The Ultimate Catholic Quiz*
There are no trick questions, but there are questions that will trip you up if you fail to read carefully. An answer is counted as wrong if any part of it—such as a date or name—is wrong. Your goal is not to find the answer that is least wrong, but the one answer that is wholly correct, which may be “none of the above”. On average, most informed Catholics score 50%. How well did you do?
The Ark of the Covenant
a. The Ark of the Covenant wasn’t a boat. You will find the account of the Flood, and thus Noah’s Ark (a very large boat), in Genesis 6-9.
b. Yes. It was more like a safe-deposit box, made of gold-plated wood and measuring two-and-a-half cubits in length and one-and-a-half cubits in width and height. (A cubit is the length from the elbow to the tip of the outstretched middle finger, approximately 18 inches.)
c. It was lost centuries before Caiaphas was born. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 597 B.C., and there is no record of the Ark’s location after that. According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, Caiaphas was appointed high priest in A.D. 18.
d. If some adventurous biblical scholar has suggested this, I’ve missed the news— and, if he has suggested it, he’s wrong.
e. The right answer is b.
The patron of air travelers is
a. In 1925, Pope Pius XI named Frances of Rome the patron saint of automobile drivers. His choice derived from the legend that when Frances walked along roads at night, an angel lighted her way with a lantern so that she would not stumble.
b. Sister Bertrille was the name of the main character in the television show The Flying Nun, which ran from 1967 to 1970. She “flew” when a breeze caught her large, stiff cornette and lifted her off the ground.
c. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663) was a Franciscan friar and mystic known to levitate when in deep prayer, an accomplishment sufficiently impressive for him to be named patron of air travelers, aviators, and astronauts.
d. Bona of Pisa (1156-1207) almost qualifies. She is the patron saint of travelers in general and specifically of guides, pilgrims, and flight attendants—but not air travelers as such.
d. Answer c is correct.
Who committed the first sin, not counting the fallen angels?
a. No, since Adam and Eve had sinned even before Cain and Abel were born.
b. No, because Eve sinned before Adam when she ate the forbidden fruit. His sin came immediately thereafter. See Genesis 3:6.
c. Although Eve sinned first and induced Adam to sin, we do not inherit original sin from her but from him, because he was the head of the human race.
d. No, since we don’t inherit original sin from Eve.
e. Each of the above answers is incorrect, making this one the right answer.
a. Only in paintings are angels youths.
b. Angels are not babies either. Fortunately, this Baroque artistic convention no longer is in use. It may have helped to give rise to the popular idea that, when an infant dies, he becomes an angel in heaven. This is quite wrong. Men and angels are distinct kinds of creatures. One can’t tun into the other. When a human being of any age dies and goes to heaven, he is in heaven as a human being—initially just as a soul, later (at the end of time) with his resurrected body. Granted, human souls are spirits, and angels are spirits, but they are quite different spirits. (God is a spirit too, and He is immeasurably more different still.) A yet-bodiless man in heaven is not an angel and should not be referred to as one, even colloquially.
c. Of course, you have to believe in angels.
d. The Nicene Creed recited on Sundays refers to believing in “all things visible and invisible” (in Latin, “visibilium omnium et invisibilium”). The unseen or invisible part of creation includes good angels and fallen angels (demons).
e. Answer d is right.
a. Many people think so, but the Rosary predated Saint Dominic. Centuries before him, monks had begun to recite all 150 psalms together in choir. As time went on, it was felt that lay brothers, known as conversi, should have some form of prayer of their own. They were distinct from choir monks, and a chief distinction was that they were illiterate. Since they couldn’t read the psalms, they couldn’t recite then with the monks. They needed an easily remembered prayer. The prayer first chosen was the Our Father. The conversi used strings of beads to keep count of the prayers. During the twelfth century, those beads came to be used to count Hail Marys—or, more properly, the first half of what we now call the Hail Mary (the second half was added later).
b. True. The comeback is obvious among Catholics, but now even some Protestants are turning to the Rosary. (Mr. Ripley, call your office.)
c. Incorrect. Although praying the Rosary is a good thing, you needn’t suffer pangs of conscience if it happens not to be your favorite devotion. There is no obligation to pray it.
d. Before he was elected Pope, Angelo Roncalli prayed five decades of the Rosary daily, but after his election as John XXIII, he went to the full 15 traditional decades, saying to an inquirer, “Now that I’m Pope, I need more help.”
e. This is incorrect because b is the right answer.
A priest’s power to confect the Eucharist
a. How can this be since a private Mass by a priest is not only valid but encouraged? A priest doesn’t need a congregation to celebrate a valid Mass; he doesn’t even need an altar server.
b. When it comes to the Eucharist, bishops and priests have exactly the same consecrating power. A deacon has none.
c. This is correct. Is given to him through the laying on of hands by his ordaining bishop.
d. Vatican II said no such thing. If it had, it would have contradicted infallible teaching—an impossibility.
e. The correct answer is c.
What is circumincession?
a. No, you’re thinking of circumcision.
b. Yes, this is right. Also known by the Greek term perichoresis, circumincession can be spelled as circuminsession. The late Father John Hardon, S.J., defined circumincession this way: “The mutual immanence of the three distinct persons of the Holy Trinity. The Father is entirely in the Son, likewise in the Holy Spirit; and so is the Son in the Father and the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit in the Father and the Son” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, Doubleday, 1980, pp. 106-7).
c. Not even close. Perhaps you heard an echo of circumnavigation and so guessed that circumincession had something to do with explorations.
d. If you chose this answer, perhaps you had in mind something to do with a liturgical procession.
e. Answer b is correct.