This is the next in my little series on what it takes to be a good Catholic. In this post, I will turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and write about what is called “The Precepts of the Church“. These are the five least things you can do to be in communion with the Church.
Let me state again, these are “the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor”. I look at it as climbing a ladder to get to heaven. These five things will get you maybe to the second step.
1. Go to Mass
“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor” As Catholics, we are required to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. Yes, we can go to the Vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon if your parish offers one. If they don’t well then you need to go on Sunday.
What if you are sick? You can be excused if you are too sick to attend. If the weather is extremely bad, you can not go. If you are traveling, you should do your best to go, but if you can’t it’s okay. If your favorite sports team is playing an important game, you still need to go. That is not an excuse. Oh and walking into the church just as the dismissal is being given, doesn’t count.
What about the “rest from servile labor” part? What if you need to go to work to support your family? If you have no other choice than to have to work, then this can be excused, but you should really try your best to find a Mass you can attend. This is just another case where our society has pushed God out of our society, but we won’t get started on that.
2. Go to Confession
“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.” You are required to go to confession at a minimum of once a year. This means going to a priest and confessing to him. Looking up at the sky and telling God your sins doesn’t count. Neither does claiming you couldn’t get to your church (or any other) during the times designated for confession. Did you know a priest is required to hear your confession any time you ask him? Just saying. While there is no set date the Church would like you to do this, it ties in nicely with precept number three.
3. Receive the Holy Eucharist During Easter
“You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.” Since you really shouldn’t receive the Holy Eucharist without receiving the Sacrament of Confession, why not tie these in together? Most parishes even have extra hours for confessions during Lent. Even if you don’t receive the Holy Eucharist the rest of the year, or even if you do, you should at least receive it at Easter Time.
4. Fast and Abstain
“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church” Did you know there are rules for fasting and abstinence? For example, during Lent, you are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays. How about you aren’t supposed to eat anything one hour before you receive the Holy Eucharist? For the record, the rules today are way easier and laxer than the ones we older folk had to follow.
5. Provide for the needs of the Church
“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church” While most people think of this as putting money in the collection basket each Sunday, it means more than this. We often hear the expression “Time, treasure and talent” when we talk about being good stewards of our Church. These are the three things we can do to provide for the needs of the Church.
Volunteer your time to help with what is needed. Help with the various ministries your parish has. Put that money into the collection basket. Use your talents to help with what is needed. You may not be able to do a lot, you may not have extra money or time, but every little bit helps. For example, I work on my parish website, volunteering my time and somewhat limited talent. I will also help deliver Thanksgiving baskets next week. There are many examples.
How You Doing?
How many of these did you check off? All five? Congratulations you made it to the second rung of the ladder, but there is still a long way to go. Remember: These are only the minimum things you need to do, there is so much more.
2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is 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 neighborCatholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 493). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.