Q. The other day a friend of mine talked about the Precepts of the Church. I can’t say that I ever heard of them. What are they?
A. Good question. I would suspect that a lot of Catholics, especially younger ones, don’t know what the Precepts of the Catholic Church are. I think they may be unaware as they are seldom preached about or taught in RCIA and other instructional courses.
Simply, the precepts of the church are certain laws considered binding on the faithful. As usually understood, they are moral and ecclesiastical, broad in character and limited in number. In modern times there are five. I am just going to quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its section about the Precepts of the Catholic Church (#2041-3).)
1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, “and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.”
2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
This “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.”
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
“The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.”
5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
“The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”
There is a lot more involved in each of these precepts in terms of understanding and interpreting them as they apply in our lives. If you do not have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church I would recommend that you get one because everything that we hold true as Catholics, in terms of faith and morals, is in this one volume book.
Also in terms of interpreting each of these precepts for you individually you likely will want to contact your local parish priest to help you understand and apply these precepts in your life.
This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.