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12 Catholic Words that Don't Sound Like What They Mean

07/07/2011 Comments (117)

I was born a Catholic but that doesn’t mean I knew anything about the faith until I decided to investigate it for myself in college. In my research, I came across a number of things that weren’t true that I thought were, many things that were true that I hadn’t thought were true, and words that I misunderstood completely.

So to help others here’s a list of Catholic words that probably don’t mean what some may think they mean.

Acolytes - Sounds like something you drink to flush out your system. Hyper-Ade! Now with extra acolytes. In reality it’s one who assists in the celebration.

Aspergillum - Let’s be frank. It sounds like a fungus that wraps itself up in your intestine and makes you stay in the bathroom for three days. But it’s actually just a vessel or device used for sprinkling holy water during special blessings.

Beatification - is not a makeover. It’s actually for those who don’t need one.

Canon Law - Sounds like the title of a Steven Seagal movie. “Cannon Law -This Time It’s Personal.” But unfortunately, it’s not a thing that goes boom and knocks holes through the stomachs of henchmen. It’s the collection of laws (canons) governing administration of the Roman Catholic Church. Booooring!!!

Catechetics - It turns out that it’s not an dancercise regimen like Zumba like I thought. It’s from the Greek meaning “to sound forth,” and it is the procedure for teaching religion. You could imagine how embarrased I was showing up in my leopard print leotards and my Ricky Martin CD. (They’re pretty unforgiving. The leotards, not the catuchumens.)

Ciborium - Come on. That just sounds cool, like a race of Star Trek villains with giant heads and few morals. “The Ciborium have raised their shields, Captain. Fire!” But it’s actually a vessel used to hold the consecrated bread for the distribution of the Body of Christ during communion which is probably a lot more awesome than Star Trek villains.

Concupiscence -Actually that’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

Conference of Major Superiors of Men -How awesome does that sound? It’s like totally better than Fight Club. Charlie Sheen and I were ready to join, but it turns out it’s just an organization of major superiors representing communities of men religious in the United States. Charlie was ticked. Took a while to talk him down.

Dalmatic -Sounds like there should be spots on it but there’s not. At least not often. It’s the vestment the deacon wears over the alb on solemn occasions

Titular Sees - YOU GIGGLED!! You know you did.  Seriously. Grow up. It’s just dioceses where the Church once flourished but which later died out. Bishops without a territorial or residential diocese of their own are given titular sees.

Ultreya - I’m not saying what it sounds like it could be, but I’m pretty sure that it is a sin to cut it, if you know what I mean. It’s actually Spanish word for “Keep on going!” or “Onward!” It is a weekly or monthly gathering of all Cursillo Group Reunions in an area to share prayers and songs and snacks.  Ya know, kinda’ like kindergarten in Catholic school.

Zucchetto - I’ll take extra parmesan on my zuccheto please with some lean mutton on the side. It’s a small skullcap worn by clerics.

So I hope this clears things up for you and helps you avoid some embarrasing mistakes. And just so you know, I looked pretty darn awesome in the leotards but unfortunately all the pictures were destroyed in an accidental fire in my backyard.

HT Catholic Glossary

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About Matthew Archbold

Matthew Archbold
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Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph's University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.