Catholic Lingo Quiz


By: Brittany Rowland

6 Min Quiz

Image: Image Source / Image Source / Getty Images

About This Quiz

If you're a devout Catholic, or even if you've only attended a Catholic Mass or two, then you know that Catholicism seemingly has a language of its own. From prayers, rituals, sacraments and saints, the Catholic Church has a host of unique terminology that can be bewildering to those of other faiths. 

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian church in the world, with more than 1 billion followers. Catholics believe that they continue the original Church as established by Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago, with the pope as St. Peter's successor. Catholics are also unique among Christians because of their veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints, whom they ask to pray for them. Famous Catholics today include John Krasinski, Josh Duhamel, Selena Gomez and Lea Michele.

Whether you spent 12 years at Catholic school, memorizing all the prayers and saints, or you maybe go to Mass on Christmas and Easter, challenge your church knowledge with this quiz on Catholic lingo. You can always ask St. Joseph of Cupertino, the patron saint of test takers, for a little help!

In the Catholic faith, what is the Immaculate Conception?

A common misconception is that the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus' virgin birth. In fact, it refers to the belief that God erased Mary's original sin the moment she was conceived.


A monstrance is a vessel with a sunburst design used to display what object?

The monstrance, which is usually a gold or silver stand, holds the Host in a circular window in the center of a sunburst. Catholics focus on the body of Christ during Eucharistic adoration.


Catholics use prayer beads to help them keep count of certain prayers. What are these beads called?

The rosary has five "decades," or sets of 10 beads, and a crucifix. When Catholics say the rosary, they use the beads to keep track of the prayers while they focus on Jesus' mysteries.


A novena can be described as what?

Catholics pray novenas when a loved one has died or in the nine days leading up to a feast day. A novena typically involves lighting candles and making petitions to God, the Virgin Mary or the saints.


Following the sacrament of confession, the priest usually assigns this to the person who has confessed.

Penance is the way Catholics repent, or show remorse for their sins. A priest will usually tell the penitent person to say a number of prayers or perform an act to atone for their sins.


What word is used for Catholics who are not part of the clergy?

All members of the church who are not ordained as clergy are known as laity or lay people. Laity can participate in the Mass by reading the Bible readings and distributing Communion.


The oil used to anoint people in sacraments like baptism is called what?

Chrism is made from olive oil and balsam, giving it a strong, sweet smell. For sacraments like baptism and confirmation, a priest anoints a person on the head with consecrated chrism.


A form of punishment in which a member of the church can no longer receive sacraments is called what?

Excommunication is the most extreme penalty for church members who have seriously sinned. They can still attend Mass but can't receive Holy Communion or other sacraments until they repent.


An official declaration by the pope is known as a papal what?

A bull gets its name from the lead seal ("bulla" in Latin) attached to the the pope's edicts to show they're genuine. Today, a bull is the most formal and serious type of announcement by the pope.


While Catholics are not supposed to divorce, they can attain this declaration that their marriage was never valid.

An annulment is not the same as a divorce. Rather, it occurs when a married couple can show that their marriage was never valid. Divorced Catholics need an annulment before they remarry.


The Passion of Jesus Christ refers to what?

Passion comes from the Latin "passio," meaning suffering. The Passion of Christ includes his being betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified. Catholics reflect on the Passion during Holy Week.


Transubstantiation is the belief in which of the following?

Catholics believe the Holy Eucharist is not merely a symbol of Christ's body and blood. They believe that, through transubstantiation, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus.


If a person near death receives Holy Communion, this is called what?

Part of the last rites, viaticum is giving Holy Communion to a person who is dying. The practice is seen as a way of giving the person spiritual food as they make their way into the afterlife.


Catholics pray for the people who are in this place, where they are purified before entering heaven.

Before souls enter heaven, they're purified of sins in purgatory. Purgatory is often confused with limbo, but the Catholic Church no longer teaches the idea that unbaptized children go to limbo.


Which word describes the honor and admiration that Catholics show to the Virgin Mary?

Catholics don't worship the Virgin Mary. Instead, they show her great respect because she's Jesus' mother. Catholics often ask Mary to intercede for them or take their prayer requests to Jesus.


On August 15, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption in honor of what event?

Catholic dogma holds that the Virgin Mary was immediately assumed, or taken up, into heaven when she died. The Assumption is a special holy event depicted in many classic works of art.


What is the place where people tell their sins to a priest?

You've likely seen confessionals in movies. They're stalls in which the priest and the penitent speak through a screen or curtain. Now, that'll be five Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers.


Which Latin phrase from a prayer at Mass means "through my fault"?

"Mea culpa," you might say when you've messed up. It's a phrase repeated three times in the Confiteor, a prayer said at Mass to acknowledge one's sins. It dates back to Chaucer's time.


Which kind of sins are bad, but not the worst kind?

Venial sins are the less serious variety of sins, although they still need to be confessed. Original sin is the sin inherited from Adam and Eve. Mortal sin is the most severe kind.


What 40-day period of fasting and prayer occurs between Ash Wednesday and Easter?

"What are you giving up for Lent?" is a question Catholics know well. They typically give up some indulgence during Lent to remind them of Christ's sacrifice. Oh, and there's Fish Fridays.


All the rituals and traditions of the Catholic Mass are known as what?

The liturgy involves all the words, actions, rituals, prayers and songs of the Catholic Mass and worship. For instance, the Mass has three Scripture readings, one from the Gospels.


Another term for the anointing of the sick is what?

One of the sacraments (usually the last one receives), extreme unction is when a priest anoints a sick or dying person with oil. It's meant to give them grace and strength near the end of their life.


Sung or stated during Mass, "Agnus Dei" means this.

"Agnus Dei" is Latin for "Lamb of God," which is one of the titles that the Gospel of John gave to Jesus. The cantor typically sings this phrase during the consecration of the Holy Eucharist.


Which of the following was written on Jesus' cross?

INRI stands for the Latin phrase for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." The Romans who executed Jesus put it on the cross as a message to other Jews who might revolt against Roman rule.


The Society of Jesus is a religious order also known as what?

Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits are an order of priests who today are important in Catholic education. Famous Jesuits include missionary Francis Xavier and Pope Francis.


A way of reducing the time one must spend in purgatory is called what?

Indulgences are well known as one of the abuses of the church during the late Middle Ages. People started buying and selling indulgences, which violated the spirit of the practice.


A person becomes a saint through what process?

The canonization of a saint is a lengthy process that requires, among other things, proof of two miracles. A candidate is first called "venerable" and "blessed" before reaching sainthood.


Catholics believe that the popes follow a direct line of authority down from the original apostles. This is called what?

Catholic belief holds that all the bishops and popes in the Church's history descended from Jesus' original apostles. For instance, Catholics consider St. Peter to be the first pope.


A woman who has taken holy orders and joined a convent is known as what?

Typically seen in black and white habits, nuns are women who have taken a vow to serve God. This involves leading a life of poverty, prayer and chastity. Nuns are addressed as "sister."


Mother Teresa founded which religious group in 1950?

The Missionaries of Charity follow St. Teresa of Calcutta's example of caring for the poor and sick. The nuns in this group must train for nine years and give up most worldly possessions.


After the Gospel reading at Mass, the priest delivers a sermon, also called what?

The priest gives his commentary on the Gospel reading in the homily. In some cases, a deacon can give the homily, but usually it's the priest who explains how the Scriptures relate to life.


A conclave is a gathering of all the cardinals in the world to do what?

When a pope dies, cardinals gather in a conclave to elect the next pontiff. It takes place in the Sistine Chapel, and people outside wait for white smoke coming from the chapel's chimney, indicating that a new pope has been chosen.


Which term describes the process in which a priest resigns?

Sometimes a priest decides to leave the priesthood and become a lay person again. He needs permission from the pope to do this. When the priest has done something wrong, it's called "defrocking."


"Vespers" means what?

Vespers is a prayer service that begins at dusk. It includes prayers, songs and Bible readings and is held to thank God for the day. One of the songs is the "Magnificat," a song to the Virgin Mary.


Priests make a promise to be chaste as unmarried men. What is another word for chaste?

One of the most well-known differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is that Catholic priests promise to live celibately. A deacon who has been widowed may decide to become a priest.


Monks and nuns choose to live a type of life known as what?

Monastic life involves giving up your possessions and devoting yourself entirely to spiritual work and prayer. Monks and nuns typically live in a monastery or a convent.


Catholics also call the Lord's Prayer by this name.

The first two words of the Lord's Prayer are "Our Father," hence the name. The most famous Christian prayer comes from Jesus himself, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.


Catholics traditionally do this when entering or exiting a pew.

Catholics genuflect (kneel on one knee) whenever they pass the tabernacle, which holds the Holy Eucharist. They often also make the sign of the cross. Genuflecting is a sign of respect for God.


Fourteen images depicting the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion are collectively known as what?

The Stations of the Cross are typically placed in order in a path around a church, and people can walk from picture to picture, saying prayers. This devotion is popular during Lent.


Which sacrament is also called Holy Communion?

Catholics receive the body and blood of Christ at Mass to remember that Jesus sacrificed himself for humankind. Catholic children usually receive their first Holy Communion when they are around 7 years old.


Explore More Quizzes

About Zoo

Our goal at is to keep you entertained in this crazy life we all live.

We want you to look inward and explore new and interesting things about yourself. We want you to look outward and marvel at the world around you. We want you to laugh at past memories that helped shape the person you’ve become. We want to dream with you about all your future holds. Our hope is our quizzes and articles inspire you to do just that.

Life is a zoo! Embrace it on