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What are the Precepts of the Church?

Posted on November 30, 2023 in: Reflections

What are the Precepts of the Church?

Have you ever questioned or wondered about some aspect of the Catholic faith? Well now is your chance to do just that! Four County Catholic Magazine is introducing a new column entitled A QUESTION OF FAITH. Every edition will offer our readers’ the opportunity to ask and have their questions answered. We are grateful to Father Richard D. Breton, Jr. for his willingness to assist us in this new endeavor.

Father Breton has been a priest for 15 years and is the parochial vicar of Guardian Angels Parish in Colchester. In addition to his parish responsibilities, Father Breton is a spiritual director at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, as well as the minister templi, or chaplain, of the Catholic Templars, New York Commandery, USA. Father Breton also writes a weekly column called “The Beacon of Light” for The Wanderer, one of the oldest Catholic newspapers in the United States. Father has also published several articles in Homiletic and Pastoral Review and The National Catholic Register.


What are the precepts of the Church?

 

I was asked by a parishioner what the precepts of the Church were. Do you know what they are? The precepts of the Church are defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as actions that are lived within the context of the moral life and are bound to and nourished by the liturgical life of the Church. These obligatory laws are given to the faithful as the necessary minimum through which we are called to live a life of prayer and good moral character, as we grow in our love of God and neighbor. There are five precepts of the Church. (CCC 2041)

 

“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and days of obligation.”

This first precept requires the faithful to commemorate, or celebrate, the resurrection of the Lord. Since Jesus rose from the dead, on Easter Sunday, each Sunday we are obliged to participate in the celebration of Mass. This precept, however, also obliges us to participate in the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. We do this, first and foremost, by our participation in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community is gathered together in prayer. We also show our love and devotion by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification and proper celebration of the Lord’s Day. 

 

"You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”

This precept properly prepares us for our ability to participate in the Eucharist celebration. When the Jewish people worshiped God, they were required to undergo a series of purifications in order to enter the Temple. In the same way, the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness, cleanses us and makes us ready to receive our Eucharistic Lord. Even though, technically, this precept involves a requirement of once a year, all of the faithful are encouraged to seek out the Lord’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation more often, even monthly. The sacrament of reconciliation not only forgives our sins, but, through God’s mercy, we receive the graces needed to endure everyday life and ward off the temptations of the evil one.

 

“You shall receive the Eucharist at least once a year.”

This precept guarantees, at a minimum, that the faithful receive the Lord's body and blood during the celebration of paschal feasts, which is the Easter season, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy. Again, this doesn’t limit us, nor does it stop us from receiving the Eucharist, if we are worthily prepared, every time we attend Mass, but most importantly on Sundays and holy days of obligation. 

 

"You shall observe days of fasting and abstinence.”

This precept assists us in doing penance, which prepares us for the liturgical feasts and helps us to acquire the skills necessary to have conversion in our lives. Today, the Church requires abstinence on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent. We are, however, asked to make every Friday, outside of Lent, a day of abstinence as well. Here, however, if we choose to eat meat on the Fridays outside of Lent, we are required to do some other act of penance. 

 

"You shall provide for the needs of the Church.”

This precept reminds the faithful of their need to support the material aspect of the Church and their parishes, each according to his own ability. 

By Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr.
 


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