A. The six precepts of the Church are an amplification of the Third Commandment of the Decalogue.
The first precept of the Church enjoins upon the faithful to rest from work on certain days besides the Sunday, to give thanks to God for special graces.
The second precept of the Church ordains the way Sunday, and the other holy days of obligation are to be observed.
The third and fourth precepts of the Church oblige us to confess and communicate at least once a year.
The fifth precept bids us support our pastors.
The sixth forbids us to marry non-Catholics, or to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.
B. We are under a rigorous obligation to keep the commandments of the Church, for disobedience to the Church is disobedience to Christ.
Christ has conferred upon the Church the same powers which He Himself received from His Father; He said to His apostles: “As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you” (John xx. 21). When the Church enjoins anything upon us, it is the same as if Christ enjoined it; for He said: “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven” (Matt. xviii. 18).
In disobeying the Church, we disobey Christ; as He told the apostles: “He that despised you, despised Me” (Luke x. 16). Our Lord speaks of the Church as a kingdom; He also compares it to a fold, to teach us that the children of the Church must obey their ecclesiastical superiors. Every society is authorized to make laws which the members must observe; this the Church does; and by her mouth God makes His will know to us.
He therefore who wantonly violates one of the Church’s laws, commits a grievous sin.
Our Lord expressly says that he who will not hear the Church is to be regarded as a heathen (Matt. xviii. 17). Under the Old Dispensation death was the punishment of one who through pride should refuse to obey the commandment of the high priest (Deut. xvii. 12). Thus, we see that from the first rebellion against the spiritual authority was a heinous sin.
C. The rulers of the Church are empowered to dispense the faithful from the observance of any of the commandments of the Church for weighty reasons.
1.THE FIRST COMMANDMENT OF THE CHURCH: THE OBSERVANCE OF SUNDAYS AND HOLYDAYS
In the first commandment of the Church the solemn observance of the holy days is enjoined upon us. There are seven festivals of Our Lord, five of Our Lady, and three of the saints.
The early Christians kept a great number of festivals in order to keep alive the memory of certain events or benefits received from God as the anniversaries came round. These feasts were instituted that the events they commemorate might be remembered to all time by the faithful, and praise and thanksgiving be rendered to God for them. Unhappily some persons only mark these festivals by providing a more liberal table, as if, St. Jerome remarks, by eating and drinking one could honour those who sought to please God by fasting and mortification.
The seven feasts of Our Lord are (1), Christmas (Dec. 25th); (2), The Circumcision (Jan. 1st); (3), The Epiphany (Jan. 6th); (4), Easter; (5), The Ascension; (6), Pentecost; (7), Corpus Christi (the last-named is not a holyday for the United States).
As the nativity and the resurrection of Our Lord and the coming of the Holy Ghost are events of primary importance, they are celebrated with peculiar solemnity. In European countries the 26th of December, the feast of St. Stephen, and the two days immediately following Easter Day and Pentecost, are kept as feasts of devotion.
The five feasts of the Mother of God are: (1), The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th); (2), The Nativity of Our Lady (Sept. 8th); (3), The Annunciation (March 25th); (4), The Purification (Feb. 2d); (5), The Assumption (Aug. 15th). Of these festivals the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are the only ones now observed as holy days of obligation.
The life of the Mother of God is so intimately connected with that of her divine Son that the Church commemorates its principal events. Unlike the other saints, who are commemorated on the day of their death, because it was their birth to a better life, the day of Mary’s birth is solemnized, because she was born without sin.
The three festivals of the saints are: (1) The feast of St Stephen (Dec. 26th), no longer a holyday of obligation; (2), The feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (June 28th), not a holyday in the United States; (3), The feast of All Saints (Nov. 1st). In some lands the feast of the patron saint of the country is kept as a general holiday. These festivals are either fixed or movable. The former is kept yearly on the same day, the latter vary as to the date of celebration.
The fixed festivals are: The Immaculate Conception, Christmas, the Circumcision, the Epiphany, the Annunciation, St. Peter and St. Paul, the Assumption of and Nativity of Our Lady, the feast of All Saints. The movable feasts are Easter, which is kept on the first Sunday following the first new moon after the spring equinox, consequently in the interval between the twenty-second of March and the twenty-fifth of April; the Ascension, forty days after Easter; Pentecost, fifty days after Easter; Corpus Christi, the Thursday of the second week after Whitsunday.
The Church has instituted some of her festivals as substitutes for the feasts of the Old Testament, which were a foreshadowing of the Christian festivals. Others take the place of heathen festivities; the birth of Our Lord is commemorated in the season when the pagans consecrated the long winter nights to the worship of the sun; the processions in different countries on Candlemas Day is a Christianized form of the torch light processions held in the first days of February, when the days begin perceptibly to lengthen, in honour of the divinities of the ancients. This the Church did in order to render the evangelization of the heathen easier, by changing, instead of abrogating, their ceremonies.
- The holy days of obligation ought to be kept in the same manner as the Sundays; we must abstain from servile work and assist at holy Mass.
The number of holy days of obligation varies in different countries. In some certain festivals have been transferred to the Sunday following, as it was found that holy days recurring too frequently produced the opposite effect to that for which they were instituted.
The Ecclesiastical Year.
The Jews of old used to observe a number of feasts besides the Sabbath in commemoration of important events in their history, e.g., the festival of Easter in memory of the exit from Egypt; Pentecost, in memory of the giving of the law on Sinai; the feast of Tabernacles in memory of their journey through the desert. The Church does much the same; she annually recalls events in Our Lord’s life on earth, representing them as vividly as is possible after so long a lapse of time. This is especially the case in the ceremonies of Holy Week.
- The ecclesiastical year is an annual commemoration and representation of the life of Christ and of the time before and after His birth.
The Church places these events before us in order that we may meditate upon them and imitate Our Lord’s life. In Advent we are called upon to anticipate with the patriarchs of the Old Testament, the coming of the long-expected Redeemer; at Christmas we rejoice with the shepherds at His birth; in Lent we fast forty days with Christ; at Easter we rise again with Him; at Pentecost we join with the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Ghost. On almost every day of the year the Church commemorates one or more of the saints; they are like planets, revolving around the Sun of justice.
She bids us consider their lives, how they imitated Christ, and thus became patterns of Christian perfection; and she desires to encourage us to imitate Him too. It is besides the intention of the Church that we should implore the intercession of the saints, that we may the more surely be made partakers of the merits of Christ.
Finally, by weaving these Saints’ days into the cycle of the ecclesiastical year, she would teach us amid all our earthly occupations to keep our thoughts fixed upon God, doing all, as the Apostle exhorts us, to His glory (1 Cor. x. 31).
- The ecclesiastical year begins upon the first Sunday in Advent; its three principal feasts are: Christmas, when the birth of Christ is celebrated; Easter, the day of His resurrection; and Pentecost, when the coming of the Holy Spirit is commemorated.
Thus, the ecclesiastical year sets forth the glory of the Holy Trinity; it displays the charity of the Father, who sent His Son into the world; the charity of the Son, who died for our sakes, and the charity of the Holy Spirit, Who descended to abide with us. Therefore, the first Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated to the Holy Trinity; this feast links all the other three together.
Each of these three great feasts has a season of preparation preceding it as well as a subsequent commemoration.
Advent is the season of preparation before Christmas. In the subsequent period we have the feast of the Circumcision, the Epiphany, the Purification, and the Sundays after the Epiphany.
The four weeks of Advent represent the four thousand years during which the coming of the Messiah was expected. The Immaculate Conception occurs most suitably in Advent, the eighth of December, for at the birth of Christ the Sun of justice rose upon the world, dispelling the darkness of sin and ignorance; Mary was like the aurora (Cant. vi. 9), heralding the coming day. The period after Christmas is symbolical of the youth of Our Lord, and of the time which intervened before His entry upon His public ministry; His hidden life, that is, at Nazareth.
The forty days of Lent are the preparation for Easter; and the Paschal time lasts during the subsequent forty days before the ascension.
The preparation for Lent includes the three Sundays called respectively Septuagesima (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquagesima (50). They were so named because in the early days of Christianity many communities began the fast fifty, sixty, or seventy days before Easter, in order not to have to fast every day of the forty. The Wednesday after Quinquagesima is called Ash Wednesday, because of the ceremony of sprinkling ashes upon the foreheads of the faithful.
On Ash Wednesday the season of Lent commences; it is forty-six days before Easter; thus, the number of days is completed without the six Sundays, on which we do not fast. During Lent the public life of Our Lord is set before us, His previous fast, His Passion and death. The forty days which intervene before the ascension represent the forty days He spent on earth after His resurrection. The three days before the ascension are the Rogation days; on these processions are held.
The ten days after the ascension are the period of preparation for Pentecost. The subsequent commemoration lasts for twenty- four weeks, sometimes even longer.
The ten days before Pentecost represent the ten days during which the apostles awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit; the weeks that follow represent the time that shall elapse before the Last Judgment.
Consequently, on the last Sunday after Pentecost the Gospel read in church is that which foretells Our Lord’s coming as our Judge. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls close the ecclesiastical year. This is to signify that we are in unbroken communion with the blessed in heaven and the holy souls in purgatory and that our separation from them is but temporary. All Souls Day occurs suit ably when the face of nature presents an image of death.
3, The aspect of nature corresponds to the three principal festivals.
In Advent, at least for us who inhabit the northern hemisphere, the nights are longer than the days, and the life of vegetation is at a standstill; so it was in the spiritual order before the coming of Christ. After Christmas the days begin to lengthen; just so the birth of Christ brought light to the world. At Easter nature awakens to new life and decks herself with verdure; Christ rises glorious from the dead. At Pentecost trees and meadows are in their full beauty of leaf and blossom; with the coming of the Holy Spirit a fresh era commences for mankind, and fair flowers of holiness are brought forth.
2. THE SECOND COMMANDMENT OF THE CHURCH
By the second commandment of the Church the precept of fasting is laid upon us.
Fasting is as ancient as humanity itself. Even in paradise it was enjoined upon man to abstain from the fruit of one tree: moreover, certain meats were forbidden to the Jews; pork, for instance (Lev. xi.). On the Day of Propitiation, the Jews wore not permitted to taste food for twenty-four hours. Our Lord fasted forty days; so, did Moses and Elias before Him; and St. John Baptist, the Precursor, fasted most rigorously. The Church has good reasons for laying the obligation of fasting upon the faithful.
The laws of the Church in regard to fasting are in reality very strict; they have, however, been largely relaxed by the bishops to suit the exigencies of time and place.
The rule of fasting was originally so stringent that on the fast days not only was abstinence from flesh-meat enjoined, but milk, eggs, and butter were also prohibited; and no food was to be taken before sundown. But owing to the increase of constitutional weakness, and still more because of the spread of religious indifference over centuries, the rule has been more and more relaxed. Bishops are empowered to prescribe, each for his own diocese, on what days meat is permitted. Hence the rule varies in different dioceses, and it is well, ongoing into another diocese, to ascertain what the rule is in that part.
There are three kinds of fasting at present: (1), Abstinence from flesh-meat; (2), Taking one full meal only in the day; (3), Strict fasting, in which both are enjoined.
In the second commandment of the Church, we are ordered to abstain on all Fridays of the year; and to fast during the forty days of Lent, on the Ember days, and on the vigils of certain feasts.
- We are forbidden to eat meat on Friday, because on that day Our Lord died for us.
Not only is meat prohibited, but all dishes in the preparation of which it enters. Fish, turtle, and shellfish may be eaten, also eggs, milk, and butter, in almost all countries. The Church has forbidden the use of meat because Christ sacrificed His flesh for us; also, because meat is an article of food easily dispensed with, and yet what men generally like best. Another reason is to remind us that the lusts of the flesh are to be resisted (Gal. v. 19), and these are fostered by eating meat. Some people quote Our Lord’s words: “Not those things which go into the mouth defile the man” (Matt. xv. 11), as opposed to this prohibition; but He also said: “The things that come from the heart, those things defile the man” (Matt. xv. 18). Disobedience to the Church comes from the heart, and this it is which defiles, not the actual meat. If Christmas Day falls on a Friday, meat is allowed, because Our Lord would not have us fast at a season of rejoicing (Matt. ix. 15).
In early ages the use of meat was also forbidden on Saturdays.
The original object of this prohibition was to suppress the observance of the Sabbath day, which still lingered among Christian converts. It is now done away with; yet Christians often impose some restriction upon their amusements on Saturday, in view of better sanctifying the morrow.
- During the forty days of Lent only one full meal is to be taken, as a partial imitation of Our Lord’s fast of forty days, and as a suitable preparation for celebrating the festival of Easter.
The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday, and last until Easter Day; the Sundays alone are not fasting days.
The Lenten fast was instituted by the apostles in commemoration of Our Lord’s fast in the wilderness (Matt. iv.). It is a time of penance and of sorrow for sin; hence violet vestments are worn at the altar. It is natural to fast when we are in grief (Matt. ix. 15). We ought also during Lent to meditate upon Our Lord’s Passion, which is commemorated in Holy Week, and which usually forms the theme of the Lenten sermons.
By fasting and meditation upon Our Lord’s Passion we most readily awake within ourselves the grace of contrition and consciousness of sin. The forty days of Lent are also a preparation for the Easter festival. In early times the fast was much more rigorous; the primitive Christians ate no meat all the time and did not break their fast until the evening.
Even in the Middle Ages meat was prohibited; those who ate it were not admitted to the paschal communion (Council of Toledo, 653). Those who broke this law were punished by the secular authority on the ground of contempt for religion. The rule of fasting is made very easy nowadays.
All that the Church requires of us is to take only one full meal over the day; a slight refection is permitted in the morning, besides the evening collation. Drinking does not break the fast; yet we must only drink to quench our thirst, not in order to compensate for privations in the way of solid food. No one is required to keep the fast of Lent who has not attained the age of twenty-one years.
- We ought to keep the fast of the Ember days strictly, in order to implore almighty God to send us good priests, and to thank Him for the benefits received during the past quarter.
The Ember days are three in number, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, at the commencement of each quarter (quittor tempura); of old these were the appointed seasons for ordination to the priesthood.
The Ember days of the winter season fall in the third week of Advent of the spring quarter in the second week of Lent; in summer in Whitsun week and in autumn in the third week in September. The Jews were accustomed to fast four times a year (Zach. viii. 19). Christ enjoined upon us the duty of praying for good priests, in the words: “The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He send forth laborers into His harvest” (Matt. ix. 37, 38).
- We are also bound to fast on the vigils of certain feasts, in order the better to prepare ourselves for celebrating those feasts.
The better our preparation, the more abundant are the graces we obtain on the feast itself. The early Christians were accustomed to assembling on the eves of great festivals, to pass the night in watching and prayer, and in assisting at the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This they did because had they held the services in the daytime, they would have been liable to disturbance on the part of the pagans.
Our Lord Himself used often to pass whole nights in prayer (Luke vi. 12). When at a later period the attendance at the nightly services fell off, and inconveniences arose, the Popes judged it advisable to transfer the celebration of the vigil to the daytime. The vigil of Christmas is the only one in which the nightly celebration has been retained up to the present time; of all the others nothing survives but the past.
These vigils are the days preceding the four great festivals of Christmas, Pentecost, the Assumption, and All Saints’ Day.
[Ed. NOTE: the seventh edition had this text: These vigils are the days preceding the three great festivals: that is, Christmas Eve, Holy Saturday, and the Saturday before Pentecost. The eve of the Assumption is also kept in most dioceses, but the rule respecting the fast varies.]
- It is by no means the desire of the Church that we should fast to the injury of our health, or that we should thereby be hindered from performing the duties of our station.
- Consequently persons whose health is weak are permitted to eat meat on Friday.
The sick, those who are recovering from an illness, very aged people, and children under seven come within this rule. Children under seven, being incapable of sin, have no need for penance. persons who must exert themselves very much, either physically or mentally, are in some dioceses dispensed from the Friday abstinence; this however does not depend upon the nature of their calling, so much as on the constitution of everyone, and the amount of work he must get through daily.
A dispensation is granted by some bishops to those who must travel on Friday, as well as to those whose meals are provided for them, e.g., servants, students, soldiers; to those also who must take their meals as best they can, such as railway guards, and to those who are staying for their health at some health resort. The poor may eat meat, which is given them as alms, otherwise they would have to go hungry.
Yet all classes of people ought to endeavour to abstain on the strictest fasts, such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Above all, those who eat meat on abstinence days must beware lest they give scandal to others. St. Paul warns the faithful against this: “Take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumbling-block to the weak” (1 Cor. viii. 9), and for his own part he says: “If meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh” (v. 13).
- The following persons are dispensed from fasting (i.e., from taking only one meal in the twenty-four hours):
- The sick, the weak, and those who are recovering from illness; 2. those who do hard work and cannot, if they fast, fulfil the duties of their state of life; 3. those who are too poor to buy strengthening food for their chief meal; and 4. those who are under twenty-one or who have passed their fifty-ninth year.
[ed. note: the seventh edition had this text instead of the prior list: … those who are under twenty-one years of age, or who are constitutionally delicate, or who have continued, strenuous exertion, whether physical or mental.]
Young people who have not done growing require more than one full meal a day; of invalids we have already spoken. In the class who are engaged in active and laborious work, we include those who exert themselves for the temporal or spiritual welfare of their fellowmen, such as confessors, preachers, catechists, schoolmasters, nurses, physicians, magistrates, etc., who frequently require taking something to sustain their strength. When the influenza was so prevalent, a general dispensation from fasting was granted. The command to keep ourselves in health is given by God and is a law of our nature; whereas the precept of fasting is laid on us by the Church; and the law of God is paramount above the law of the Church. Those who cannot fast substitute for it some other good work. Confessors have ordinarily power to dispense from fasting, and impose some other good work, prayers or alms, in its place.
- No one ought to carry fasting to an excess, for what God requires from us is our reasonable service (Rom. xii. 1).
He who overdoes fasting is like a coachman who whips his horses into a gallop and runs the risk of upsetting the carriage; or like an overladen vessel, that is easily capsized. Even some of the saints went to an excess in fasting, and afterwards much regretted it. No one ought to venture to do more than the rule prescribes, without the advice of his confessor. Obedience is far better than self-willed piety. As a rule, it is preferable to be temperate every day of the week than to fast rigorously on one or two days. Fasting is intended to destroy the evil lusts of the body, not the body itself. We must deal v with our bodies as a parent deal with his child; he does not chastise him when he is docile, but when he is disobedient. Fasting, like medicine, must be used in moderation or it becomes injurious.
- Fasting is beneficial both for the soul and the body.
The intellectual powers are sharpened by moderation in our food. At Nabuchodonosor’s court Daniel ate pulse and drank water, and he surpassed in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom all the wise men of the kingdom (Dan. i.). By fasting the soul is fortified and enabled both to bring the body into subjection (1 Cor. ix. 27), and to overcome the temptations of the devil. The fortress surrenders when the garrison is starved out; so, the body, under stress of hunger, yields to the will and the understanding.
Our bodies must be tamed like wild animals. The devil regards the flesh as his best ally; he knows that the enemy at a man’s fireside can do him the worst and the greatest harm. By fasting we put our foe in irons, so that he cannot wage war against us. The bird of prey loves a fat prize, he does not make the half-starved one his victim. The athlete who “refrained himself in all things” (1 Cor. ix. 25), in preparation for the contest, is most likely to conquer. A high degree of virtue is also acquired by means of fasting. It inclines man to prayer; it helps him to overcome himself, to be gentle, patient, and chaste; it makes him resemble the angels, who neither eat nor drink. In the same proportion that the animal part of our nature is lessened, our spiritual nature is invigorated; like the scales of a balance, as one goes down the other rises. Our health is improved and our life prolonged by abstemiousness. It is the parent of good health. The hermits in the Theban desert fasted rigorously and they lived to be a hundred years old.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, reached the age of one hundred and forty years; this he attributed to the fact that he never fully satisfied his appetite. The Wise Man says: “He that is temperate shall prolong his life” (Ecclus. xxxvii. 34); “a moderate man also enjoys wholesome and sound sleep” (Ecclus. xxxi. 24).
By fasting we obtain from God the pardon of our sins; witness the Ninevites when they fasted; by it we also work off some of our purgatory. God hears and answers the prayers of those who fast; He heard the prayers of the centurion, who fasted until the ninth hour (Acts x. 30) and sent an angel to him. When Holofernes laid siege to Bethulia, the inhabitants betook themselves to prayer and fasting, and they were delivered in a marvellous manner by Judith.
St. Augustine calls fasting and almsgiving the two pinions of prayer. Fasting is a means of earning extraordinary graces, for God has ever been wonted to recompense it with singular favours. After Moses had fasted, he was admitted to the honour of conversing with God upon Sinai. After Elias long fast, God appeared to him upon Mount Horeb (3 Kings xix.). He who fasts, grows more and more spiritual; he is in a measure divinized; hence God vouchsafes to hold intercourse with him (Rodriguez). Fasting is rewarded after death.
Moses and Elias were present at Our Lord’s transfiguration, because they alone of all the patriarchs had fasted forty days as He did. Hence, we see that glory is reserved in a future life for those who fast in this world. In the Preface for Lent the Church sings: “Who by a bodily fast restrains vices, uplifts our minds, and grandest strength and rewards.”
- Abstinence from food is only pleasing to God if, at the same time, we refrain from sin and perform good works.
Fasting is not in itself an excellent thing (1 Cor. viii. 8), but only as a means whereby the suppression of our vices and the practice of virtue is facilitated. How does it profit a man if he abstains from meat, and by his calumnies destroys his neighbour’s reputation? Such a one may be compared to a whited sepulchre, outwardly beautiful, but foul within (Matt. xxiii. 27). The devil does not eat, yet he is unceasingly employed in doing evil. Fasting without prayer is like a lamp without oil, because we only fast to pray better. Fasting without almsgiving is a field without seed; it fosters the weeds of avarice. He fasts for himself, not for God, who does not give to the poor what he denies to himself.
3. THE THIRD AND FOURTH COMMANDMENTS OF THE CHURCH
1.In the third and fourth commandments the Church enjoins upon us the duty of approaching the Sacrament of Penance and receiving holy communion at Easter.
Holy communion ought to be received often, because it is the food of the soul. That soul will be starved which for a long time does not receive this nourishment. Our Lord says: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you” (John vi. 54).
The early Christians used originally to receive holy communion every day; later on, only on the three great feasts, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. And when in the Middle Ages the fervour of many grew cold, the Council of Lateran (1215), ordained that all Christians who were capable of distinguishing good from evil were obliged to confess their sins at least once a year, and at Easter, at the least, devoutly to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Council of Trent expresses the wish that the confession also should be made at Easter, for it says: “Throughout the whole Church the salutary custom prevails of making confession of sin during the holy and most suitable season of Lent; a custom which the Church approves and accepts as pious and most certainly to be retained” (14 C. 5).
Holy communion should be preceded by confession, lest any man should approach holy communion in a state of mortal sin; the Easter communion is no exception to this rule. The obligation of the Easter precept is not fulfilled by a sacrilegious communion, nor by an invalid confession. Although the Church only requires every Christian to confess his sins once a year, yet it need hardly be said that if any man has the misfortune to fall into mortal sin, he should go to confession without delay.
- The time for fulfilling the Easter precept was formerly only two weeks, from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday; it is now extended in almost all dioceses, being from the first Sunday of Lent to Low Sunday, sometimes even to Trinity Sunday.
- It is fitting that we should receive holy communion at Easter, because it was just before Easter Day, on Holy Thursday, that Our Lord instituted the Adorable Sacrament of the Altar.
At Easter Christ also rose from the dead. If we make a good confession, we, in a spiritual sense, rise from the dead. For the soul which is in mortal sin is spiritually dead; through the Sacrament of Penance, it receives the Holy Spirit again, and spiritual life is again restored to it. At the grave of the risen Redeemer the angel said to the women: “Why seek you the living with the dead? He is not here, He is risen.” Would that our guardian angel could say the same of us, when the devil, after Easter, thinks to find us still sleeping in the sepulchre of sin. “You seek the living with the dead, the converted with the sinners; he is not here.” “As Christ is risen from the dead, so we may also walk in newness of life” (Rom. vi. 4).
- The Church allows Catholics to make their Easter confession elsewhere than in their parish church.
The Church is aware that some find it easier to disclose the wounds of their soul to a stranger, and she permits this in order to prevent such persons from approaching the sacraments unworthily. Formerly everyone was bound to go to his parish priest as a mark of respect.
- Christian burial can be denied to a Catholic who has not been in the habit of receiving the sacraments at Easter, and who dies unrepentant.
5. THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT OF THE CHURCH
By the fifth commandment of the Church, we are bound to contribute to the support of our pastors.
6. THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT OF THE CHURCH
Marriage and the penitential seasons.
In the sixth commandment marriage with non-Catholics is forbidden, also the marriage of those who are related within the fourth degree of kindred. Marriages are not to be solemnized during fixed seasons. These penitential times are from the beginning of Advent until the Epiphany, and from Ash Wednesday until Low Sunday.
This rule was made by the Council of Trent (Council of Trent, 24, 10). Formerly the prohibition also included the period between the Monday of Rogation week until the first Sunday after Pentecost; in some countries at the present time, it applies to the Rogation days and all fasts throughout the year.
Advent and Lent are seasons of penance and sorrow for sin, and festivities ill accord with sorrow. Moreover, in Advent the Church proposes the mystery of the Incarnation, and in Lent the mystery of the redemption for our meditation, and it would be unseemly to divert our minds from these solemn subjects by worldly amusements. The bishop can give permission for marriages to be contracted privately during these times; for their public solemnization the authorization of the Holy See is necessary. Concerts are not forbidden, but dances are. Those who transgress this command expose themselves to the judgment God threatens by the prophet: “I will turn your feasts into mourning” (Amos viii. 10).