Glossary of Terms

Here are a number of Catholic and religious terms, some of which we discovered written in documents within the St. David’s Priory Collection, held at the Richard Burton Archives. We have also included other relevant common or obscure words to help those with an interest in St. David’s Priory, or Catholicism in general.

Acolyte – A liturgical minister.

Ave Maria – Latin meaning ‘Hail Mary’.

Beatitude – Happiness or blessedness, often used to describe the eternal happiness found in heaven. 

Breviary – Book of prayers, hymns, psalms and readings which make up the Divine Office, a form of prayer.

Bursar – Senior financial administrator. 

Chalice – Used to hold wine for drinking at Mass.

Ciborium – A bowl or pot used for holding Communion bread.

Clergy – People who are ordained in the church e.g. Bishops and Priests.

Corpus Christi – Latin meaning ‘The Body of Christ’.

Decalogue – The Ten Commandments.

Ecumenism – The principle or aim of promoting unity among all Christian Churches.

Encyclical – Letter from the Pope to the Church or to the world.

Expiation – The act of redemption for sin which Christ achieved for man through his crucifixion. 

Genuflect – To bend one knee in a sign of respect during worship.

Intercession – Saying a prayer on behalf of someone else.

Lay – Church members who are not ordained.

Litany – Form of prayer. The clergy will recite a number of petitions to God, responded by a set response from the congregation.

Magisterium – The teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

Missal – Book of prayers for use in Mass.

Novena – Nine days of prayer.

O.S.B – Order of St. Benedict.

Pentateuch – First five books of the Old Testament.

Pest House – Building used for persons with communicable diseases.

Presbyter – An elder, priest or minister of the Church.

Roman Curia – Administration which assists the Pope in governing the Catholic Church.

Solemnity – Important or special day in the Church’s liturgical calendar. 

Tabernacle – An ornate cupboard or cabinet used to store a sacrament, usually on or above an altar. 

Ult. and Inst. – Ult. – Last month, Isnt. – This month. Both are used in reference to finances.

Vespers – Evening prayers said by the Divine Office.

Votive – Offered or consecrated in fulfilment of a vow. 


Votive Offering – objects displayed in a sacred place to aid worship.

Votive Candle – small, white candle often used as a votive offering in a religious ceremony.

Votive Mass – celebrating a mystery of God or a saint.



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