The Six Precepts of the Church
- To hear Mass on all Sundays and
Holy Days of Obligation.
- To confess our sins at least once
- To receive Holy Communion at least
once a year, during the Easter Season.
- To keep holy the Holy Days of
- To observe the prescribed days
of fasting and abstinence from meat.
- To provide for the material needs
of the Church, each according to his or her abilities.
- The first precept requires
that we attend Mass on all Sundays, and on all Holy Days of Obligation.
- In Canada, the Holy Days of Obligation
are Christmas Day and January 1, in honour of Mary, Mother of God.This requirement
is for all able bodied people who are able to get to a Mass. Someone who is
too ill to go to Mass, or who is caring for someone who is ill, or who is
required to work at a necessary job that also needs to be done on Sundays
and Holy Days (such as a doctor, fire fighter, or police officer, etc.) is
not required to attend Mass. You are also not required to attend Mass if it
is not physically possible for you to get there (for example, a child or elderly
person who needs a ride, and no one will drive him or her), or if there is
no Mass within reasonable travelling distance. The obligation to attend Mass
does not exist in situations where it is impossible to get to Mass. For those
who are able, however, this is a minimum requirement. In many places,
Mass is available every day, and in this case, we are certainly permitted
to attend Mass on these extra days, in addition to keeping our minimum obligation
of Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
The second precept requires that
we confess our serious sins at least once a year.
- The normal way to confess our
sins is to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with a priest. We must confess
our serious sins at the soonest opportunity after we realize that we have
committed them. It is also a good idea to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
frequently, even when we don't have much to confess, so as to receive the
graces of this Sacrament, which give us the strength to avoid serious sin,
in the first place, thus avoiding much trouble in our lives.
- The third precept requires
us to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, during the Easter Season.
- We are not required to receive
Holy Communion at every Mass that we attend. Indeed, such a thing would be
a sacrilege, if we were not in a state of grace at the time of our attendance
at Mass (that is, if we had become aware of having committed a serious sin,
but we had not yet been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation). The requirement
to attend Mass every Sunday is not the same as the requirement to receive
Holy Communion. The requirement to receive Holy Communion once a year guarantees
that we will participate fully in the Paschal Mystery, the origin and centre
of the Christian liturgy. Again, this is a minimum requirement, and
it is certainly desirable for us to receive Holy Communion, every time we
are eligible to do so. Frequent Confession and frequent reception of Holy
Communion will be a source of many graces in your life, providing you with
the strength you need to overcome temptations, and become the person that
God created you to be.
- The fourth precept requires
us to keep holy the Holy Days of Obligation.
- This precept reminds us that,
just as we are not to do any kind of unnecessary work on Sundays, so also,
we are not to do any unnecessary work on Holy Days of Obligation. (People
who do essential or emergency work are exempted from this requirement.)
- The fifth precept reminds us
to fast and abstain from meat on specific days of the week and year.
- In the Diocese of Calgary, the
days of fasting and abstinence from meat are Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and,
for new converts who are being received into the Church, Holy Saturday up
to the time of the Easter Vigil. The days of abstinence from meat (without
fasting) are every Friday of the year. We are permitted to substitute acts
of charity or other acts of penance for abstinence from meat on these Fridays,
but there are no substitutions permitted on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, or
Holy Saturday. These disciplines prepare us for important liturgical feasts,
and help us to acquire mastery over our instincts, and freedom of heart.
- The sixth precept reminds us
to take care of our priests and the buildings in which we worship.
- We put money in the collection
plate, offer our time to worthy causes, and use our talents to further the
mission of the Church, through our local parish. No single individual can
possibly meet all of the needs of the Church, but if everyone does the little
bit that they can, it will add up to enough to get the job done. Don't hold
back from giving just because you can't give very much. You would be amazed
at how everyone's little bit adds up to a vibrant and dynamic parish, even
if no one is particularly rich.
St. Pius X Junior High, Saturday Morning Religion Class