Major teachings of the Catholic Church which were discussed in the early councils of the Church are summarized in various creeds, especially the Nicene (Nicene-Constantinopolitan) Creed and the Apostles' Creed. Since the 16th century the church has produced catechisms which summarize its teachings, most recently in 1992.
The Catholic Church understands the living tradition of the church to contain the essentials of its doctrine on faith and morals and to be protected from error, at times through infallibly defined teaching. The Church believes in a Spirit-guided revelation in sacred scripture, developed in sacred tradition but entirely out of the original deposit of faith. This developed deposit of faith is protected by the "magisterium" or College of Bishops at ecumenical councils overseen by the pope, beginning with the Council of Jerusalem (c. AD 50). The most recent was the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965); twice in history the pope defined a dogma after consultation with all the bishops without calling a council.
Formal Catholic worship is ordered by means of the liturgy, which is regulated by church authority. The celebration of the Eucharist, one of seven sacraments, is the center of Catholic worship. The Church exercises control over additional forms of personal prayer and devotion including the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and Eucharistic adoration, declaring that they should all somehow derive from the Eucharist and lead back to it. The Church community consists of the ordained clergy (consisting of the episcopate, the priesthood, and the diaconate), the laity, and those like monks and nuns living a consecrated life under their constitutions.
According to the Catechism, Christ instituted seven sacraments and entrusted them to the Church. These are Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council, after centuries of celebration of the Mass in Latin, found it salutary to decree:
Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.
The Catholic Church teaches that "The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself." While man may turn away from God, God never stops calling man back to him. Because man is created in the image and likeness of God, man can know with certainty of God's existence from his own human reason. But while "Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God," in order "for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man, and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith."