The Commandments of the Church; The First and Second Commandments

Lesson 21 from the Baltimore Cathechism

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279. Whence has the Catholic Church the right to make laws?

The Catholic Church has the right to make laws from Jesus Christ, who said to the apostles, the first bishops of His Church: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven."

Amen I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

280. By whom is this right to make laws exercised?

This right to make laws is exercised by the bishops, the successors of the apostles, and especially by the Pope, who as the successor of the chief of the apostles, Saint Peter, has the right to make laws for the Universal Church.

And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

281. Which are the chief commandments, or laws, of the Church?

The chief commandments, or laws, of the Church are these six:

  1. To assist at Mass on all Sundays and holydays of obligation.
  2. To fast and to abstain on the days appointed.
  3. To confess our sins at least once a year.
  4. To receive Holy Communion during the Easter time.
  5. To contribute to the support of the Church.
  6. To observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage.

282. What sin does a Catholic commit who through his own fault misses Mass on a Sunday or holyday of obligation?

A Catholic who through his own fault misses Mass on a Sunday or holyday of obligation commits a mortal sin.

Keep you my sabbath; for it is holy unto you. (Exodus 31:14)

283. Which are the holydays of obligation in the United States?

The holydays of obligation in the United States are these six:

  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • The Octave of the Nativity (January 1)
  • Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter)
  • The Assumption (August 15)
  • All Saints' Day (November 1)
  • The Immaculate Conception (December 8)

284. What else does the Church oblige us to do on holydays of obligation?

The Church obliges us to abstain from servile work on holydays of obligation, just as on Sundays, as far as we are able.

285. Why were holydays instituted by the Church?

Holydays were instituted by the Church to remind us of the mysteries of our religion and of the important events in the lives of Christ and of His Blessed Mother, and to recall to us the virtues and the rewards of the saints.

286. What is a fast day?

A fast day is a day on which only one full meal is allowed, but in the morning and evening some food may be taken, the quantity and quality of which are determined by approved local custom.

287. Who are obliged to observe the fast days of the Church?

All baptized persons between the ages of twenty-one and fifty-nine are obliged to observe the fast days of the Church, unless they are excused or dispensed.

288. What is a day of abstinence?

A day of abstinence is a day on which we are not allowed the use of meat.

289. Who are obliged to observe the abstinence days of the Church?

All Catholics who have passed their fourteenth birthday and have attained the use of reason are obliged to observe the abstinence days of the Church, unless excused or dispensed.

290. Why does the Church command us to fast and to abstain?

The Church commands us to fast and to abstain in order that we may control the desires of the flesh, raise our minds more freely to God, and make satisfaction for sin.

But thou, when thou dost fast, anoint thy head wash thy face, so that thou mayest not be seen fasting by men, but by thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who sees in secret, will reward thee. (Matthew 6:18)

291.Why does the Church make Fridays of Lent days of abstinence?

The Church makes Fridays of Lent days of abstinence in order that we may do penance for our sins, and also in order that we may prepare ourselves more worthily for Good Friday, when we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.

292. How can we know the days appointed for fast or abstinence?

We can know the days appointed for fast or abstinence from the instructions of our bishops and priests.

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