What are the six commandments of the church and do they still apply?
The commandments (or precepts) of the Church are positive laws “made by Church authorities to guarantee for the faithful the indispensable minimum in prayer and moral effort, for the sake of their growth in love of God and neighbor” (Catechism glossary).
The number of these commandments have varied throughout history but the Baltimore Catechism (Parts 2-4, Lesson 35) taught six:
- To hear Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
- To fast and abstain on the days appointed.
- To confess at least once a year.
- To receive the Holy Eucharist during the Easter time.
- To contribute to the support of our pastors.
- Not to marry persons who are not Catholics, or who are related to us within the third degree of kindred, nor privately without witnesses, nor to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.
Today, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2041-2043) teaches five precepts:
The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principle liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.
The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.
The third precept (“You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.
The fourth precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) 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.
The fifth precept (“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.
See also: Commandments of the Church