Catholic Beliefs & Practices
(References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church are indicated by CCC)
God’s Two Great Commandments
The basis of all law (your rule of life) rests on two commandments:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor
as yourself" (Matthew 22:37,39). (CCC 2055, 2083)
The Ten Commandments
These are an extension of the two great commandments. The first
three tell you how to love your God; the rest show you how to
love your neighbor. (CCC 2084-2557)
- I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me. (CCC 2084-2132)
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (CCC 2142-2159)
- Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day. (CCC 2168-2188)
- Honor your father and your mother. (CCC 2197-2246)
- You shall not kill. (CCC 2258-2317)
- You shall not commit adultery. (CCC2331-2391)
- You shall not steal. (CCC 2401-2494)
- You shall not bear false witness against you neighbor. (CCC2464-2503)
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. (CCC 2514-2527)
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. (CCC 2534-2550)
The Seven Sacraments
Sacraments of Christian Initiation (CCC 1210-1212)
- Baptism (CCC 1213-1284)
- Confirmation (CCC 1285-1321)
- Eucharist (CCC 1322-1419)
Sacraments of Healing (CCC 1420-1421)
- Penance (Reconciliation) (CCC 1422-1498)
- Anointing of the Sick (CCC 1499-1532)
Sacraments at the Service of Communion (CCC 1533-1535)
- Holy Orders (CCC 1536- 1600)
- Matrimony (CCC 1601-1666)
Precepts of the Church
Some duties expected of Catholic Christians today
include the following. (Those duties traditionally mentioned as
Precepts of the Church are marked with an asterisk.) (CCC 2041-2043)
- To keep holy the day of the Lord’s Resurrection: to worship God by Participating in Mass every holy day of obligation; * to avoid those activities that would hinder renewal of soul and body, for example, needless work and business activities, unnecessary shopping, and so forth. (CCC 1166-1167, 1389, 2174-2188)
- To lead a sacramental life: to receive Holy Communion frequently and the sacrament of penance regularly- minimally, to receive the sacrament of penance at least once a year (annual confession is obligatory only if serious sin is involved); *. (CCC 1389) – minimally, to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday or, for a just cause, at another time during the year. (CCC 1389, 2042)
- To study Catholic teaching in preparation for the sacrament of confirmation, to be confirmed, and then to continue to study and advance the cause of Christ. (CCC 1309, 1319)
- To observe the marriage laws of the Church; * to give religious training (by example and word) to one’s children; to use parish schools and religious-education programs. (CCC1601-1658)
- To strengthen and support the Church; * to strengthen and support one’s own parish community and parish priest; to strengthen and support the worldwide Church and the Holy Father. (CCC 1351)
- To do penance, including abstaining from meat and fasting from food on the appointed days. *(See Pages 51 to 52 of this Volume.) (CCC1438)
- To join in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church. (CCC 2044-2046)
Holy Days of Obligation
Holy days of obligation are special feasts on which Catholics who have reached the age of reason are seriously obliged, as on Sundays, to assist at mass and to avoid unnecessary work. (CCC 2043, 2180, 2698) Serious reasons excuse us from these obligations.
In the United States these days are:
- Mary, Mother of God, January 1
- Ascension Thursday, forty days after Easter
- Mary’s Assumption, August 15
- All Saints’ Day, November 1
- Mary’s Immaculate Conception, December 8
- Christmas, December 25.
(In Canada, Christmas and Mary, Mother of God are holy days. Others formerly specified have either been make nonobligatory or transferred to the following Sunday.)
Regulations for Fast and Abstinence
"All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year." ("The completion of the fourteenth year means the day after one’s fourteenth birthday. The beginning of the sixtieth year means the obligation ceases at midnight between the fifty-ninth birthday and the next day.") (See the Code of Canon Law, 1252.) The Law of abstinence forbids the eating of meat. The law of fasting allows only one full meal and two lighter meals in the course of the day and prohibits eating between meals. (CCC 1438, 2043)
In the United States, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence; all other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence only. Some form of penance is especially encouraged on all Fridays throughout the year. (Catholics living in Canada should consult their parish priests about Canadian regulations.)
Pregnant Women and people who are sick are not obliged to fast. Others who feel they are unable to observe the laws of fast and abstinence should consult a parish priest or confessor.
Fast and abstinence are recognized forms of penance. By doing these and other penance, we can realize that interior change of heart that is so necessary for all Christians. (CCC1434-1437)
The beatitudes are a summary of the difficulties to be overcome by faithful Christians and the rewards that will be theirs if they are loyal followers of Christ (Matthew 5:3-10). (CCC1716-1717)
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (CCC544)
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (CCC1720,2518)
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (CCC 2305-2306)
- Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Corporal (Material) Works of Mercy
Here are listed the corporal works of mercy-the actions by which we come to the material aide of our neighbors in Christ. (CCC 2443-2447)
- To feed the hungry.
- To give drink to the thirsty.
- To clothe the naked.
- To visit the imprisoned.
- To shelter the homeless.
- To visit the sick.
- To bury the dead. (CCC 1681-1690,2300)
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- To admonish the sinner.
- To instruct the ignorant.
- To counsel the doubtful.
- To comfort the sorrowful.
- To bear wrongs patiently.
- To forgive all injuries.
- To pray for the living and the dead. (CCC 958, 1032)
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1830-31)
- Fear of the Lord
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1832)
The Seven Capital ("deadly") Sins (CCC 1866)