Basic Catechism - Susan Helen Wallace - ebook

Basic Catechism ebook

Susan Helen Wallace



Structured around the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church— creed, sacraments, morality, and prayer— this guide presents the fundamentals of the faith is a handy Q&A format.This 8th edition reflects the revised Roman Missal and incorporates Church teaching on contemporary issues.

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Basic Catechism

FAQs About the Catholic Faith

Eighth Revised Edition

In accordance with theCatechism of the Catholic Church

Mary Lea Hill, FSPand Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

Nihil Obstat:

Reverend Thomas W. Buckley, S.T.D., S.S.L.


Seán Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap.


Archbishop of Boston


October 26, 2012

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hill, Mary Lea.

Basic catechism : FAQS about the Catholic faith / Mary Lea Hill, FSP, and Susan Helen Wallace, FSP. -- Eighth revised edition in accordance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

pages cm

Rev. ed. of: Basic catechism / Daughters of St. Paul. 7th rev. ed. c1999.

Includes index.

ISBN-13: 978-0-8198-1205-6

ISBN-10: 0-8198-1205-6 1. Catholic Church--Catechisms--English. 2. Catholic Church--Catechisms. I. Title. BX1961.B29 2013



Old Testament Scripture quotations contained herein are from: Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1965 and 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Unless otherwise specified, the New Testament texts used in this work are taken from The New Testament: St. Paul Catholic Edition, translated by Mark A. Wauck, copyright © 2000 by the Society of St. Paul, Staten Island, New York, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America, copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

Cover design by Rosana Usselmann

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

“P” and PAULINE are registered trademarks of the Daughters of St. Paul.

Copyright © 2013, Daughters of St. Paul

Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3491

Printed in the U.S.A.

Pauline Books & Media is the publishing house of the Daughters of St. Paul, an international congregation of women religious serving the Church with the communications media.

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17 16 15 14 13




How We Know About God

What Is God Like?

God Our Creator

Why Are We on This Earth?

God Sends His Son

Belief in the Holy Spirit

Belief in the Holy Catholic Church

The Mystery of the Church

Christ’s Faithful: Hierarchy, Laity, Consecrated Life

Life Everlasting


The Liturgy

The Sacraments: Actions of Jesus

Sacraments of Christian Initiation




Sacraments of Healing

Penance and Reconciliation


Anointing of the Sick

Sacraments at the Service of Communion

Holy Orders




The Dignity of the Human Person



Personal Sin

The Ten Commandments

First Commandment

Second Commandment

Third Commandment

Fourth Commandment

Fifth Commandment

Sixth Commandment

Seventh Commandment

Eighth Commandment

Ninth Commandment

Tenth Commandment

Some Special Duties of Catholic Christians


Prayer: Communication with God

The Lord’s Prayer

The Hail Mary and the Rosary


1. Prayers

2. Guidelines for Christian Living

3. The Books of the Bible


Introductory Note

This eighth edition of the Basic Catechism has been expanded and revised to more closely reflect the Church’s teaching on the challenges facing the faithful Christian in today’s society. It also reflects changes in the liturgy due to the new translation of the Mass texts that took effect in Advent 2011. The material is divided according to the four sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: the profession of faith, the celebration of the Christian mystery, life in Christ, and Christian prayer.

The numbers in parentheses that follow the questions refer to related paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Together with the index, these cross-references will direct the reader to further information on particular topics. A section of basic prayers and guidelines for Christian living serves as a convenient reference.


How We Know About God

Does God exist?

Yes, God exists.

One God and Father of us all, who is above all, through all, and in all. (Eph 4:6)

Who is God?

God is the all-powerful Spirit who created everything that exists. He is our Father who is with us always and awaits us in heaven to share his everlasting joys with us. (205–221)

For God who made the world and everything in it—the Lord of the heavens and the earth—does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor does he need anything we can do for him since he gives everyone life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24)

How can we know that God exists?

Through reason and revelation we can know that God exists. (35)

What is reason?

Reason is our power to think. (33)

What are some of the ways God’s existence can be known by our power to think and reason?

We can know about God’s existence from nature’s laws and purposes, the degrees of perfection in the universe, motion, causes and effects, and the order and design of the universe. The longings of the human heart, conscience, and freedom point to God as the ultimate source of our happiness. (31–35)

The Bible puts this question to us:

For if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the LORD of these things? (Wis 13:9)

What arguments do the “new” atheists offer against belief in God?

They offer arguments such as these to disprove God’s existence: Religion opposes progress and freedom by encouraging a demeaning acceptance of suffering and suppression; religion promotes dissension and thus evil, violence, and abuse; religion negates personal maturity with a primitive, superstitious delusion; and religion pits irrational speculation against scientific evidence.

Does the universe itself point to a Creator?

Yes, in its magnificence and order the universe points to a Creator. St. Paul says:

From the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been accessible to human knowledge through what can be perceived, and so they have no excuse. (Rom 1:20. See also Rom 11:36.) (32, 36)

What other religious facts can we know by our reason?

Some religious facts we can know by our reason are:

the human soul will never die (366);

everyone has a duty to worship God, who created us (2096, 2135);

the historical character of the Gospels makes them worthy of being believed (514–515).

What is God’s revelation?

God’s revelation is what he has told us about himself, ourselves, and his plan of love for us. Revelation is God’s self-communication to us, which he has made known to us through Scripture and Tradition, as taught by the teaching authority of the Church. (50–51, 80)

Of old God spoke to our fathers through the prophets many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through a Son.… (Heb 1:1–2)

Why do we need God’s revelation?

We need God’s revelation because without his help our reason could not discover everything that God wants us to know about himself, ourselves, and his plan of love for us now and in the life to come. (37–38, 52)

How has God given us his revelation?

God has made himself known to us through his deeds and words in salvation history. He gave us the fullness of revelation in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is God-made-man. This revelation comes to us through Scripture and Tradition, as interpreted by the Church. (74–87, 95)

What is Sacred Tradition?

Sacred Tradition is the process by which the Church, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, preserves and hands on to all generations, in its teaching, life, and worship, all that it is and all that it believes. (78)

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25)

How important is Sacred Tradition?

Sacred Tradition is of prime importance because in it we have certainty about the things we must believe and do. (80–81)

Stand firm and hold fast to the tradition we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by a letter of ours. (2 Thes 2:15)

What is meant by the “heritage of faith”?

The “heritage of faith” (sometimes called the “deposit of faith”) means the truths which God has revealed and has given to the Church to keep and to teach. This should not be thought of in a static sense, since the Church grows in understanding this heritage of faith. (84–95, 175)

What is the Bible?

The Bible is the book which contains the inspired word of God. In it God speaks to us through the writings of human authors whom he chose and whom the Holy Spirit guided. (81)

Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. (Jer 30:2)

What are other names for the Bible?

The Bible is also called “Sacred Scripture,” which means “holy writings,” or just “Scriptures,” or “the word of God,” since it is God’s revelation to us.

What are the main parts of the Bible?

The main parts of the Bible are the Old Testament, the forty-six books written before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament, the twenty-seven books written after Jesus’ resurrection. (120) These books are listed in the Guidelines for Christian Living (see p. 268).

What is the Bible’s main theme?

The Bible’s main theme is God’s saving love for us human beings, even though we are sinful.

What is divine inspiration?

Divine inspiration is the special guidance the Holy Spirit gave to the Bible’s human authors, so that they wrote everything God wanted and only that, without error. (105–106)

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully capable of carrying out every good work. (2 Tm 3:16–17)

What is the Old Testament about?

The Old Testament tells the history of God’s saving actions in the lives of the chosen people, the Israelites, through whom God brought about his plan of salvation. (122)

Salvation is from the Jews. (Jn 4:22)

Briefly, what is the history of the Chosen People?

Their history began with Abraham, whom God called to be father and leader of the Chosen People. Later Moses was sent to free the people from slavery in Egypt and to give them the Ten Commandments, which God had revealed to him. God chose Joshua to lead the people into Canaan, the “Promised Land.” Later David became a great king of Israel and an ancestor of Christ. God sent prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah to speak his words to the people and encourage them to grow in fidelity to the covenant. At one point, God permitted the destruction of the center of worship, Jerusalem, and the exile of its people into Babylon. The exiles who later returned to Jerusalem rebuilt the temple and renewed the covenant. (59–64)

What is the New Testament about?

The New Testament is about the birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as well as the life and growth of the early Church which he founded. (124)

The appointed time has come and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Good News! (Mk 1:15)

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel or “Good News” consists of the first four books of the New Testament and gives us a detailed description of the life and teachings of Jesus. For Christians, these four books are the most important books of the Bible. (125)

What do we learn from the Gospels?

From the Gospels we learn what Jesus asks us to believe and do in order to be saved and reach heaven. We learn about the great love Jesus and his Father have for us. Because of this love Jesus died for us, to redeem us from our sins. (125)

What we have seen and heard we also proclaim to you so you too may be in fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ, and we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 Jn 1:3–4)

How did the four Gospels come to be written?

The Gospels were formed through a three-stage process: (a) the life and ministry of Jesus; (b) the oral preaching of the apostles, who proclaimed what Jesus had done and taught; (c) the writing of the Gospels. The evangelists drew on the oral tradition to give their specific audiences an account of Jesus’ saving deeds. (126)

Can people make mistakes when they try to understand the Bible?

Difficulties in translating and interpreting the language, customs, and history of the times can lead to misunderstanding biblical texts. One of the reasons Jesus gave us the Church is to guide us in reading the Bible. (109–119)

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you go astray, that you understand neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mk 12:24)

There are some things in his [St. Paul’s] letters which are difficult to understand—ignorant and unstable people distort them, just as they distort the other scriptures, to their own destruction! (2 Pt 3:16)

Can the Church make a mistake in interpreting the Bible?

The Church can never make a mistake in authentically interpreting the Bible because the Holy Spirit preserves the Church from error. (85–87)

What does the Church consider in interpreting the Bible?

The Church considers the tradition of the Church Fathers and Doctors, the original languages, literary forms, the actual text, and historical findings. This helps to reach the true meaning which the sacred author, under divine inspiration, had in writing and to avoid a purely fundamentalist view which can be a false interpretation. (111–114)

What is the difference between the Catholic Bible and those of other Christian denominations?

There are two main differences: first, the number of books of the Bible accepted as inspired by God is different, and second, the interpretation of certain teachings in the Bible differ, as found in study notes.

What is the reason for these differences?

These differences resulted from biblical scholarship and theology within Catholic and Protestant tradition. While we respect the beliefs of the different churches and show reverence for the Bible in every form, as Catholics we trust in the Catholic biblical teaching because of our belief in the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

How is the Bible to be read?

The Bible is to be read humbly and prayerfully, with a readiness to put God’s word into practice. (131–133)

What is faith?

Faith is a gift from God by which we believe what he has revealed. By faith the whole person adheres to God in a free response of loving trust. (91, 153–155, 176–184)

Now it is impossible to please God without faith, because to even approach God you have to believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6)

What is the Profession of Faith we recite at Mass?

The Profession of Faith we recite at Mass is either the Nicene Creed, an ancient declaration of belief in the principal truths of faith, or the Apostles’ Creed, which is especially used during Lent and Easter. (195)

Who are the faithful?

The faithful are loyal followers of the Lord Jesus. They share in his priestly, prophetic, and royal office through their Baptism. (871–873)

Symeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of equal worth with ours through the saving will of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ: may grace and peace abound to you through knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. (2 Pt 1:1–2)

What Is God Like?

Is God perfect?

Yes, God is perfect. He is almighty, eternal, all-present, all-good, all-knowing, all-merciful, and all-just. (213)

Nor does he need anything we can do for him since he gives everyone life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:25)

What do we mean when we say that God is almighty, eternal, merciful, and just?

Almighty means all-powerful.

And you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. (1 Chr 29:12)

Eternal means “outside of time”—without beginning or end—and unchanging. (220)

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. (Ps 90:4)

Merciful means loving and forgiving.

Be merciful, as your Father is merciful. (Lk 6:36)

Just means fair.

Just and true are your ways, King of nations! (Rev 15:3)

What word describes God’s unlimited perfection?

God’s unlimited perfection is infinite.

But for God all things are possible. (Mt 19:26)

Does God change?

No, God does not change. (212, 227)

. . . in whom there is no variation or darkness due to change. (Jas 1:17)

What does the name YHWH tell us about God?

The Hebrew name YHWH, meaning “I AM WHO AM,” tells us that God is life itself. (206, 213)

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’… this is my name for ever.…” (Ex 3:14–15)

Does God care about us?

Yes, God cares about us. His loving action in our lives is called Divine Providence. (302–314)

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. (Ps 139:9–10)

What is a mystery?

In religion a mystery is a great truth revealed by God which our limited intelligence will never be able to wholly understand. (42–43, 48)

What special mystery has God told us about himself?

God has told us about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. He has revealed himself to be three Persons in one God—our Triune God. (234, 237)

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.… (Mt 28:19)

Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ.… (1 Pt 1:2)

What is the mystery of the Blessed Trinity?

The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is that there are three divine Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in the one, true God. (233, 253–255)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13:13)

Is the Father God?

The Father is God and the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. (240, 262)

Is the Son God?

The Son is God and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. (240–242)

Is the Holy Spirit God?

The Holy Spirit is God and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. (243)

Can we understand anything about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity?

We can understand that by “one God” we mean the one divine nature, while by “three Persons” we mean the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who each totally possess the divine nature. (253–256)

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all, through all, and in all. (Eph 4:4–6)

What is the importance of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity for our own lives?

The three Persons of the Trinity call us to everlasting happiness with them. At Baptism they came to live within us. we grow in grace through the sacraments and virtuous living, we will draw closer to our Triune God throughout life and will share eternal union with the Trinity in heaven. (257–260)

I bend my knees to the Father. From him every family in the heavens and on earth is named, so that from the riches of his glory he may grant you inner strength and power through his Spirit. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, firmly rooted and established in love, so that with all the saints you may be able to understand the breadth, the length, the height, and depth, and know Christ’s love which surpasses all knowledge so that you may be filled with all God’s fullness. (Eph 3:14–19)

God Our Creator

Who is the Father?

The Father is the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, who is also called the Creator. (238, 239, 279)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)

Why is God called “Father”?

We call God “Father” because he is the Creator of all, above all, and yet concerned about all that he has made. We know God as “Father” because that is how he revealed himself and Jesus referred to God as his “Father.” (238, 240)

All things have been given to me by my Father.… (Mt 11:27)

Is God also “Mother”?

God is a being far superior to our understanding. Unlike creatures God is neither male nor female; God is God. However, since all fatherhood and motherhood has its source in God, we can say that God possesses all the qualities of both father and mother. (239)

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you. (Is 66:13)

What does “create” mean?

To create means to bring something out of nothing. (286, 296–298, 327)

Through faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen came to be from what cannot be seen. (Heb 11:3)

What did God create?

God created all the matter and energy in the universe, as well as the pure spirits called angels and the soul of each one of us. (290, 299)

All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. (Jn 1:3)

Why did God create the world?

God created the world out of goodness, to show us his perfections and to share them with us. (288, 293–295)

What came to be through him was life, and the life was the light of men. (Jn 1:3–4)

What are angels?

Angels are spirits, that is, real spiritual beings without bodies, possessing understanding and free will. (328–330)

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! (Ps 103:20)

Can we prove from reason alone that angels exist?

We cannot prove from reason alone that angels exist, yet their existence is not contrary to reason. It is very “reasonable” to suggest that just as there are creatures composed totally of matter, and creatures made up of matter and spirit, so there are purely spiritual creatures. For this belief we rely on the testimony of Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. (328)

Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host! (Ps 148:2)

How many angels are there?

The exact number of angels is unknown, but the Bible tells us that many exist. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said:

Or do you think that I could not call on my Father and have him at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? (Mt 26:53) (See also Dn 7:10.)

Did God bestow certain gifts on the angels in creating them?

God gave special gifts of grace, wisdom, power, and holiness to the angels. They were also given the opportunity to merit the direct vision of God by remaining faithful to him.

They are not afraid to blaspheme heavenly beings, whereas angels who are much greater in power and might do not denounce them in such insulting terms before the Lord. (2 Pt 2:11)

Did every angel remain faithful to God?

Not all of the angels remained faithful to God; some “radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign.” (392)

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned… then the Lord is able to… keep the wicked under punishment for the day of judgment. (2 Pt 2:4, 9) (See also Jude 6.)

What reward was granted to the faithful angels?

The faithful angels were admitted to God’s presence where they see him face to face. These good angels see, love, and adore God, and live with him eternally. (329)

Their angels in heaven continually look upon the face of my Father in heaven. (Mt 18:10)

Do the good angels help us?

The good angels help us especially by praying for us and by being our guardian angels. (334–335)

For a good angel will go with him. (Tob 5:21) (See also Heb 1:14.)

Who are the guardian angels?

The guardian angels are pure spirits who watch over us and encourage us to lead good Christian lives. (336)

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Ps 34:7)

Who are archangels?

Archangels are members of a very powerful group of angels. From the Bible we know the names of three: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. (335)

The Lord himself will come down from heaven and issue a command, with an archangel’s voice and a blast from God’s trumpet. (1 Thes 4:16)

What happened to the unfaithful angels?

The unfaithful angels who rebelled against God were banished from his presence to the eternal punishment known as hell. They are called devils or evil spirits. (391)

Get away from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.… (Mt 25:41)

Do the unfaithful angels try to harm us?

The unfaithful angels try to harm us chiefly by tempting us to sin. (395, 407–409)

Your adversary the Devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (1 Pt 5:8) (See also Mt 10:1; Eph 6:11.)

Do all of our temptations to sin come from the unfaithful angels?

Only some of our temptations to sin come from the unfaithful angels. Other temptations come from ourselves, our wounded nature, or from other persons and things about us. (1264)

When I want to do what is right, evil awaits me, for although I agree with God’s law in my inmost self I can see that there is another law in my bodily members which wars against the law of my reason and holds me captive to the law of sin in my bodily members. (Rom 7:21–23. See also Jas 1:13–14; 1 Jn 2:15.)

Are we always able to resist all temptations?

Yes, because no matter how powerful temptations may be, they are not sins in themselves. God will always give us grace and strength if we ask him.

So anyone who thinks they are standing should he careful not to fall. The only temptations you have received are normal human ones. God is trustworthy and does not test us beyond our strength— along with the temptation he will also provide a way out, so you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:12–13)

What is a human person?

Created in the image and likeness of God, the human person is a union of body and soul, endowed with intelligence and freedom, who will live forever. (355–358, 362–368)

It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. (Sir 15:14)

After creating us, does God leave us on our own?

God continues to love and care for us. Without his activity in our lives we could not think, decide, or act. By his power God keeps the whole universe from returning to nothingness (see 2 Mc 7:28). We call God’s action his divine Providence. Creation is just the beginning of God’s saving actions in the world and in our own lives. (300, 304)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. (Prov 19:21)

What is the significance of the Sabbath in the work of creation?

God worked at creation for six “days.” He blessed the seventh “day” as a day of rest, a day for praise and worship. By giving us this day of rest, God teaches us to reflect on the beauty of all creation, to respect his plan of creation by faithfully observing the laws he has established, and to worship and adore his goodness. (345–347)

So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. (Gen 2:3)

What are the main facts to know about creation?

God created all matter and energy in the universe; if there was evolution, God planned and guided it; and every human soul is created directly by God at the moment of the conception of the body.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Eccl 12:7)

What is the theory of evolution?

The theory of evolution proposes that the universe, as we know it today, is the product of a chain of development. The Church neither subscribes to this theory nor condemns it. The Catholic belief, however, is that even if the human body was formed through an evolving process, each human soul is created directly by God.

What is the greatest glory God receives in the visible universe?

Although the whole universe reflects the infinite wisdom, beauty, and goodness of the Creator, the greatest glory God receives in the visible universe comes from human persons. Only human persons have the freedom to choose to love, adore, and serve the Creator. (342–343, 356)

Are not five sparrows sold for a few cents? Yet not one of these is overlooked in the presence of God! On the contrary, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not! You are worth far more than sparrows. (Lk 12:6–7)

Who were the first man and woman?

The first man and woman, the first parents of the entire human race, are known as Adam and Eve. (375) (See Gen 1–4.)

Must we believe in the existence of Adam and Eve?

While belief in a single set of original parents may be difficult in view of scientific theories of the beginning of our species, we must hold to the belief that God directly willed and created the first humans. The Genesis story of creation must be respected as the interpretation chosen by God.

What was the mastery or “dominion” that our first parents exercised over creation?

Because God created Adam and Eve in the divine image and likeness, he placed them in charge of the rest of creation to care for it. (307, 373, 377–378)

And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion.” (Gen 1:28)

What other gifts did our first parents receive from God?

God gave them natural goodness and happiness, God’s friendship or grace, inner harmony, as well as harmony with nature, knowledge, self-control, and freedom from suffering and death. This harmonious and blessed existence is known as the state of “original justice.” (374–376)

Were Adam and Eve capable of sinning?

Adam and Eve were capable of sinning because God gave them free will. (387)

And if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve.… (Josh 24:15)

What does it mean to sin?

To sin means to reject or oppose God or his law knowingly and willfully. (386–387)

For whoever knows what he should do and does not do it is committing a sin. (Jas 4:17)

Did Adam and Eve sin?

They sinned when they freely disobeyed a direct command of God. (379, 397)

God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden.…” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that is was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. (Gen 3:3, 6)

What happened to our first parents because of their sin?

They lost the grace of holiness, their friendship with God, their inner harmony, the right to heaven, and the other gifts they had received. They became subject to suffering and death, felt strong inclinations to evil, and were forced out of the garden of paradise. (399–401)

Therefore the Lord GOD sent him forth from the garden of Eden.… (Gen 3:23)

Does the sin of our first parents have any effect on us, their descendants?

Because of their sin, we are born without sanctifying grace and inherit Adam’s punishment, as we would have inherited his gifts had he been faithful to God. (390, 402)

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and in this way death spread to all men.… (Rom 5:12)

What is this sin in us called?

This sin in us is called original sin.

How did the sin of Adam and Eve become our sin?

The transmission of original sin is a mystery. It is not a personal sin on our part; however, we inherit their weakened and sinful human nature. “Original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’—a state and not an act,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (404)

Do we have to believe in original sin?

Belief in the reality of original sin is essential to our understanding and appreciation of our redemption by Christ. Having sinned in Adam, we need redemption in Christ. (388–389)

So then, just as one man’s offense resulted in condemnation for all, so too one man’s obedience resulted in pardon and life for all. (Rom 5:19)

Was anyone ever free from original sin?

Jesus’ Mother Mary, in view of the merits of her divine Son, was preserved from original sin from the moment of her conception in her mother’s womb. This great privilege is called the Immaculate Conception. (491)

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! (Lk 1:28)

Why Are We on This Earth?

What is the purpose of our life on earth?

The purpose of our life on earth is to attain the everlasting happiness found only in God. (356–358)

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 Jn 5:11)

Why can only God make us happy?

God gave us such a great desire for happiness that nothing less than union with him can satisfy us.

Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!… You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. (Ps 128:1–2)

Will this happiness come to us automatically?

No, because we possess intelligence and free will, God asks us to cooperate with him by knowing, loving, and serving him. (27)

Set about accomplishing your salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2:12)

How can we know God?

With our reason, we can come to know something about God through the created world. But this knowledge can be hard to attain, so God has revealed himself to us. He did this through his saving deeds and words in the history of Israel, and then by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of revelation. Jesus’s teaching comes to us through Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as taught and interpreted by the Church. In Baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe through faith. (31–38, 50–67)

His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. (Rom 1:20)

How can we love and serve God?

We can love and serve God mainly by wanting to love and serve him, avoiding sin, sharing in the sacraments, especially Penance and Eucharist, remaining loyal to the teachings and laws of Christ’s Church, drawing others to God by living a Christ-like life, and frequent prayer.

When can we share in God’s happiness?

We can begin to share in God’s happiness now by living good lives, which bring peace of heart. But by far the greatest happiness will be enjoyed after death. Then the faithful person will hear:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things, so now I will set you over many. Come into your master’s joy! (Mt 25:23)

Does every human being live on after death?

The human soul is immortal. At the resurrection from the dead at the end of the world, body and soul will be reunited to live forever. (997–998, 1022)

… those who did good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who wrought evil to the resurrection of judgment. (Jn 5:29)

Do we have a name for this everlasting happiness with God?

“Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1024)