Although many think of the Church as having “many rules to follow”, in reality there are only a handful of obligations, which stipulate the bare minimum of what is required to lead a life united to Jesus Christ. These rules are called the precepts of the Church and are meant to be viewed as guideposts along the pathway to Heaven.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2041) explains: “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.”
The precepts lay out the minimum we need to follow. It’s always possible to go above and beyond the minimum and the saints are examples of men and women who did exactly that by living “heroic virtue.”
Here, in brief, are the precepts as found in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 432. They are not given to be oppressive, but to lead us to an eternity of peace and happiness.
They are: 1) to attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation and to refrain from work and activities which could impede the sanctification of those days; 2) to confess one’s sins, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year; 3) to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season; 4) to abstain from eating meat and to observe the days of fasting established by the Church; and 5) to help to provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
Philip Kosloski, Did you know Catholics have a small number of obligations?
Excerpted from Aleteia.com, August 20, 2020. With permission