US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Why are Advent candles pink and purple?

Catholics use three purple candles—the color typically associated with penance—and one pink, the color of rejoicing worn on the third Sunday of Advent.

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith
In a season filled with red Santa suits and green Christmas trees, the purple and pink candles of the Advent wreath can seem incongruous with many Catholic families’ usual Christmas decorations. The modern Advent wreath, created in 19th-century Germany by Johann Hinrich Wichern, featured red and white candles. While these colors may be more in keeping with traditional Christmas décor, they were most likely used because they were just what was available.
 

Do Catholics believe in evolution?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith
Imagine if we were able to see evolution as a sign of the unlimited potential of God’s creation, rather than a threat to our limited point of view. 
 
For the biblical literalist, the theory of evolution is problematic because it appears to contradict the stories found in the earliest chapters of Genesis. But is literalism the best approach to understanding scripture? The Catechism of the Catholic Church discourages literalism when it encourages believers to recognize the various literary genres found in the Bible.
 

Where do clerical collars come from?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith
Mark Twain once remarked that “clothes make the man” because “naked people have little or no influence on society.” Since clergy aren’t known for appearing nude in public, we should probably stick to the question of whether or not they should be distinguished by their dress. 
 

Why do Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on different days?

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith

Since the early Middle Ages, all Christians have used the same method for determining the date of Easter, though they arrive at a different result. Described authoritatively in The Reckoning of Time by eighth-century English scholar Bede, “The Sunday following the full moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” The equinox is observed on March 21. This straightforward method based upon an easily observable natural phenomenon survived the Schism of 1054, when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches split from each other.


Why does the pope wear white?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith

Pope Francis entered the papal conclave wearing the scarlet red of a cardinal and emerged in gleaming white. From where did this tradition arise? The old saying suggests that “good guys always wear white,” but have popes always done so?


Where can Catholics be buried?

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith

Traditionally, Catholics believed that a person could reach heaven only if he or she was buried in a Catholic cemetery. But limited space meant few people could be buried in the ground and left there forever. Instead, most people were buried temporarily in the parish cemetery until their bodies decomposed. Their bones were then exhumed and placed among the bones of previous generations of believers in an ossuary—a receptacle or room where bones of the deceased are gathered.


What do Catholics believe about the devil?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith

The most popular explanation of Satan maintains that he is a fallen angel tempted by pride. He is said to be a seducer originally created as good and whose rebellion against the divine will is reflected in the temptation that he offered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.


What is original sin?

By Joel Schorn |
Article Your Faith

You won’t find the phrase “original sin” in the Bible. The story of humanity’s “fall” in Genesis 1 doesn’t use the term, and St. Paul, one of the church’s earliest theologians, only hints at it in places. After the first century the early church fathers started to define it, but those in the East and West took different approaches.


Who invented the nativity scene?

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith
If you missed the feast of Francis of Assisi in October, the Christmas season offers another opportunity to commemorate the saint. Anyone who has erected a nativity scene is following Francis’ 13th-century example.

Pages