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The precepts of the Catholic Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life...[and] meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor...

(Catechism of the Catholic Church #2041)

 

Precepts of the Catholic Church

  1. Attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, and benefit from the Sabbath day of rest.
  2. Confess your sins at least once per year
  3. Receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter Season
  4. Observe established days of fasting and abstinence
  5. Help provide for the needs of the Church

 

You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days...

We have always attended Mass on Sundays and holy days, (okay, maybe we skipped a few in college) and found these to be the center of our Catholicism. Sharing the liturgy and the Eucharist  has been both fulfillment and inspiration of our faith. (Learn about our Mass)

...rest from servile labor

For many years, however, we did not observe the Sabbath rest. After Mass we shopped, cleaned the house, did all the chores we did not finish all week long, etc. Little did we know how foolish that was.

Eight years ago we started our weekly family night on Sunday evenings. We started saying "no" to all other activities and committed the time to being together as a family. That was one of the best decisions we ever made. At the time we did not realize we were being guided by the Holy Spirit.

Six years ago we volunteered to administer the Eucharist to the sick and homebound after Mass. All of a sudden the time we used to spend shopping and cleaning was spent visiting a few people whose needs were much greater than our own. We visited the elderly, the infirm, many who were terminally ill, and many who just needed some company. Every person we met affected our lives. In every person, no matter the circumstances, we witnessed love, caring, and, surprisingly for us, the inherent dignity of suffering. This experience has opened up many opportunities for discussions of life, death, faith, and love that we never would have considered otherwise.

Now our Sabbath days are filled with Mass, family, friends, and community. We have found other times to shop and clean, and it has not been all that difficult. We have realized that God gave us the Sabbath to replenish ourselves in His Light. Silly of us. The Church has been teaching that all along.

Many Catholics avoid it like the plague. Converts may not even know it's expected of them. Nevertheless, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a requirement for practicing Catholics to continue the journey of conversion and forgiveness that began with Baptism.

Our parish priest gave a wonderful demonstration of the need for penance to the 2nd graders who were preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You can do the same with any small group, including your own family. At least 4-5 people are needed for it to be well demonstrated.

Person 1: God
Person 2: Human being
Person 3: Narrator
Everyone else: Individual sins (to make it fun, or possibly embarrassing, allow each person to pick a sin to play)

  • Place God up front and center. Place the human being right next to God. The narrator can point out that this is how God originally intended our relationship to be with Him.
     

  • Now place a sin between God and the human. Make sure the human moves away from God, and God stays up front and center. Discuss the fact that sin moves us away from God. Repeat with as many sins as possible. Explain that the more we sin, the harder it becomes to see God in our everyday life.
     

  • Finally, have the human bow his head in prayer. The narrator explains the human has chosen to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The narrator then moves the sins out of the way, and moves the human being back next to God! Explain that no matter what we do, God is always up front and center waiting for us to choose to be close to Him. We are the ones who moved away; God is always there for us.
     

  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation is nothing to fear. It allows us to evaluate our relationship with God, recognize our faults, act on our conversion of heart, and live in peace with the knowledge that our sins are forgiven.  

It seems surprising that this should be a precept of the Church. After all, the first precept tells us to attend Mass every Sunday. Isn't this precept redundant?

Not at all. For hundreds of years the laity were not encouraged to receive the Eucharist. Cathedrals of the Middle Ages were built with actual dividers so parishioners could hear the liturgy, albeit in a foreign language, and could see the Eucharist only if the priest held it up high enough. These everyday people did not participate in the liturgy. A focus on their unworthiness overshadowed their need for the sacrament.

It was not until the early 20th century that Catholics were encouraged to receive the Eucharist each and every time they attended Mass. We have Pope Pius X to thank for recognizing the gifts that we all receive from this sacrament.

In case you wondered, a Catholic who is free from mortal sin is required to receive the Eucharist at least every Easter season (from Ash Wednesday to Trinity Sunday). A Catholic may receive the Eucharist no more than twice per day. (Attending two Masses, not just getting back in line during one Mass.) 

Occasional fasting and abstinence help us prepare for special feasts by giving us the opportunity to acquire a level of mastery over our human weaknesses. What is the difference between the two disciplines?

  • Fasting - Consuming less or nothing at all; we can fast from things that are good to achieve a higher good.
     

  • Abstinence - Avoiding something in particular; often we abstain from habits that hinder our relationship with family, friends, or with God

Lenten Fasting and Abstinence Regulations:

  1. Abstain from meat (beef, chicken, pork, any other fowl) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays during Lent. This applies to all Catholics age 14 years and older.
     

  2. Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All Catholics ages 18 to 58 are required to eat only one full meal in a day. This may be split into several smaller meals, but no snacks in-between.

Catholics are notorious, or maybe infamous, for not tithing 10% of their income to the Church. As usual, the Catholic Church promotes using our own free will to choose how we will provide for our Church. Plus, we can use more than just money to build our community (although the money doesn't hurt!). We can use time and talent, as well as treasure (sound familiar?).

  • Time - How much time do we spend building contributing to our faith? Is it just the very minimum, i.e. Sunday Mass? Is it even less than that? Do we participate in any religious education programs? Do we participate in coffee hour? Do we attend funerals? Are we doing too much and not giving others the opportunity to contribute?
     

  • Talent - The Holy Spirit has blessed us with special gifts, or charisms. Have we taken the time to discern what God-given talents we have, and how we can best use them to build the Church? Usually stopping and considering what other people are saying, such as "Your prayers have helped me" or "Your ability to organize is a blessing" can provide a hint as to the direction in which God is leading us. In addition to recognizing the gifts, we also need to use them wisely. For example, a person who receives the charism of knowledge should never take pride in that knowledge, or act as if he is smarter than someone else. A person who is given the charism of encouragement should listen, advise, and then avoid gossip. We must always be on guard to avoid abusing a gift. We must make sure that a gift is used building the community, not for building oneself.
     

  • Treasure - This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Church needs our money. We pay for the upkeep and salaries of our own parish and diocese. We also pay for scholarships for men and women studying for their religious vocational training. We support Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, an amazing organization that provides for those in need, and a multitude of Catholic organizations throughout the world. Can you imagine the impact we would make if we all did tithe 10% of our gross income? It boggles the mind!

 

 

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