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From Aspergillum to Zucchetto: A Glossary of 13 Obscure Catholic Words


How’s your Catholic IQ? If you’re a cradle Catholic and “Et cum spiritu tuo” slides easily off your tongue, you may still find yourself challenged by some of these uniquely Catholic words. A score of 1 to 5 = postulant; 6 to 10 = novice; 11 or higher = professional Catholic.

Aspergillum.  If you’ve attended the Easter Vigil, you remember that the priest walked down the aisle, sprinkling everyone with holy water. He held a type of sprinkler, probably a metallic rod with a round tip, waving it over the heads of worshippers and spraying water. That, my friends, was an aspergillum. The same vessel is used other times, as well: to bless the palm fronds on Palm Sunday, and to bless candles on Candlemas. The priest may also use an aspergillum at a baptism or for other ceremonial purposes, such as blessing the entrance of a house during a house blessing.

Basilica. A church building noted for its antiquity, dignity, and historical value, and which has a significant architectural or artistic worth or significance, may be granted the status of “basilica.” In the United States, there are 69 churches which have been honored as basilicas; and worldwide, there are nearly 1,600. Unique to a basilica are two symbols: the conopaeum (See? Another new word!), a silk canopy that looks like an umbrella with yellow and red stripes, traditional papal colors; and the tintinnabulum, a bell that is mounted on a pole and carried in processions. A basilica is also permitted to carry crossed keys, a symbol of the papacy, on banners and furnishings.

Read more at National Catholic Register.

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