Two Sundays ago, there was a baptism during one of the Masses at the parish where I serve as Sacramental Minister. As I was preparing my homily for the weekend, I realized that there was a natural connection in the Lectionary readings (particularly the gospel) and the practice of baptizing infants. In talking about discipleship, the gospel that Sunday reminded us that God takes the initiative in our relationship – God invites us to follow him. Of course, we have to respond to God’s invitation, but the first initiative is from God. That’s grace – God’s gift to us, without any merit or work on our part. And that’s one of the reasons we in the Catholic Church baptize infants – because it is a symbol and a reminder that God takes the first step by bestowing grace on us and inviting us to follow him. The rest of our lives are an attempt to respond to that invitation, to open up the gift of grace that God has given us and put it to use.

There was only a baptism at one of the Masses, so I put together two versions of my homily – one that called particular attention to the baptism that was to follow the homily, and the other that talked more generally about God’s invitation to follow him. A parishioner records my homilies each weekend and puts a podcast on the parish website, and that particular weekend, the version of the homily recorded and posted was not from the Mass that included the baptism. But I think you could make the connection by listening to the other version – which you can do here.

After the Mass that included the baptism, a parishioner thanked me for explaining why we baptize infants – she said it was helpful for her to know how to explain an important Catholic practice that a number of other Christian communities do not agree with. The readings, homily, and post-Mass conversation got me thinking … this particular idea really comes down to an understanding of grace – which, to me, is one of the most important words/theological concepts for Catholics to understand. And yet, my experience is that many Catholics could not explain the concept of grace in a concise way that actually applies to their lives. And are there other words/theological concepts that are equally important and yet little understood? Might this be a way to approach catechesis and evangelization – a brief Catholic dictionary of sorts?

Over the past week – during which I was on vacation, when my mind was gradually de-cluttered from other pressing thoughts and duties – I started to create a list. It’s still a work in progress, and right now it’s just a list of words – hopefully at some point to be fleshed out with definitions, stories, and applications. And I am open to suggestions of what words should make the list. But as a start, here it is …

Ten Words Every Catholic Should Know

  • Grace
  • Sacrament
  • Revelation
  • Incarnation
  • Freedom
  • Holiness
  • Discipleship
  • Evangelization
  • Liturgy
  • Mercy

What do you think? Are there other words that you think should be included? If you would add a different word, what word from the above list would you remove to keep the total at just ten words? And do you think this could be a valuable tool for catechesis and evangelization? I’d love to hear your thoughts.