Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Phrases & Abbreviations
Catholics Use

You get a Christmas card from a Catholic and at the bottom she writes "J.M.J." What's the deal?

Catholics are wont to sprinkle abbreviations, Latin (sometimes Greek) phrases, and abbreviations of Latin (or Greek) phrases in their letters and sig lines, on their websites, and so on. You will also see abbreviations in icons and other types of sacred art. Here's a little guide to help you understand what these mean. (See also Abbreviations Seen after Names of Clergy and Religious and Christian Symbols)

The plus indicates the Cross. It's used in Missals and prayer books and such to indicate when the Sign of the Cross should be made. It's also used before the names of Bishops -- e.g., +Fulton Sheen.

On the internet, informally, sometimes two crosses are used to indicate an Archbishop -- e.g., ++Tobin.


Anno Domini, or "Year of Our Lord". This is used to indicate a date that occurred after Christ's birth, such as "A.D. 1976". Note that the "A.D." comes before the date, not after.

This dating system, along with the use of "B.C." for "Before Christ," used to be standard in the Western world; but secularism has replaced "A.D." with "C.E." for "Common Era" (and "B.C." with "B.C.E." for "Before Common Era"), thereby removing reference to Christ. Catholics should not give in to this!

By the way, the calendar system that gave rise to the use of "A.D." and "B.C." was begun by St. Denis the Little, a.k.a. Dionysius Exiguus, (6th c.). The Venerable Bede (A.D. 672/3-735) popularized this usage.
Age quod agis "Do what you are doing." A phrase first famously used by Pope St. Gregory the Great, it's become often used to mean that, in order to serve God best, it's important to stay focused on what you're doing


Ave Maria, or "Hail Mary"


Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, or "For the greater glory of God." This is the Jesuit motto, beloved by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Athanasius contra mundum

"Athanasius against the world." This phrase refers to St. Athanasius' brave stand against the Arian heresy of the 4th c. when the vast majority of Bishops -- even Pope Liberius himself -- succumbed to heresy. St. Athanasius was even excommunicated for his orthodoxy, but was later exonerated and canonized. The full phrase is, "If the world goes against Truth, then Athanasius goes against the world." The story of St. Athanasius is a good "check" on papolatry and the errors of false obedience. His words to the faithful are good solace for traditional Catholics today who watch Novus Ordo-ites destroy church buildings, trash the liturgy, and preach lies:
"May God console you!... What saddens you ... is the fact that others [Arian heretics] have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises -- but you have the apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true Faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the faith dwells within you. Let us consider: what is more important, the place or the Faith? The true Faith, obviously."


Before Christ (see "A.D."). While "A.D." comes before the date, "B.C." comes after the date, ex. one writes "A.D. 1976" but "242 B.C."

Benedicere, Laudare, Praedicare

"To bless, to praise, to preach." One of the mottoes of the Dominican Order.
Bis Mortis, Semel Sepultus "Twice Died, Buried Only Once." This inscription is found on the tomb of John Dun Scotus. It's also given as "Semel Sepultus Bis Mortuus."


Bonae Memoriae, or "Of Happy Memory"


Blessed Virgin Mary
CF The letters CF stand for "coactus feci" when used after a signature. This signifies that the signature was added by force, under duress, and was compelled. See also VC (vi coactus) below.
Christus A.O.M.P.S. Defendit Christus Ab Omni Malo Plebem Suam Defendat (“Christ defends His people against every evil”)

Christus resurrexit!

Christ is risen! This greeting is used during the Easter Octave. The response is "Vere resurrexit" ("He is risen indeed!").

Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat

Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands
CINO Catholic in name only -- i.e., a baptized Catholic who doesn't take his religion seriously

Contemplare et Contemplata aliis Tradere

"To Contemplate and hand on to others the fruit of our contemplation." One of the mottoes of the Dominican Order.


"Crux sacra sit mihi lux" (Holy Cross be my light). This appears on the St. Benedict Medal.

Deus Meus et Omnia

"My God and My All." Motto of the Franciscan Order.

Deus non inridetur

"God is not mocked"

Deus vult!

"God wills it!" Motto of the Crusades.


Dei Gratia, or "By the Grace of God"


Dominus Noster, or "Our Lord"


Dominus Noster Jesus Christus, "Our Lord Jesus Christ"

Dominus vobiscum

The Lord be with you (plural "you"). These words are sung many times by the priest during the Mass. The choir's response to them is "Et cum spiritu tuo," which means "And with thy spirit." If you want to tell a single person "May the Lord be with you, the form would be "Dominus tecum."


Deo volente, or "God willing"

Ecce Agnus Dei

"Behold the Lamb of God." St. John the Baptist's words. The full phrase is "Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi" (Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world). These words are said at Mass after the Consecration, when the priest holds up the Blessed Sacrament for us to adore. See John 1:29.

Ecce Homo

"Behold the Man." These are the words of Pontius Pilate as he presents Our Lord, crowned with thorns, to the crowd. See John 19:5.

E. V.

The letters stand for "Ex voto" and denote a votive offering.

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

"Outside the Church there is no salvation." Often abbreviated "EENS" in Catholic discussion groups.

Fel. Mem.

Felicis Memoriae, or "Of Happy Memory," written after the name of a dead person, e.g. "Pope St. Pius X, Fel. Mem., was one of the greatest Popes of all time."

Gloria in excélsis Deo

"Glory to God in the highest." These are the words of the angels announcing the Nativity to the shepherds. The full phrase is "Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will" -- commonly misinterpreted on Christmas cards (and in the King James Version of the Bible) as "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." This misinterpretation has serious theological consequences as it leads one to believe that peace is owed to all men, regardless of their will. See Luke 2:14.

Habemus Papam!

"We have a Pope!" Said after a new Pope is elected.

H. H.

His Holiness (referring to a Pope)


Jesus Christ (from the Greek)


Monogram of Jesus's Name. Many believe the letters mean "Iesus Hominum Salvator" ("Jesus Saviour of Men") or "In His Service." These are false interpretations, but common nonetheless. This monogram is iconographically associated, too, with St. Bernardine of Siena, St. John Capistran, St. Vincent Ferrer, and the Jesuit Order. Sometimes also written as "IHC" or "JHS."

In hoc signo crucis vinces

"In this sign you will conquer." This is the Latin translation of the Greek words, TOUTO NIKA, seen by Constantine in his vision, along with the Chi-Rho.


"Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum" -- "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." This was the sign placed on the top of Jesus' Cross. See Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38 and John 19:19.


in partibus infidelium, or "among the infidels"


In Christo, or "In Christ"

Jesu cum Maria sit nobis in via

"May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way." One of Christopher Columbus's favorite prayers.


see IHS


"Jesus, Mary and Joseph." You will find this most often written, centered, on the tops of correspondence, articles, essays, etc., sometimes with the letters separated by Crosses. Catholic schoolchildren write the initials of the Holy Family across the top of their homework papers.

Kyrie eleison

Lord, have mercy (Greek). This phrase, combined with "Christe eleison" and sung nine times in the traditional Mass, is the only Greek to be found in the Latin Mass.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

"Praise be to Jesus Christ!" This is an indulgenced Christian greeting. The response is "In aeternum!" ("For evermore!")

Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi

"Let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer." This is more liturgically accurate than the more commonly seen "Lex orandi, Lex credendi" ("the law of prayer determines the law of faith"), which was condemned by Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical "Mediator Dei" (paragraphs 46-48). The latter, to use the words of His Holiness, inaccurately assumes that the "sacred liturgy is a kind of proving ground for the truths to be held of faith, meaning by this that the Church is obliged to declare such a doctrine sound when it is found to have produced fruits of piety and sanctity through the sacred rites of the liturgy, and to reject it otherwise." Instead, the rule of belief determines prayer.

Lex orandi, Lex credendi

See above

Mala lex, nulla lex

"A bad law is no law" (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

"Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." These words are part of the Confiteor at Mass, and are spoken as one beats one's breast three times in penance.


Greek acronym for "Meter Theou" or "Mother of God." Often seen in icons.


While not an abbreviation, it is important to know that Catholics capitalize the word "name" when referring to God (e.g., "His Name is Jesus") and the word "face" when referring to the Face of Christ. We also usually capitalize pronouns referring to Jesus to emphasize His divinity (e.g., "He said to His disciples..."), and words referring to the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., "Blood," "Body," etc.).


Notre Dame, French for "Our Lady"
Novus Ordo (the Order of the Mass promulgated after Vatican II)


Greek for "Victor." Often seen in icons along with "IC XC" to indicate "Jesus Christ, Victor"

Noli Me tangere

"Touch Me not." These are the words of Jesus to Mary Magdalen after He rose from the grave. See John 20:17.

Non nobis Domine, sed Tuo Nomine da gloriam

"Not to us, O Lord, but to Thy Name give glory." Motto of the Militia of the Temple, Poor Knights of Christ. Formerly the motto of the Knights Templar, now defunct as it was dissolved by an Apostolic Decree -- a Bull of 22 March, 1312 -- written by Pope Clement V.

Non sum dignus

"I am not worthy." With Mike Meyers's "Wayne World" and its "we're not worthy" catchphrase, you might hear this one relatively often as a joking reference to that. The words come from the prayer of the Roman centurion, and are said at Mass before receiving Communion. The full prayer is "Dómine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanábitur ánima mea." (Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed."). See Matthew 8:8 and Luke 7:6.


Our Lady

Ora et Labora

"Prayer and Work." One of the mottoes of the Benedictine Order and of the Trappists.

Ora pro nobis

Pray for us (addressing one person, as in "Maria, ora pro nobis"). To address more than one person, use "Orate pro nobis," as in "Maria et Ioseph, orate pro nobis."

O wN

Greek for Christ's title "The One Who Is" or "I am" (Exodus 3:14, Apocalypse 4:8). Pronounced "Oh own." Often seen in icons.


Peace. One of the mottoes of the Benedictine Order.

Pax Christi

Peace of Christ

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Pax vobiscum

"Peace be with you" (plural). The singular would be "Pax tecum."

Per Matrem ad Filium

"Through the Mother to the Son." The motto of the Marianist Order.

Quo vadis?

"Where are You going?" These are the words of Pope St. Peter to Jesus, according to a legend. St. Peter tried to flee his persecution in Rome, but met Jesus on the Appian Way. He asked Him, "Dómine, quo vadis?" (Lord, where are You going?). Jesus answered, "Eo Romam iterum crucifigi" (I go to Rome to be crucified anew). There is a church there today that marks the spot where this is said to have happened. The church is named "Chiesa di Santa Maria in Palmis," but is better known as "Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis" or simply the "Quo Vadis Church."

Residuum revertetur!

"The Remnant shall return!" This saying applies to the Truth that throughout History, a remnant has always remained faithful to God in spite of the corruption and lapses into paganism of their leaders


Requiescat In Pace, or "May he or she rest in peace." The plural is "Requiescant in pace" ("May they rest in peace").

Roma locuta est, causa finita est

"Rome has spoken, the matter is finished." This is a paraphrase of St. Augustine's "jam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad sedem apostolicam; inde etiam rescripta venerunt; causa finita est" ("for already on this matter two councils have sent to the Apostolic See, whence also rescripts have come. The cause is finished"), found in his Sermon 131.10. He was writing in response to the fact that Pope St. Innocent I confirmed the Council of Carthage and the Council of Mileve (both in A.D. 416), both of which condemned Pelagianism, the heresy which denied Grace and Original Sin.


"St. Anthony Guide." This short prayer asking St. Anthony to guide a correspondence to its destination is written on the backs of letters and envelopes, etc., and is often used in wax seals, ink stamps, and the like. It stems from St. Anthony's intercession, in A.D. 1729, in the case of a woman whose merchant husband had gone from their home in Oviedo, Spain to Peru on business. The wife had written her spouse letters, but received no reply. She then asked St. Anthony to intercede for her. Trusting completely in the power of God working through His most faithful St. Anthony, she wrote a letter to her husband and took it to Oviedo's Fransican church to place it in the hands of St. Anthony's statue, asking that the Saint see to it that her husband got the letter. She returned to the church later to find a reply from her husband and several gold pieces in the statue's hands. The husband's letter noted that he received the wife's letter from the hands of a Franciscan priest.


Servus Dei, or "Servant of God"
S or St.
SS Saints. "SS" is used to refer to more than one Saint at a time -- e.g., one could refer to ":St. Peter and St. Paul" or to "SS Peter and Paul" -- i.e., Saints Peter and Paul

Sic transit gloria mundi

"Thus passes the glory of the world." A reminder of mortality and the importance of storing up treasure in Heaven rather than earth. This phrase is repeated to newly-elected Popes just before their first Papal Mass in order to keep themm focused on what is important and to remind themm that, though they are the Vicars of Christ, they are just men.
Stat crux dum volvitur orbis
"The Cross stands while the world turns": the motto of the Carthusian Order


Traditional Latin Mass
Tolle et lege "Take up and read." These words, which refer to reading Sacred Scripture, come from an incident in the life of St. Augustine which you can read about on the page about Lectio Divina (divine reading).

Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum

"To defend the faith and to serve the poor." Motto of the Knights of Malta.


That God may be glorified in all things (Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus). One of the mottoes of the Benedictine Order.

Urbi et Orbi

"For the City (Rome) and the world." When these words are found in a papal document, it means that the document is meant not only for Rome, but for the entire world. These words are also the name of a papal blessing given from the balconies of major Roman basilicas at solemn occasions, such as papal coronations, the annual Easter blessing, etc.
VC The letters VC stand for "vi coactus" when used after a signature. This signifies that the signature was added by force, under duress, and was compelled. See also CF (coactus feci) above.


Truth. One of the mottoes of the Dominican Order.


"Votum Fecit Gratiam Accepit" -- "Vow made, graces received." The abbreviation for this phrase is often seen on votive offerings.

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Long live Christ the King! (Spanish). This was the battle cry of those who fought to defend Catholic culture against Communism in the Spanish Civil War, and of the Mexican "Cristeros" who fought for the same cause during the Mexican Revolution, the Masonic-Bolshevik takeover of their country which led to the suppression of Catholicism and the massacre of priests, religious and laymen. The Spanish upside-down exclamation mark is made by holding the ALT KEY while typing 0161 on your number pad.

Viva il Papa!

Long live the Pope! (Italian)

Vive Christus Rex!

Long live Christ the King! (You may see this also as "Vivat Christus Rex," but I've been informed that the use of the subjunctive, "vivat," would be used on birthdays of living men, such as a wish for their longevity, while the imperative, "vive," is best for ceremonies celebrating the coronation of a monarch or other ceremonies celebrating his reign.)

Zelo Zelatus Sum Pro Domino Deo Exercituum

"With Zeal have I been Zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." The motto of the Carmelite Order.

Cross character made thusly:
Turn Number Lock (Num Lock) Key on, press ALT key and hold down while typing 0134 on your Number Pad (the HTML is: † )

Crosses should not be used with signatures made by a layman; they are used by Bishops (who place the Cross before the signature) and priests (who place the Cross after the signature) and convey a blessing in the Name of Jesus.


Greek Cross, made by a plus sign. (See above entry, too).


The Pope emoticon, made with a plus sign, a dash, left parenthesis, colon, dash, and right parenthesis

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