Only Five Precepts of the Church(A post for the Year of Faith.) There are only five precepts of the Church and every Catholic should know them. Let’s take a look at them as found in the Catechism, second edition, Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 3, starting with paragraph 2042, without the commentary, just the precepts. And notice that the subtitle of Article 3 is: The Church, Mother and Teacher. The Church is your Mother. She has something to say to you. Listen up!

  • 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.
  • You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
  • You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

There. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Only five precepts and they’re brief, too. Blessedly. (Heh. A little Church humor. Very little. Ahem.)

Now why do you suppose the Church wants you to attend Mass on Sundays or to confess and receive the Eucharist at least once a year? Because, like any good mother, she just wants you to drop in once in a while so she can see your face before she forgets what you look like? Well, maybe. But mostly to keep you spiritually alive! Read these words in paragraph 2041 right before the list of precepts.

“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 very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor…”

You see, to keep alive spiritually you must attend Mass every Sunday, confess and receive the Eucharist at least once a year. (Notice that you can attend Mass without receiving. This is important. If you’re not in a state of grace, you should not even think about presenting yourself for Communion. But you still must attend Mass!) You must also observe the days of fasting and abstaining, and help provide for the needs of the Church. This is the bare minimum for your interior, spiritual self to stay alive. If you are not meeting this bare minimum in your life, you may be in danger of dying spiritually. And if all you do is the bare minimum, then you’ll be barely alive spiritually, too.

When someone says, “Oh, I’m not religious at all but I’m very spiritual,” I have to say, “Oh, really?” Because I know that person is probably not spiritual at all. Most of the people who say things like that to me only concern themselves with things of the world and the body and the body’s appetites. They don’t go to church, don’t see why they should; don’t mortify their appetites, again, they don’t see why they should; they don’t practice self-control; they don’t confess their sins and they don’t receive the Eucharist. And, of course, they don’t give anything to their church because they don’t even have a church. Because…they’re “spiritual, not religious!”

Oy ve! Tell me how they can be spiritual! What do they even mean when they say it? Do they mean they believe in spirits? What kind of spirits? Spirits of good or spirits of evil? Do they mean that they practice spiritualism? Play with Ouija boards? (And why does that word end in an “a” instead of an “i” or an “ie” or “ee” or something? I never hear anyone pronounce it “Wee-ja”, it’s always “Wee-jee” board.)

Oh, they’re very spiritual. So spiritual that they will go to almost any lengths to avoid suffering. Mortification? Why, they’re mortified at the thought of it! And not in a good way!

He is the Vine, we are the branchesChrist said that He is the Vine and we are the branches. If we cut ourselves off from the Vine, we will shrivel and dry up. If we cut ourselves off from the Eucharist, we have no life in us. If we turn away from the ordinary means of grace in the sacraments, how do we expect to receive grace? If we don’t mortify our appetites, how do we expect to preserve or increase in grace? If we don’t confess our sins after sinning, how do we expect to get back into a state of grace so we can continue to grow and have a real and not imaginary spiritual life?

And that, I think, is all too often the problem: People imagine that they are spiritual and that they have a spiritual life when they don’t know the first thing about spirituality at all.

So stop imagining that you’re a very spiritual person and go to confession and get into a state of grace and get to Mass and and control your appetites and stay in the Vine and really be spiritual! Because your Momma says so. Momma Church, that is!

The full text of paragraphs on the precepts can be found online, paragraphs 2041 – 2043.

Vine passage from Gospel of John 15:5:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

Recently I found three really interesting pages that I want to share with you: Catholic Cross ReferenceOnline Catholic Library and a page on the Church Fathers at the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology. I added the first two to the main Resource page because they cover so much ground it’s hard to categorize them any further without adding them to every page in that section (and the thought of doing that makes me break out in hives). I added the St Paul Center page to the new Church Fathers page which I added earlier today here on Catholic Heart and Mind. :)

Catholic Cross Reference

  • Online Catholic Library: Looks like a really long and really good list of links to a lot of really good Catholic material. Audio, articles, books, documents, theology, spirituality–Looks like if it’s Catholic, it’s on their list. :)

Online Catholic Library

The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. The Center serves clergy and laity, students and scholars, with research and study tools — from books and publications to multimedia and on-line programming.

Our goal is to be a teacher of teachers. We want to raise up a new generation of priests who are fluent in the Bible and lay people who are biblically literate. For us, this means more than helping people to know their way around the Bible. It means equipping them to enter into the heart of the living Word of God and to be transformed and renewed by this encounter.

We read the Bible from the heart of the Church, in light of the Church’s Liturgy and living Tradition. In this way, we hope to help people experience the heart-to-heart encounter that Jesus’ disciples experienced on that first Easter night, when they knew Him in the breaking of the bread: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us…while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (see Luke 24:13-37)

Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles

Seek First the Kingdom, by Donald Cardinal WuerlSeek First the Kingdom was published on Dec 2 2011; in light of recent events (the HHS Mandate, among other things), it could not be more timely and strikes me as being prophetic. I downloaded the Kindle version tonight after seeking in vain for it in stores around Birmingham for two days. I’m still reading the foreword by Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, but I can already tell you, as I had suspected, this is an important book. (Brief video at end of post or watch on YouTube.)

I’m going to write about the book here and post it (as opposed to writing about it and never getting the writing out of rough draft stage on my laptop) as I read it because we need the guidance of our bishops now. We need to remember, when it’s tempting to allow ourselves to get caught up in political action and issues and arguments and worry, that Jesus told us something that we tend to forget. Or neglect. He told us to seek first the kingdom of God and that then all these things that we need will be added unto us. But we have to put first things first.

And we have to do our part to build up the kingdom, too. We cannot let ourselves fall for our ancient enemy’s new (old) trick: telling us that we have to keep our Catholic Christian selves to ourselves and in our Church on Sunday and out of the public square and out of our public lives. No matter how many people are going around proclaiming the good news that Christians are being shoved out of sight and out of mind, it just isn’t true. Because we are not going to let it be true. We can’t afford to let it be true. But it will be, if we don’t stand up and speak out and speak truth, in love but firmly. And for us to speak the truth with love and firmly, we have to be united with Christ. We have to get serious about our faith. We have to know our faith. And we have to live our faith.

Because if we don’t live our faith, we are going to lose it. That’s something we cannot afford to do. And the world can’t afford for us to lose our faith either: If we lose, the world loses, too. We need more Christian witness now, not less. We need faithful, loving, informed, intelligent Christian witness.

Get this book. Get ready. Get to it!

Since the HHS Mandate was foisted upon us, I’ve been told many times that I can be a Christian all I want…as long as I keep it to myself and limit it to worship inside the church building. But is that what it means to be Christian? Yes, worship on Sunday (or daily for those who go to Daily Mass) is part of being Christian. But can we reduce Christianity to that one hour on Sunday (or seven hours a week for the Daily Mass attendee)?

This is My Body, which will be given up for you
This is My Body, which will be given up for you

For me being Catholic Christian is what I am at the very heart of my being. Catholicism shapes my thoughts and desires and I seek to live my faith through every moment I am alive; even when I fall short of that goal, the goal remains. Saying that I’m free to worship in the church building on Sunday but not free to live according to the teachings of Christ and His Church is absurd. The whole point of attending Mass and receiving grace in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is to be enabled to bring the light of Christ out from within the gathering and into the world where darkness reigns, for Christ to act upon me and make me into a new creation, to fill me with new life. A participation in His Divine Life. But what I’m hearing from various people is that I should keep that light within the sanctuary, that it has no place out in public where — horrors! — someone might see it!

I don’t demand that others be Catholic Christian. I don’t demand that they talk about atheism in the privacy of their homes but never around me. I listen to atheists preach at me nearly every day of my life. They witness to me, they evangelize me, they try to convert me. I fully expect them to come to my neighborhood, knocking on doors and inviting folks to the local atheist potluck supper and tent meeting any day now. And will I tell them to keep their un-worship to themselves? No! I won’t!

Truth is, I ‘d like to see what kind of party they throw. I might even take a covered dish.