The Crux of the Matter 6
Topic: The Precepts of the Church
By Fr. Wade Menezes, CPM
The Fathers of Mercy
The Precepts of the Church, as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are those positive laws or commandments “made by Church authorities to guarantee for the faithful the indispensable minimum in prayer and moral effort, for the sake of their growth in love of God and neighbor” (Glossary, “Precepts of the Church”). Simply put, since Holy Mother Church possesses a genuine care for her children and their spiritual growth, she sees to it that through legitimate Church authority, certain minimum requirements are to be met so as to help ensure one’s growth in love of God, neighbor and the spiritual life.
The universal Catechism (2042-2043) lists the formal precepts for the Catholic Church’s members; they are: “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days of obligation and rest from servile labor;” “You shall confess your sins at least once a year;” “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season;” the fourth precept is, “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church;” and the last precept is, “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.”
So, rather than look upon the five precepts of the Church as some rigorous code we are oppressively bound to under pain of sin, we should instead identify them for what they really are: guides given to us by Holy Mother Church – just as any good parent would guide their children – to ensure our advancement in a life of prayer and moral virtue, and growth in love of God and neighbor.
As Catholics, we should rejoice that our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Faith gives us simple, direct and concrete guides – precepts which function as sure norms to aid us as members of the Body of Christ – to become holy, to live our lives as God intends, and even to help lead others to him.