Yes, there are just five Precepts of the Catholic Church – it’s like the five absolute minimum things to do to fulfill your membership requirement with the church. It is the necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort to grow in the love of God and neighbor. The Catholic Church’s five precepts are instructions to every Catholic providing a semblance of the Christian life.
The Five Precepts of the Catholic Church
1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
It sounds easy to do! Well, the bishops have given a dispensation during the COVID-19 pandemic from the obligation of Sunday mass. But still, people continue to keep the Sunday holy, join in-person service where possible. Online Sunday service is looking like a pandemic-normal. The church is a community of believers expressing faith in Jesus Christ in a worship space. Sunday is to sanctify the day of commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord (Sunday), as well as holy days of obligation.
Sunday is a day of rest. That’s the spirit to reconnect with God and family. I remember a retreat preacher suggesting praying the Mass when you miss attending the obligation in a church setting. By ‘praying the mass’ means every layperson should spend time in prayer on a Sunday (when you missed Mass) – seeking God’s mercy, reading and reflecting on the Sunday readings, offering life to be transformed, and spreading God’s peace. Strictly speaking, rest from activities that could impede the work of (personal) sanctification.
2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
It’s to repair your relationship with God and your neighbor. You get it! Going to confession allows a person to be in a state of grace to receive the Eucharist at least once a year. It offers an opportunity to receive Jesus’ body and blood – the eucharist as the source and summit of our faith. You prepare for the Eucharist through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and continue the work of conversion and forgiveness.
3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
You know pandemic offers fewer opportunities to receive eucharist during the Easter season 2021. Easter is the culmination of the Christian mysteries thought the liturgical year. And receiving Eucharist on a day we commemorate Jesus’s resurrection is vital – meaning life-giving. Every Sunday is like a mini Easter.
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the church.
The fourth minimum requirement ensures a time to grow in holiness. Fasting and abstinence are designed to gain mastery over our instincts and grow in the freedom of the heart – making room from God and prepare for the great feast of Jesus’ resurrection.
5. You should help to provide for the needs of the church.
It’s our spiritual home. That’s the word I have been using recently to describe the parish building and the community. The instruction is not to give a certain percentage of your income. It means you provide for the needs of the church. The spiritual home needs material support to operate the worship services – there are bills to be paid and maintenance work to be attended. People also volunteer their time and talent in addition to monetary contribution, according to one’s ability. Give generously to the church’s mission to gather disciples for worship and send them out into the world to proclaim the Good News.
Go beyond the minimum.
The precepts are the minimum level of participation in the life of the Catholic church. You continue to do more and desire to advance in spiritual life. What can you do to increase your level of participation?
These are recommendations that Catholics can engage:
- Attend Mass during the weekdays.
- Go to confession at least once a month, find a regular confessor for better guidance.
- Find a good spiritual director to guide you in your spiritual life.
- Receive the Eucharist when you attend Mass in a state of grace – free from mortal sin.
- Participate in Christian charity – practice penitential and charitable acts towards the needy.
The last words
The five precepts are gentle reminders that Christian life requires a commitment to prayer and active participation in liturgy and sacraments. You complete the bare minimum requirement to be in full communion with the Catholic church. Alongside with Ten Commandments, the five precepts represent a minimum level of moral living. Intentional violation of the five precepts is a grave matter – leading to mortal sin. Yes, you desire to move beyond the minimum.
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