The Six Precepts of the Church

  1. To hear Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
  2. To confess our sins at least once a year.
  3. To receive Holy Communion at least once a year, during the Easter Season.
  4. To keep holy the Holy Days of Obligation.
  5. To observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence from meat.
  6. 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.

BACK to St. Pius X Junior High, Saturday Morning Religion Class