10 Catholic Words You Probably Don’t Know


There are lots of terms and words in the Catholic Church that many don’t necessarily hear or know of (up until the mass sayings changed, who knew consubstantial?) Here are 10 Catholic words that are not as well known. How many do you already know?

1. Aspergillum

An aspergillum is a vessel or device used for sprinkling holy water. The ordinary type is a metallic rod with a bulbous tip which absorbs the water and discharges it at the motion of the user’s hand. Who knew that there was a term for this specifically?

2. Dalmatic

This is the vestment the deacon wears over the alb on solemn occasions. We have so many fancy terms for each particular piece of clothing that deacons, priests, and bishops wear.

3. Eschatology

This is doctrine concerning the last things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell, and the final state of perfection of the people and the kingdom of God at the end of the world. Matthew 25:31-46 and the Book of Revelation are some examples of eschatological passages.

4. Laicization

This is the process by which a man ordained is relieved of his obligations and is returned to the status of a lay person.

5. Magisterium

This is the official teaching office of the Church. This office is made up of the Pope and Bishops. Along with Sacred Scripture and Tradition, the Magisterium helps guide the Church by laying down the authentic teachings of the Church.

6. Pontiff, Pontifical

This term is used as an alternative form of reference to the pope. Pontifical has to do with the pope.

7. Roman Curia

The official collective name for the administrative agencies and courts, and their officials, who assist the Pope in governing the Church. Members are appointed and granted authority by the Pope.

8. Synod

A synod is a gathering of designated officials and representatives of a church, with legislative and policy-making powers. Synods have involved themes around the family, sacraments, the role of bishops, and many others.

9. Theologate

An institution which provides the last four years of study for candidates for priesthood. Seminaries offer the theologate years that seminarians need before being ordained priests.

10. Zucchetto

This is the skull cap worn by the Pope, Cardinals, and bishops. The Pope’s is white, Cardinals wear red, and bishops wear purple. (Fun fact: priests could wear black zucchettos; however, this practice has fallen out of style.)

The Real Challenge

Now, the real challenge is not only knowing these Catholic words, but pronouncing them. Aspergillum? Laicization? Good luck with those!

Written by Katie Reitano
Originally from Belleville, IL, Katie Reitano is a student studying theology and music at Saint Louis University. She is also an intern at the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. In her free time, she enjoys reading, singing, and playing piano.