A Community, a Way of Life, a Religion
Catholics form a diverse community of varied ethnic and national groups that share a sense of belonging to the formal institution of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council defined the Church as “a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind.” In joining the Church, each member joins a community that comprises the Body of Christ on earth.
The local congregation, ministered to by a priest, is the basic unit of Catholic community. Each congregation is part of a larger diocese (the territory under a bishop's jurisdiction), and all the dioceses in the world answer to the Curia in Rome. All these units make up one living, breathing entity that prays and worships in the same way, forming a huge community of souls.
The senses of community and mutual responsibility are reinforced through thousands of service organizations that the Church sponsors around the world. Service to others is elemental to Catholicism. Out of love for the Lord, the Church is expected to serve mankind compassionately, both through its service institutions and through the work of individual Catholics.In Devotion to God
The religious aspect of Catholicism is its belief in and an understanding of God. Catholics learn how to live their lives based on their devotion to God, and Catholicism offers them a way of life that is based on specific doctrines, faith, theology, and a firm sense of moral responsibility. These elements, based on the Scriptures or “divine revelations,” later evolved through tradition. Other religions may contain some or many of these elements, but these specific liturgical, ethical, and spiritual orientations give Catholicism its unique character.
Tradition is key to understanding Catholicism. According to Catholic thought, the Bible is considered to be a product of traditions, pulled together from numerous sources and over a long period of time.