If you’re a parent, or if you’ve ever had a parent, then I’m sure that you are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of ‘house rules’. These are the things that we, as parents, decide to enforce within our homes for the safety and well-being of our children as individuals, but also for the whole family. We teach our kids from an early age not to play with fire. Why? Because we don’t want them to get burned, and we also don’t want them to burn down the house we all live in. Psychologists know that children need limits; it’s how they are protected and it’s how they learn. As an adult, no one needs to tell you to not play with matches because you have internalized that behavior. It’s an uncaring parent who never provides limits to their child, never gives rules to be followed, because no rules is a very risky way to live for both their health and for their future.
What about our role in the family of God? Are there house rules here? Of course!
As part of my role here at St. John as Sacramental Prep Coordinator, I help people discern who to ask to be Godparents for their child’s Baptism and who to ask to be a sponsor for Confirmation. Oftentimes people are surprised when I tell them that at least one Godparent (and sponsor) must be an active, practicing Catholic. Why is it so important for the Godparent/Sponsor to be active in their life of faith? They will set an example for how to live a Catholic life simply by practicing it themselves. As said by Pope Paul VI, and often quoted by St. John Paul II, “Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, he does so because they are witnesses.” So, if we want our children to learn how to live a life with Christ, they must see witnesses in us – parents, Godparents, & sponsors, and every Catholic around them – living a life with Christ, not simply talking about it.
The question that often follows this conversation is, “okay, what does it mean to be an active, practicing Catholic?” In other words, what does this look like? What are the ‘house rules’ to living in the Catholic family? For an answer to this we can turn to the Catechism, but before we do, I think it’s important to remember that these ‘rules’ of Catholic life are not there to burden us or restrict us anymore than it is a burden on a child not to play with fire; they are there to remind us of how to live in relationship with Christ and His Church for our benefit and for the well-being of the whole Church, especially in the moments when we don’t feel like it. It’s those moments, the times when it’s hard to follow the ‘rules’ that we need them the most. Okay, on to the Catechism.
If you pop open your Catechism (you can Google an online version if you don’t own one) to #2041-2043 you will find a short description of the Precepts of the Church. These precepts are the bare minimum expectations for what it means to live a Catholic life, and they form the foundation, again the minimum, of what a parent promises when they accept the responsibility of raising a child in the Catholic faith at their child’s Baptism. The Precepts are:
- Attendance at Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation
- Making a Sacramental Confession at least once a year
- Reception of Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter season
- Observance of the days of fasting and abstinence
- Providing for the needs of the Church
That’s really it. For a little more explanation:
- Attend Mass on Sundays & Holy Days, which equates to less than 60 hours/year.
- Go to Reconciliation once a year; if you don’t think you need this one, talk to your spouse, they’ll let you know what to confess.
- Receiving Communion at least once a year might sound contradictory to going to Mass every week, but remember that you should not receive Communion if you are in a state of mortal sin, so it is entirely possible to attend Mass and not go to the Eucharistic table.
- The days of fasting are only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, just two days, while abstinence (meaning: no meat) are Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday; more on the specifics of these during Lent!
- Finally, notice that there is no minimum expectation on what it means to provide for the needs of the Church. It doesn’t say, “give 10% or else” – but it does say that we are expected to provide. For most people that’s a financial gift, usually spread out over the year (check out our parish’s website: saintjohnjackson.org/giving/ for more details on this), but it can also mean giving of your time and talent. It’s a sad reality that not everyone can give a monetary gift, but everyone has something to offer and it is all needed. The Holy Spirit places specific people in places where the gifts and talents that He has given them are most needed. So, whether you give cash or time, or both, know that your gift is greatly appreciated, and if you aren’t sure what to give, call the office, we’d love to talk with you!
We have loving Parents in our Father, God, and Holy Mother Church, who provide limits and expectations to us for our spiritual health and the well-being of the whole Church family! In conclusion, whether you are a parent, Godparent, sponsor, or simply a Baptized Catholic trying to figure out what it means to walk this walk together, we are glad that you’re here, we are glad that you’re part of our family, and we are glad that you are making the effort to live this life with us. It’s not easy, and none of us is perfect at it, but we are praying together to do it well, so that, hopefully, we will internalize these ‘house rules’ so deeply that we don’t no longer need to be told what it means to be an active, practicing Catholic because we’ll be doing it!
For a short video on this subject, check out Fr. Mike Schmitz on YouTube.com. Simply go to YouTube and in the search bar type: Fr Mike Schmitz practicing Catholic.