We may be confident that in keeping the precepts of the church, we have a basic foundation to build on, that we are able to respond with trust in God’s love to discern His will for us.
The Precepts are:
1. Attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
2. Receive the sacrament of Confession (also called Reconciliation or Penance) at least once each year.
3. Receive Holy Communion during the Easter Season (of course we should be receiving Holy Communion throughout the year but this is the bare minimum)
4. Keep holy the feast days that honor our Lord, the saints, and our Blessed Mother. Beyond simply participating in the Mass, we are required to keep the Sabbath and feast days as time set apart. We not only participate in the liturgies but also devote these days as much as possible to rest, prayer, and celebration with our loved ones and service to our community.
5. The fifth precept is to observe the days of fasting and abstinence. The days of fasting are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Days of abstinence include Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent. Ascetical practices prepare us for the feast days of celebration. Read more about fasting and abstinence on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website:
One more precept is the obligation to provide for the material needs of the Church “each according to his abilities.” For our parish this can take the form of donations to the weekly collection at Mass, special collections at various times of the year, contributions to the Food Pantry and St. Vincent de Paul Society, support of fundraising events such as our parish annual golf tournament, contributions to special funds such as the Building Fund for maintenance and repair of our church building, memorial contributions to honor a deceased loved one, sponsorship of a ministry or activity requiring additional resources, and many other ways to provide for the material needs of our parish, our archdiocese, and the church throughout the world. Our parish has an Online Giving portal that makes this precept very easy to attend to.
So that’s a quick summary of the precepts.
Why is it important to know these? If nothing else, it can help us to avoid being overwhelmed or possibly led astray. We need to avoid an unbalanced obsession with facets of our faith that we find interesting or attractive, while possibly ignoring or shortchanging our attention tot the basic precepts that help us to grow spiritually as individuals and as a community of faith. Each of us probably has a favorite set of specific prayers, rituals, devotions, hymns, saints, liturgies, pilgrimages, feast days, theological terms, scripture commentaries…. this amazing abundance can be overwhelming. And it can be confusing! As Catholics we need to know what the basics are, the fundamental practices that form the bare minimum foundation for our lives as faithful Catholics. Making sure we attend to the precepts, gives us confidence we are at a bare minimum on the right path.
In the words of the Catechism:
“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 indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.”
Read the details in the Catechism published on the Vatican website.