found yours. What a delight! I plan to link you, so that our newbies can have a belly laugh at Catholicism’s silliness. Thank you!!


  2. kathleen says:

    “Catholicism’s silliness” Sharon?? Eh, perhaps you don’t know, but Catholics have a great sense of humour.


  3. omvendt says:

    The sad thing here, Kathleen, is that ‘RCIA’ seems to have become largely the domain of the ‘Sharons’.


  4. Mr Badger says:

    I’m pretty sure Sharon didn’t really mean that Catholicism is silly, she is after all a Catholic who is involved in ministry. We can forgive her bad phrasing as she clearly meant “the light hearted silliness [humour] Catholics can engage in as joyful Christians who love their Church” —– which is the same spirit that JP posted it in

    The sad thing here, Kathleen, is that ‘RCIA’ seems to have become largely the domain of the ‘Sharons’.

    Well if that’s the response someone gets to a small gaffe, Brother Burrito’s question about why more people don’t comment pretty much answers itself.


  5. Mr Badger says:

    I enjoyed this post as well Sharon, great fun. Pity Omvendt and Kathleen jumped down your throat.


  6. manus says:

    Amen, Brother Badger.

    If the Last Judgement includes scrutiny of the quality of our jokes, then I’m in worse trouble than I thought.


  7. manus says:

    Actually Sharon, JP also put this list up on here own website, so you can direct your newbies there instead, if you prefer. It’s taken in the spirit it was intended there.

    Kathleen, Omvendt, your remarks were a little harsh – how can Sharon send her people here now?


  8. kathleen says:

    Duly chastised.
    Yes, hopefully Sharon meant her comment in the vein Mr. Badger describes.
    I’m sorry Sharon for my “harshness”, although I didn’t mean it to sound so.

    P.S. I’ve edited out my last sentence of yesterday.


  9. omvendt says:

    I have no problem whatsoever with jp’s light-hearted post.
    If have misinterpreted Sharon’s remarks as a result of, shall we say, somewhat infelicitous phrasing, then I apologise unreservedly.


  10. manus says:

    God bless you, kind sir.


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