Wednesday 2 June 2021

Practising Your Faith - Father Lewis Berry CO - The 5 Precepts of the Catholic Church

Practising Your Faith 
Father Lewis Berry CO
Catholic Truth Society
eISBN 9781784692445
CTS Booklet DO915

Over the last several years, I have read nearly 200 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society, CTS. I have read books from many series. And many authors. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. This however is the first by Father Lewis Berry that I have read, and I believe it is his only book todate. The description of the booklet is:

“Fr Berry explores the five Precepts of the Catholic Church, the basic rules Catholics should live their everyday lives by. He explains the history of the precepts and how we should live them in the modern world, basing his explanation on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Just think what an extraordinary witness it would be if every single Catholic in the world observed all these five Precepts. We are called to nothing less.””

And the chapters in the book are:

A Journey through the Precepts
The First Precept: 
     “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and 
       holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour”
The Second Precept: 
      “You shall confess your sins at least once a year”
The Third Precept: 
      “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist 
       at least during the Easter season”
The Fourth Precept: 
      “You shall observe the days of fasting 
       and abstinence established by the Church”
The Fifth Precept: 
       “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”

The first section in this volume is called: ‘A Journey through the Precepts’. And it states: 

“What are the precepts of the Church? This book focuses on a simple yet challenging element of the Catholic faith which it’s important to know about and understand. The precepts take up just half a page of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and yet, when we start to reflect on them, we find in them a “rule of life” for Catholics, a “game-plan” which directs us decisively on the path towards God and his salvation. The precepts were well-known to our parents and grandparents in recent times we’ve heard less about them. We’re going to take a journey through the precepts, learn something of their history, and try to answer some questions we may have about them. But first, we need to ask - What are the precepts?”

From there he continues with a brief summary or overview of the precepts. Father Berry states:

The first precept is: “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour.” This precept points to the supreme value of assisting at Mass each Sunday and holy day; it also tells us to rest, so as to hallow the Lord’s day, most especially with our families.

The second is: “You shall confess your sins at least once a year”, providing a minimum observance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation - a challenge to us if we’ve been putting off going to confession!

The third states: “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season”, pointing us to the loving Lord who desires to give us himself in Holy Communion, to which the Church therefore at least periodically obliges us.

The fourth is: “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” This binds us to limit how much food we eat on certain days of fasting (e.g. Ash Wednesday) and to abstain from meat on Fridays, reflecting the Gospel emphasis on penance as a way of uniting ourselves to the cross of Christ.

The fifth and final precept tells us: “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”, requiring us to give - to the extent we are able - towards the material support of the Church, for her ministers, buildings, etc., and for the work of evangelisation.”

This book is very well written. It is one of my favorites from all the titles I have read from the CTS. It explains these basics in clear and concise language. It is easily accessible. From teen to octogenarian this book could be of great value and worth. Easy to read easy to understand. It cane be used as a refresher, for deeper grounding, or basic instruction. No matter your level of faith and understanding of the Catholic faith, and how to live it out. A fantastic volume.

Note that at the end of the section on the fifth precept there is a section called, ‘An extraordinary witness’. And that section states:

“Those familiar with the precepts from previous decades may have noticed that one, or even two, precepts, are not to be found in this booklet. The precepts in question are these: a sixth precept stated that Catholics must obey the marriage laws of the Church; a seventh, found in some books, said that we must assist the Church’s work of evangelisation. Why aren’t these precepts covered here? This booklet has presented the list in the modern Catechism, where these two additional precepts don’t appear. The sixth precept, about marriage laws, is to be found in Canon Law, and its requirements continue to apply today. For Catholics, marriage is a sacrament celebrated in communion with the Church, and the Church’s marriage laws reflect the fact that there is no marriage for a Catholic from which Jesus and his Church can be excluded. In order to observe what Canon Law lays down, the right course of action for a Catholic considering marriage is to speak to a priest, and, preferably, to do so as early as possible. In embracing the teachings and laws of the Church regarding marriage, even if at times they may be challenging, we place ourselves in the hands of Our Lord, who is guiding us through his Church to the fullness of love, which is the sacrifice of our lives.”

And the final section of that same chapter, and in fact end of the book is called; ‘We are called to nothing less’. And it says:

“The old seventh precept, regarding evangelisation, gives us a final key, in fact, for our whole review of the precepts. We saw in the case of the fourth precept how our participation in the Church’s discipline - here in the (sometimes) public act of fasting and abstinence - can actually be an opportunity to be witnesses to the faith. But isn’t it the same with the other precepts too? So often we hear that we are called to be witnesses to Christ in our everyday lives. But how? Of course this applies to everything we do, but the precepts, as mostly public acts which show our concrete commitment to the Church and her life, speak volumes about what is important to us and what is truly the centre of our lives. By being present at Mass every Sunday and holyday, by making a good communion, by going to confession, and by willingness to make sacrifices for the needs of the Church (the last two are not public in the same way, but those close to us may well know), we become agents of the New Evangelisation. Just think what an extraordinary witness it would be if every single Catholic in the world observed all these five precepts. We are called to nothing less.”

As can be seen from these two final quotes from this book is an excellent volume. It is in fact a book I wish I had read when a teenager. I likely would not have wandered away from the church only to eventually find my way back. It is a great volume for personal reading and study. But would be excellent in a group. Either with friends or family. Or for high school or young adult groups to work through.

I really enjoyed reading this volume. And know I will work through it again. It was a great book to work through. If you are looking for a great volume to read I can highly recommend this one. It is another great resource from the Catholic Truth Society!  And one of my favorites outside the biographies of all the books from the CTS that I have read to date. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

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