From Our Pastor: The Five Precepts of the Catholic Church (Final Part)
The Precepts of the Catholic Church are a description of the absolute minimum actions required of Catholics regarding the Church. If you haven't started these precepts, now is the time to start and never stop.
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
"The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart."
5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
"The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability."
(These quotations have been from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its section about the Precepts of the Catholic Church [#2041-3].)
The final two precepts of the Church that we haven't yet covered are about fasting and abstinence and providing for the needs of the Church. Like the other precepts of the Church these last two are of utmost importance for the life of faith.
We have lost our sense of penance in the Church. For much of the history of the Church members wouldn't think the Lord loved them enough if they didn't have struggles and suffering in their life. They saw that suffering was such a gift that brought them closer to the Lord, and they found it to be a gift as they believed it meant they were close enough to the Lord they would be gifted suffering to unite them even closer to Christ and His suffering on the cross to atone for their sins. If people didn't suffer enough, they would do penances and sacrifices.
Today we see suffering and struggle as punishment from God. I think we need to embrace some of the ideas of our past, although keep ourselves in moderation with our penances. Abstaining from meat on certain days, including the Fridays of Lent and on Fridays in general, abstaining from many foods or television or social media or your smart phones, etc.
We still are called to abstain from meat on ALL Fridays, unless you replace that abstaining from meat with some other form of abstinence or fasting. Fasting is limiting the amount of food one eats. One may just fast from just one meal as an addition to their other fastings that are mandated by the Church on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. There are other penances that people still choose like cold showers, less heat or air conditioning, working out, and many others.
As in all things we need to make sure we care for our health. Abstaining, fasting, sacrifices, and penances bring us closer to God and help to teach us self-restrain and self-discipline which apply well in overcoming our sins and in mastering the spiritual life.
The final precept is our response to God. The Lord gives us everything we have and everything that we are. How do we respond to those many blessings?
This response is called stewardship. This isn't just about money, (although yes money must be a part of that response) as we have come to hear more and more about stewardship in our parish. If we are giving nothing to the needs of the Church, we have not found the gratitude for the blessings the Lord has given us. We have so much to be grateful for to those who have come before us, and we must continue to keep up what they have given us as a foundation and continue to see how the Lord is calling our parish to grow and serve.
No one should be giving nothing to the parish, which yes is a double negative, which means we must give something to the parish. If even talking about not giving is impossible, the double negative, then we must choose to respond. If you are someone who gives nothing, start by giving even just a few bucks every time you come to Mass. Choose not to go to the coffee shop once that week, or eating out once that week, and put that money in the collection instead.
You will see that in giving you receive even more, and that it is impossible to out give the Lord. You may think it isn't possible to give anything, but then you need to recheck your priorities.
But also, the precept of providing for the needs of the Church isn't just money, but that must be some part of it. To provide for the needs of the Church should also mean to give your time and talents. Much of the work around our Church is gifted by craftsmen who helped build and shape our parish by their very hands. Give your time in volunteering in our parish, our school, our Scouts, our food bank, our quilters, our Austin's Army, and on and on. Find ways of responding to the generosity of God, and you will see in your giving you receive more and more from God, especially in the faces of those you serve.
Remember these 5 precepts we have been discussing are just the basics and foundation of being an active practicing Catholic. Strive to meet these precepts and your life of faith will come alive. Exceed these precepts and you will be amazed at where this takes you in the life of faith. It will open your eyes to see God and open your heart to receive his grace. These precepts and exceeding them will transform your lives and bring life to our parish that will draw so many to Christ.
Rev. Steven Arisman