The Bare Minimum
Recently I was speaking with a parishioner about the precepts of the Church and she was unfamiliar with the reality. They are the minimum spiritual practices to be a practicing Catholic. Of course, we want to do more than the bare minimum, but these precepts give a baseline for our spiritual life. The bold text below are the direct quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2041-2043). The non-bolded text are my comments.
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 indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:
The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.”) requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.
Going to Mass on Sunday seems obvious, but just a reminder that Wednesday, December 8th is a Holy Day of Obligation.
The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.
Holy Mother Church requires us to go to confession annually. It is good for the soul to confess our sins and receive absolution. It prepares us to receive Holy Communion. I recommend going to confession monthly or at least every 3 months, but yearly is the minimum.
The third precept (“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.”) 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.
Interestingly, we are required to go to Mass weekly, but only receive Holy Communion annually. This connects Confession and Holy Communion. We should make sure our consciences are clear before receiving Holy Communion.
The fourth precept (“You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.”) completes the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.
I love that keeping the Sabbath as a day dedicated to the Lord is obligatory. It forces us to orient our days a lives around the Lord. Maybe this means spending extra time in prayer or with family. Maybe it means avoiding going to the store.
The fifth precept (“You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
Every Friday is a day of fasting and penance in honor of our Lord’s death on the Cross. More well-known are the required fast days in Lent.
The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.
Finally we are obliged to support the needs of the Church. Maybe this means you support a college campus ministry that your child attends or a favorite group of religious sisters. Also I hope that you find the ministry of your parish worthy of your generosity. Thank you for your continued support.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson