Ghosts, goblins, witches, Monstrances … wait, what? Halloween is drawing near and that has us thinking about all sorts of spooky lore — and also about those words, objects and customs in Catholicism that sound scary, but are really quite good. Chalk it up to all the old Greek and Latin, or to the Church’s long and involved history, or to our goofy senses of humor, but there is always more than meets the eye when Catholicism is involved.
Eleven Catholic Things That Sound Scary But Aren't:
What it sounds like: The mother of all monsters. Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolfman bound together to form a Super Monster, one that could suck blood, deadwalk and shapeshift in order to terrorize humanity.
What it really is: The vessel used to display the consecrated Eucharist, often during adoration. The word is derived from the Latin “monstrare,” which means, “to show.”
What it sounds like: An illness that is guaranteed to kill you. There’s no recovering from this one. Might as well say your goodbyes and accept it. It will also likely be painful.
What it really is: A district within the Church hierarchy that is overseen by a bishop. Dioceses are further divided into individual parishes. Larger or more significant dioceses are known as archdioceses and are governed by an archbishop, who is sometimes a cardinal. It is derived from a Greek word for administration.
What it sounds like: Its homonym, perish — to suffer death, ruin or destruction.
What it really is: A subdivision of a diocese comprising one community church, its pastor and additional clergy, religious and their lay parishioners.
What it sounds like: Forceps? Forceps. Clamps? Clamps. Scapular? Scapular. A surgical tool if we ever heard of one, a scapular will cut you. And perhaps remove a vital organ.
What it is: A small piece of paper, wood or cloth bearing a religious image or text worn around the neck worn by the faithful. These are known as devotional scapulars. Some orders of clergy and religious wear apron-like scapulars that are part of the traditional habit, known as monastic scapulars.
What it sounds like: Cleaning out your refrigerator, you find a Tupperware container filled long ago with a substance now playing host to a vibrant blue-green fuzz. That fuzz is aspergillum.
What it really is: The tool used in liturgy to sprinkle holy water. It is commonly either a brush or a perforated ball at the end of a handle, and often used for blessings and for the sprinkling rite that accompanies the renewal of baptismal promises during the Easter season.
What it sounds like: I’m sorry! No, I’m sorry! No, really, I’m sorry!
What it really is: The study and defense of Catholicism. It comes from the Greek word meaning “to speak in defense.”
What it sounds like: Woof. This puppy is unyielding, unreasonable and recalcitrant.
What it really is: Beliefs that are integral to the Faith of the Church and therefore must be accepted by the faithful. The Trinity is a dogma of the Faith, as is the Resurrection of Christ. Dogma is derived from the Greek word for “to think or to ponder.”
8) Diet of Worms:
What it sounds like: This one needs no explanation. Gross.
What it really is: The formal assembly conducted in 1521 to address Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Diet is another word for big, fancy meeting, and Worms is the German city in which it took place (pronounced “vorms”). Luther was decreed a threat at the Diet and condemned by the Holy Roman Empire and went into hiding. But the condemnation was never enforced and Luther was eventually able to return to public life and continue his work. And that's why there are Lutherans.
What it sounds like: Frankenstein’s smelly brother. Smellier, that is.
What it really is: An aromatic tree resin burned as incense in Church services. It was also one of the gifts (in addition to gold and myrrh) given to the infant Jesus by the Magi.
What it sounds like: A grunting, saber-toothed, loin cloth-wearing brute of Middle Earthian origin.
What it really is: A calendar used by priests to determine daily readings and feasts. The ordo also contains an annual necrology of deceased clergy, which actually is a little scary.
What it sounds like: Another mythical creature, this one serpentine, fire-breathing, and one-eyed, made infamous in campy “Synod vs. Ordo” films.
What it really is: A Church council gathered to discuss and agree upon doctrinal issues.
Honorable mention goes to:
-Any pope with an “X” in his name. There’s something about that Roman numeral that simply means business. I guess it implies that you are not to “cross” them lest you want to get “x’d” out, or even “x-communicated.” But really it just means they’re the 10th elected pope to have chosen that particular papal name. It seems particularly ironic in the case of Innocent X.
-Relics. These corporal remnants of saints and popes that are preserved for veneration are revered in the Church as a physical connection to a truly holy soul. It’s a beautiful custom, but also a little spooky when you get down to brass tacks and think about that ancient finger pointing at you from the altar. Extra points go to the Incorruptibles, those saints whose earthly bodies appear to have undergone little or no decomposition, a sign of their holiness. If you’ve been to Rome, perhaps you’ve visited the “Bone Church” (aka Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins) in which the bones of over 4,000 monks are on ornate display. That’s a little bit cool, a lot bit creepy.
-Lauds and vespers. These terms for morning and evening prayers bear some inherent eeriness. Maybe it’s because “vespers” sort of sounds like “whispers,” and if you’ve seen the show “Lost” you know that whispers usually lead to something unfortunate. Also, in scary movies when someone is about to get scapular’d, the villain seems to always utter, “Say your prayers.” So does he mean lauds? Vespers? Both?
Either way, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Are there any Catholic words that sound a lot worse than they actually are?Let us know in the comments below.
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