With all my years of CCD, Catholic High School, and attending a Catholic University, perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention, but the following are a list of 7 concepts I either never understood, priests or parents (or anyone else) never talked about, or for whatever reason, I never fully grasped until recently as an adult:
1. The real meaning of “The Communion of Saints“. This isn’t simply a catchy phrase meaning we are all happy together in Heaven. The Church Triumphant are the Saints in Heaven. They help us, intercede for us, and pray for us. The Church Militant are all of us here on earth, fighting the good fight. We gain help from those in Heaven (and even those in Purgatory) and can truly help those suffering in Purgatory and on their way to Heaven. The Church Suffering are the holy souls in purgatory. They can no longer pray for themselves, and rely on us for our prayers and sacrifices. All of us together make up The Communion of Saints.
2. Fridays are a day of penance. This means EVERY Friday, and not just during Lent! While abstinence from meat is required during Lent, on all other Fridays, we can choose our penance. Abstaining from meat is preferred, but we can do a kind deed, say an extra rosary, give up a small comfort, basically any penance of our choice.
3. Going to a psychic or having tarot cards read is a serious (mortal) sin against the 1st Commandment.
4. The pope isn’t infallible - he is very human like the rest of us. In fact, it is said that he goes to confession at least weekly. The infallibility part comes into play when defining faith and morals, “ex cathedra”, (meaning from the chair). The last official ex cathedra document was in 1950, The Assumption of Mary, by Pope Pius XII.
5. It is a requirement that all Catholics confess any mortal sins within a year. For most of the people I know, and definately myself, this boils down to confession at least once a year. (The barest minimum!) It is Church teaching.
6. Fasting 1 hour before Communion is required. (Water or medicine is OK, but not coffee, or gum). That means, if I scarf down my breakfast too soon before Church, or in the car on the way, I shouldn’t receive Communion.
7. This one is probably obvious to any serious Catholic, but I never deeply grasped what exactly was happening at the Mass. We are entering into the same sacrifice as the sacrifice offered up at Calvary. We really enter into it, (in an unbloody way - no physical shedding of blood). The priest is our earthly representative and he is actually offering Jesus to our Heavenly Father. This transcends all space and time. What an awesome concept! Until recently, I never really considered Mass in this way. I learned about the consecration and what that means when I was younger, but never really got that it was The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.