How can we explain the Catholic faith simply?

A summary for helping elderly converts understand what must be believed

Image: David Gilbert Wright

On 24 August 2022, my grandmother finished her time on earth.

In 2020, in her mid-nineties, she was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

Given her age and other factors, a typical period of instruction was not possible.

It was my responsibility to help her understand certain things, but even simple catechisms felt too complicated in this situation. As I was unable to find anything that I thought was suitable, I wrote a simple summary of the Catholic Faith for her.

It was not a substitute for a priest’s instruction. It was just a brief summary of preliminary, basic points. As a related matter, see this article which considers which dogmas which must be believed explicitly, and with supernatural faith, in order for a person to be saved.

This is an edited version of that summary. I hope that it may prove of some use to readers in similar situations, as I could not find anything of similar brevity and simplicity.

Although this is in her memory, it is more intended to be a useful resource than a record of what I used. As such, any comments on making things clearer, simpler or better are welcome.

Please remember her in your prayers.

A Simple Summary of the Catholic Faith
based on The Apostles’ Creed
By S.D. Wright
Dedicated to the memory of his Grandmother – RIP
Printable Version

I believe in God…

There is only one God, who created everything, who is all good and who loves mankind. He has spoken to us, and revealed himself to us.

He made us to know, love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him forever in Heaven.

We cannot reach this happiness ourselves. We worship God, accept everything which he has revealed to us, pray to him and ask him for help. He gives us everything we need to reach this happiness: he will judge us at the end of our lives, and reward or punish us accordingly.

… the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth

God the Father is “the First Person of the Holy Trinity.”

In the one God, there are three divine persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.”

These three persons are distinct, but equal in everything – having the same divine nature from all eternity.

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord

This Jesus Christ is God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

He is truly God from all eternity, equal to God the Father and the Holy Ghost.

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary

God made Adam and Eve in a state of friendship with himself, but they sinned and disobeyed him.

We have all sinned in Adam, and all inherit this “original sin,” and are born in a state of rebellion against God, without grace and other gifts. It is like we have been born in an enemy camp, at war with God.

We have also all sinned ourselves, choosing to follow our own whims rather than God’s law.

The greater the person wronged, the greater the debt of guilt to be paid – and the choice to forgive belongs to the one who has been wronged.

We cannot make amends ourselves for such offences against the infinite and all-loving God, or demand that he forgive us.

But God loves us so much, that he sent his Son to take human nature from the all-pure and ever-Virgin Mary, to make amends on our behalf, and to redeem us from our sins.

In doing this, Jesus became a true man, whilst remaining true God.

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and was buried. He descended into hell

God chose not to overlook our sin, but to make amends for us, as one of us. He did this, and redeemed us, by offering a perfect sacrifice of infinite value in his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus is the only redeemer, and his way is the only way to a restored friendship with God and to Heaven.

His suffering and death shows us what a terrible offence sin is. It also shows us how much Jesus loves us and wants us to be in Heaven with him. We must try to return his great love.

Jesus died and was buried, and his soul went down to where the souls of the saints were, waiting for him to free them, and bring them to Heaven.

The third day he rose again from the dead

On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead, body and soul, glorious and immortal.

By rising from the dead he proved that he was truly God, and that he had triumphed over sin and death.

He ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty

After proving his resurrection by showing himself to people for forty days, he ascended into Heaven as a great victor, to prepare a place for us with him.

He is now sitting at the right hand of God the Father and waiting for us to join him.

From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

When we die, we will immediately appear before Jesus. Every detail of our life will be laid bare and judged.

God will reward the just with Heaven, and punish the wicked forever in Hell.

Before then, we can ask him for his mercy and friendship, and so join him in Heaven. We cannot and should not try to rely on what goodness we think we have when we appear before the great Judge.

Rather we should seek his mercy now – today – in this life.

I believe in the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. He is truly God from all eternity.

He guides and sanctifies the Church, preserving it in truth, and strengthening us, its members.

The Holy Catholic Church

Jesus established one, and only one true Church, which is the Roman Catholic Church – outside of which there is no salvation.

Every other group has broken away from this true Church, which is the only safe Ark in the flood. It is the safe ladder to Heaven, and the sacraments, which give us grace, are like the rungs.

We must believe everything which the Church teaches, because it is God who has revealed this teaching to mankind, and God is absolutely trustworthy. As Jesus said to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me.”

The Church is Jesus’ body on earth, and as members, we are like his limbs. We are united with him and made his members through Baptism.

Jesus carried his cross and suffered. If we are members of his body, then we must carry our crosses and suffer too. Just as it was for Jesus, this suffering will lead us to glory and happiness.

The Communion of Saints

All Catholics, living and dead, are united.

No Catholic is ever alone: we are united to Jesus, our head; to every Catholic on the earth; and to those who have finished their time on earth.

Just as we pray for each other, those in Heaven – particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary – pray for us, and we ask them for their prayers. We also pray for our dearly departed and all the dead, asking that God grant them rest and peace.

This union amongst all Catholics, living and dead, is made perfect in Holy Communion.

The Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, hidden under the appearances of bread and wine.

Jesus is really and truly present in the Holy Eucharist, as really and truly as he was in Nazareth. It is not a mere symbol or metaphor.

Jesus gave us himself in Holy Communion to make us one with him and each other; to nourish our souls as normal food does for our bodies; and to prepare us now for being happy with him forever in heaven.

The forgiveness of sins

As well as making us the members of his body, Baptism applies to us the redemption which Jesus won for us on the Cross. It washes away the original sin inherited from Adam, and our own sins. It makes us God’s children and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven.

As Christians we must obey God’s law, and this is possible with his help, obtained through prayer. But we remain able to fall into sin, and some sins destroy our friendship with God.

On Easter Sunday, Jesus gave his Apostles the power to forgive sins, which is still in the Church. If, after Baptism, we commit such “mortal” sins, then we confess them to a priest, who will absolve us from sin if we will amend our lives.

As well as Baptism, Penance and Holy Communion, Christ also gave us four other sacraments.

Baptisms performed outside the Church are not always done properly, so converts are normally baptised “conditionally,” just in case. The priest will also help them to confess their sins.

The resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.

We will all rise from our graves on the last day, in our bodies, to appear before the judgement seat of Christ.

The good, in a state of grace and friendship with God, will enter Heaven with their bodies; and the wicked, also with their bodies, will go to eternal punishment in Hell.

God wants us to be with him. Nothing is more important in life than that we know God, believe his word taught to us by his Holy Catholic Church, love him above all things, serve him, pray to him for help, and trust in his promises.

If we know, love and serve God in this life, then we can trust that we will be happy with him for ever in Heaven.


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5 thoughts on “How can we explain the Catholic faith simply?

      1. Yes; something visually and graphically appealing, that people could pick up (or be handed) and would feel encouraged to act upon. There would be some effort and expense, but perhaps SSPX or a similar group might be asked to take it on.

  1. Anthony Murphy

    The style of this seems like a distillation of the Baltimore Catechism No. 4. introductory section on basic prayers.

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