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
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
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:
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.
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
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!