Precepts of the Church

The precepts of the Church are duties that the Catholic Church requires of all the faithful.  Also called the commandments of the Church, they are binding under the pain of mortal sin, but the point is not to punish.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, the binding nature “is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth of love of God and neighbor.”

The list of five precepts is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Some may remember that there were seven precepts of the Church; the other two may be found at the end of next week’s column.

The first precept of the Church is “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.”

The second precept of the Church is “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”  Strictly speaking, we only need to take part in the Sacrament of Confession if we have committed a mortal sin, but the Church urges us to make frequent use of the sacrament and, at a minimum, to receive it once each year in preparation for fulfilling our Easter Duty.

The third precept of the Church is “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.”  Today, most Catholics receive the Eucharist at every Mass they attend, but it wasn’t always so.

Since the Sacrament of Holy Communion binds us to Christ and to our fellow Christians, the Church requires us to receive it at least once each year, sometime between Palm Sunday and Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost Sunday). (8:14)