Glossary of Church Terms
Absolution: Act by which a priest, acting as the agent of Christ, grants forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Penance.
Acolytes: One who assists in the celebration (i.e., carrying candles, holding the Pope's staff miter, etc.).
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: Prayer to Christ, who is recognized as being truly present in the Sacrament, which is displayed for the people.
Adoration: Refers to the external acts of reverent admiration or honor given to a thing or person.
Alb: The white garment covering one's street dress.
Alleluia Acclamation: This acclamation of praise to God follows the second reading and serves to prepare the assembly for the Gospel.
Altar: A table on which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. It is the center of importance in the place where the Mass is celebrated. Also called: The Table of the Lord.
Ambo: The place where the Scriptures are proclaimed. Avoid: Pulpit
Amen: 1) Hebrew word meaning truly, it is true. As concluding word of prayers it expressed assent to and acceptance of God's will; 2) called the great Amen, it is the acclamation by the people expressing their agreement with all that has been said and done in the Eucharistic prayer.
Annul: Properly called the degree of nullity, this is the declaration by authorities that a marriage is null and void, because it was never valid.
Apostle - Apostolic - Disciple: Literally "one sent." Normally this refers to the 12 men chosen by Christ, to be the bearers of his teachings to the world. Term apostolic generally refers back to the 12 apostles. In the Church it characterizes certain documents, appointments or structures initiated by the pope or the Holy See. Disciple is one who follows the teachings of Jesus.
Apostolate: The ministry or work of an apostle. In Catholic usage, a term covering all kinds and areas of work and endeavor for the service of God and the Church and the good of people.
Apostolic Nunciature: The offices of the Holy Father's representative to a country or to the Church in that country.
Archbishop: Title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses.
Archdiocese: The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province.
Aspergillum: 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.
Assembly: Those present to celebrate the liturgy. Other terms: to use: "The Community," "The Church (as people not building)," "The Worshipers," "The Faithful," or "the congregation." Avoid: Spectators, Crowd Audience--all passive words which do not reflect what those present do.
Auxiliary Bishop: A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese, to assist a residential bishop.