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Mother Knows Best

April 30, 2021 Frontpage No Comments


Uncle Bill came to supper one evening and found out that his little nephew Michael was saving up to buy a dog.
“Great!” said Uncle Bill, who was quite a joker. “Look, here are two bills! You can choose which one you like best to help your doggie fund.”
Uncle Bill had placed a crisp, new one dollar bill on the table, and an old and worn ten dollar bill next to it.
Michael was too young to know the value of paper money, but he knew some counted for more than others. He much preferred the crisp new dollar bill, but he didn’t want to make a mistake. He looked at both carefully. Then he finally turned to his mother and said, “Mommy, you choose for me!”
Uncle Bill was so pleased that he added another ten dollars, which made enough in Michael’s box to buy the dog he really wanted most.
We don’t always know what’s best for us, but we can always count on our Mother, the Church, for the wisdom and experience that gives us the best for our souls and lives. Holy Mother Church has authority from Jesus Christ to make laws for the faithful (cf. Luke 10:16; Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:18, et alia), but they aren’t merely laws for the sake of control or propriety. The Church established Canon Law from the very beginning of the Church in the first century, but it was only formally codified in AD 1234. The current Code of Canon Law was revised and promulgated by St. John Paul the Great in 1983. Canon Law can best be described as “the heart of the Church set in juridical terms.”
While Canon Law covers virtually everything pertaining to the Church (general norms, the People of God, the teaching office of the Church, the office of sanctifying in the Church, the temporal goods of the Church, sanctions in the Church, and processes), there are certain laws that are universally applicable to all Catholics. These laws are commonly called the Precepts of the Church, and the reason the Church makes laws and precepts is “to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, [and] in the growth of love of God and neighbor….”
All Catholics are obliged to keep the Church’s precepts under pain of sin. Let’s take a look at those precepts to which we are all obliged to keep.

  • + +
  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. This precept requires us to make holy the Lord’s Day, to observe special holy days that are meant to recall us to the Gospel message, and to avoid those activities that hinder the renewal of soul and body. Failure to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation without being excused for a very good reason (e.g., too sick to get out of bed, caring for someone else too sick to go to Mass, etc.) is a mortal sin. Those who are required by an employer to work on Sundays and holy days may fulfill their duties by attending the vigil Mass for those days, but they still must take another day for rest.
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. This precept “ensures preparation of the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation. . . .” This is the bare minimum required by the Church. If one commits a mortal sin, the obligation to receive the Sacrament of Penance is as soon as possible. The Church recommends Confession once a month, but is happy for the faithful to have recourse to the sacrament weekly.
  3. You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season. This is called our Easter Duty, and we must fulfill it under pain of sin between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday. In order to fulfill the Easter Duty, you must actually make the intention during Lent or the Easter season for one Communion to be that obligatory reception of the Eucharist.
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. There are only two fast days in the United States: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All Fridays of the year are days of penance, but only the Fridays of Lent (beginning the Friday after Ash Wednesday) are obligatory under pain of sin. On Fridays outside of Lent we are to perform some act of penance at least as sacrificial as abstinence, or abstain. Intentional failure to observe these obligatory days of fast and abstinence is a mortal sin.
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. This means the faithful are obliged to contribute to the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability. In other words, don’t be stingy with the Church. It is unfortunate that only 10 percent of parishioners pay for 90 percent of the Church’s expenses . . . and that’s not because the 10 percent are the wealthy Catholics.
  6. The faithful are to observe the marriage laws of the Church and to give religious training to their children. In other words, Catholics are to be married before a priest or deacon and two witnesses, and divorce and an attempt at remarriage is forbidden (a mortal sin). Furthermore, parents are strictly obligated to see to it that their children know, understand, and practice the Catholic faith…which means parents themselves are obligated to know, understand and practice the faith. And no, this obligation isn’t met by sending your children off to religion classes in the parish or at Catholic school. Canon 226 is very clear about this.
  7. The faithful are to join in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church. This means we are all obligated to share the Gospel (Good News!) of Jesus Christ as handed down by His Church. This doesn’t mean you have to become a lay evangelist, but you do have to give witness to Christ and His Church among your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. You can also help to fulfill this obligation by contributing financially to evangelistic endeavors, but this alone does not fulfill the obligation.
    These precepts of the Church are seriously binding on all Catholics. Collectively they encompass the teachings of Christ from the Gospels and the apostles after Pentecost. If we fulfill these precepts as we should, we can expect Jesus to be pleased with us at our particular judgment. Intentional failure, or slothful failure, to fulfill these precepts…well, the particular judgment would not be the happiest time in life.
    If you have a question or comment you can reach out to me through the “Ask Joe” page of, or you can email me at
    Hey, how would you like to see things like this article every week in your parish bulletin as an insert? You or your pastor can learn more about how to do that by emailing me at
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