Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Commandments of the Church


 * Q. 293. What is meant by the commandment to confess our sins at least once a year?
A. By the commandment to confess our sins at least once a year is meant that we are strictly obliged to make a good confession within the year, if we have a mortal sin to confess.


 * This commandment binds all Catholics who have attained the use of reason. One who commits a mortal sin after Baptism is obliged by divine law to receive the sacrament of Penance. If this is impossible, one must make an act of perfect contrition and have the desire to receive the sacrament.

 * Baptized persons in the state of mortal sin who are in danger of death are obliged to receive the sacrament of Penance. Owing to the obligation to receive Holy Communion at Easter time, itis customary to discharge the duty of annual confession at the same time. One guilty of mortal sin who does not fulfill the precept of annual confession commits another mortal sin.

 * > "He therefore said to them again, 'Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.' When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained' " (John 20:21-23).

 * > "Confess, therefore, your sins to one another" (James 5:16).

 * > "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:8-10).


 * Q. 294. Why should we go to confession frequently?
A. We should go to confession frequently because frequent confession greatly helps us to overcome temptation, to keep in the state of grace, and to grow in virtue.


 * It is not necessary to go to confession before every Communion, provided one has not sinned mortally. One can best be guided about frequent confession by one's confessor.


 * Q. 295. What sin does a Catholic commit who neglects to receive Holy Communion worthily during the Easter time?
A. A Catholic who neglects to receive Holy Communion worthily during the Easter time commits a mortal sin.


 * This commandment obliges all Catholics who have the use of reason, Children who have completed seven years of age are presumed to have the use of reason. One does not fulfill this commandment of the Church by a sacrilegious Communion. One who has failed to receive Holy Communion within the appointed time is obliged to receive the Holy Eucharist as soon as possible.

 * > "Jesus therefore said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed' " (John 6:54-56).


 * Q. 296. What is the Easter time in the United States?
A. The Easter time in the United States begins on the first Sunday of Lent and ends on Trinity Sunday.


 * Trinity Sunday, or the Sunday after Pentecost, is eight weeks after Easter.


 * Q. 297. What is meant by the commandment to contribute to the support of the Church?
A. By the commandment to contribute to the support of the Church is meant that each of us is obliged to bear his fair share of the financial burden of the Holy See, of the diocese, and of the parish.



 * The Church instituted by Christ has the right to all the means it needs for the fulfillment of its divine commission, for divine worship, and for the support of the clergy. The Church has the right to determine how to secure the necessary means without civil interference. Mass stipends are given to the priest, not in payment for the spiritual benefits received, but as a means of his support.

 * > "When thou shalt take the sum of the children of Israel according to their number, every one of them shall give a price for their souls to the Lord: and there shall be no scourge among them, when they shall be reckoned. And this shall every one give that passeth at the naming, half a sicle according to the standard of the temple" (Exodus 30:12-13).

 * > "The priests and Levites, and all that are of the same tribe, shall have no part nor inheritance with the rest of Israel: because they shall eat the sacrifices of the Lord, and his oblation. And they shall receive nothing else of the possession of their brethren: for the Lord himself is their inheritance, as he hath said to them. This shall be the priest's due from the people, and from them that offer victims. Whether they sacrifice an ox, or a sheep, they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the breast: The first fruits also of corn, of wine, and of oil, and a part of the wool from the shearing of their sheep. For the Lord thy God hath chosen him of all thy tribes, to stand and to minister to the name of the Lord: him and his sons forever. If a Levite go out of any one of the cities throughout all Israel, in which he dwelleth, and have a longing mind to come to the place which the Lord shall choose: he shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, that shall stand at that time before the Lord. He shall receive the same portion of food that the rest do: besides that which is due to him in his own city, by succession from his fathers" (Deuteronomy 18:1-8).

 * > "Do not keep gold, or silver, or no wallet for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staff; for the laborer deserves his living" (Matthew 10:910).

 * > "So also the Lord directed that those who preach the gospel should have their living from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14).


 * Q. 298. What is the ordinary law of the Church to be observed at the wedding of a Catholic?
A. The ordinary law of the Church to be observed at the wedding of a Catholic is this: A Catholic can contract a true marriage only in the presence of an authorized priest and two witnesses. 30


 * Before marriage the contracting parties have a serious obligation to answer truthfully all questions asked by the priest concerning their freedom to marry. These questions are asked for the protection of the sacrament and the parties concerned.


 * Q. 299. Does the Church forbid Catholics to contract marriage with certain persons?
A. The Church does forbid Catholics to contract marriage with certain persons, and the following are examples: first, a marriage with a non-Catholic; this is a mixed marriage second, a marriage with a second cousin, or any relative closer than a second cousin.


 * Some other examples of marriages forbidden by the Church are: first, marriage of a boy who is not sixteen years old or of a girl who is not fourteen years of age; second, marriage between a godparent and a godchild; third, marriage between a widow or a widower and the near relatives of the deceased spouse.


 * Q. 300. Why does the Church forbid Catholics to marry non-Catholics?
A. The Church forbids Catholics to marry non-Catholics because mixed marriages often bring about family discord, loss of faith on the part of the Catholic, and neglect of the religious training of the children.


 * > "And it is better to die without children, than to leave ungodly children" (Ecclesiasticus 16:4).

 * > "You therefore, brethren, since you know this beforehand, be on your guard lest, carried away by the error of the foolish, you fall away from your steadfastness" (2 Peter 3:17).


 * Q. 301. Does the Church ever permit mixed marriages or marriages between close relatives?
A. For grave reasons the Church sometimes permits mixed marriages or marriages between close relatives; such a permission is called a dispensation.


 * The divine law forbids mixed marriages as long as there is danger to the faith of the Catholic party or of the offspring. The Church, before granting the dispensation for a mixed marriage, demands that this danger be removed and asks that guarantees to that effect be given by explicit promises made before a representative of ecclesiastical authority.

 * The non-Catholic party must promise not to endanger the faith of the Catholic; both parties must promise that the children born of the marriage will be baptized in the Catholic Church alone and educated solely in the Catholic religion. The Catholic party, moreover, must promise to strive for the conversion of the non-Catholic party by prayer and good example.

 * Those who do not understand that marriage is a sacrament divinely instituted and that only one Church was established by the Lord Christ are apt to consider these regulations of the Church rigorous and unreasonable. The Church is the divine guardian of faith and of the religion established by Christ. It is opposed to mixed marriages and does all that is possible to discourage them.


 * Q. 302. Does the Church allow Catholics to marry during Lent and Advent?
A. The Church allows Catholics to marry during Lent and Advent, provided they do so quietly and without much ceremony; a Nuptial Mass is forbidden during these seasons.


 * Q. 303. What is a Nuptial Mass?
A. A Nuptial Mass is a Mass which has special prayers to beg God's blessing on the married couple.




 * The third and fourth commandments of the Church are concerned with the reception of the two sacraments that are the principal sources of supernatural strength in the Christian life-Penance and the Holy Eucharist. One would think that every Catholic, realizing the great benefits given to his soul by these two sacraments, would need no special law obliging him to confess his sins and to nourish himself with the body and blood of Our Blessed Saviour. In the early days of the Church, it is true, no such legislation was needed; Christians made frequent use of these sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist, without the necessity of compulsion. But when fervor cooled, the Church was obliged to make laws in the matter. For a time Catholics were bound to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion three times a year-at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Later, at the Fourth Council of the Lateran in the year 1215, the law was mitigated to its present form, prescribing the reception of these sacraments at least once a year, the Holy Communion being received in the Easter season. For this reason the obligatory reception of Holy Eucharist is known as the "Easter Duty." According to the general law of the Church the period for receiving the Easter communion lasts only two weeks, from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday; but by special privilege this period is extended in the United States to fourteen weeks, from the first Sunday in Lent to Trinity Sunday.

 * If a person has no mortal sin to confess, he is not bound to receive the sacrament of Penance even once a year either by the law of God or by any general law of the Church. However, it is surely advisable to go to confession regularly even though one has no mortal sins to confess. Needless to say, annual confession and Communion represent the very least that can be expected of any member of the Church. We know, of course, that the other occasion when these sacraments must be received- the Holy Eucharist by all, Penance by those who have mortal sin to confess-is when a sick or very old person is in danger of death. Holy Communion on this occasion is called the Viaticum, which means "Food for a journey," the long journey into eternity.

 * The fifth commandment of the Church imposes on Catholics the obligation of doing their part toward supplying the material needs of religion. Catholics share in the benefits of their churches and schools; hence they must share in the expense of building and maintaining them. Catholics benefit by the services of their clergy and religious; hence they must contribute toward their support. In the Old Law God obliged the Jewish people to give a substantial portion of their possessions to the service of religion; Our Lord Himself spoke of a similar obligation toward those preaching the Gospel in His name, when He said, on sending His disciples to announce His message "The laborer deserves his living" (Matt. 10:10). The laws of the Church in former ages imposed on Catholics in some places the obligation of giving tithes-that is, one tenth of their earnings. Nowadays, very few Catholics give anything near this proportion of their income to religion. But all should give generously, with the conviction that they are giving to God, rather than to their fellow-men.

 * The sixth commandment of the Church refers to the sacrament of Matrimony. The Church has laid down a number of laws regulating marriage, because it is so important and holy a state, and the happiness of individuals and of the human race depends so much on the ideals and the conduct of married persons. Some of the more important Church laws have been mentioned in this lesson: but there are many others. One of the laws which all Catholics should seriously consider at the present day is that which forbids the marriage of Catholics with those who are not members of their Church. It is true, such marriages sometimes turn out successfully; sometimes they even serve as the occasion of the conversion of the non-Catholic to the true faith. But more frequently they injure the faith of the Catholic and of the children. Hence, the Church's first advice to young people thinking of marriage is: Marry those of your own religion. Even when the Church permits a mixed marriage, it demands that only a Catholic ceremony be used.

 * According to the law of the Church, a Catholic cannot be married validly, whether he marries another Catholic or a non-Catholic, except in the presence of an authorized priest and two witnesses. By an authorized priest is meant a bishop (or a vicar general) within his diocese, a pastor within his parish, or a priest deputed by any of these within his respective territory. A Catholic who attempts to contract marriage before a non-Catholic clergyman not only commits a grave sin but also incurs the penalty of excommunication. However, when an authorized priest cannot be had or approached without grave inconvenience, there are two exceptional cases in which a Catholic can validly and lawfully marry without a priest: first, when one, at least, of the parties of the marriage is in danger of death; second, when it can be prudently foreseen that an authorized priest cannot be had for a month. In these two cases Catholics can contract a marriage validly and lawfully in the presence of two witnesses.




 * Resolve to go to confession and receive Holy Communion at least once a month during your entire lifetime.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 22





 * (Join correctly the parts of the sentences in Columns I and II, by placing the right key letter in the proper parentheses).


 * Column I


 * A Catholic is bound to receive Holy Communion as Viaticum (...).

 * A person who has mortal sins to confess must receive the sacrament of Penance (...).

 * All Catholics who have reached the use of reason must receive Holy Communion (...).

 * According to the general law of the Church, the Easter season lasts (..).

 * In the United States the Easter season lasts (...).

 * A Mass stipend is given to a priest (...).

 * The Church forbids marriage (...).

 * The law of God forbids a mixed marriage (...).

 * The Catholic party of a mixed marriage is obliged (...).

 * A Catholic can contract marriage (...).


 * Column II


 * At least once a year.

 * Only in the presence of an authorized priest and two witnesses.

 * If there is danger to the faith of the children.

 * When he is in danger of death.

 * From Palm Sunday to Low Sunday.

 * To strive for the conversion of the non-Catholic.

 * In the Easter season.

 * Between a godparent and a godchild.

 * Not in payment for the spiritual benefits received but for his support.

 * From the first Sunday of Lent to the Trinity Sunday.

[THE LESSONS 22:15-66]



 * Answer the questions orally or as your teacher may direct):


 * The civil year begins with January 1st,-the ecclesiastical year with the first Sunday of Advent. How is the year generally reckoned with in which the precept of annual confession must be fulfilled?

 * Barnabas made a good confession on the vigil of Trinity Sunday. He received his Easter duty Communion the next day. Three days later, unfortunately, he committed a mortal sin. Two days after that he was seriously injured in a railroad wreck and was in danger of death. Is he bound to go to confession by the general law of the Church? By God's law? Explain your answers.

 * His sister Rita is also seriously injured in the same accident. She is a daily communicant. She is in the state of grace. Is she compelled by any law of God or of the Church to go to confession?

 * Isidore is an eccentric lad with a pronounced 'bump of contradiction.' Last year he went to Communion every Sunday, up to and including Quinquagesima Sunday. For no good reason at all he remained away from the Communion railing until the second Sunday after Pentecost. Did he satisfy the precept of Easter duty? Explain your answer.

 * Ludmilla is a very bright little girl in the second grade of elementary school. She is only six years old. May she receive her First Holy Communion? Give a brief explanation of your answer.

 * Polycarp, in mortal sin, has been putting off his annual confession and Easter duty from week to week. Finally, he lets the Easter duty season pass by without complying with these precepts. Trinity Sunday night he says to himself: "Well, I missed my Easter duty this year; now all the worry is over until next year!" Has Polycarp rid himself of the two obligations for the present year? What comment have you to make about the correctness or incorrectness of his conclusion?

 * Are Barnabas and Rita, mentioned above in the railroad wreck, obliged to receive Viaticum?

 * Gilbert's mother hands him $2.00 "for a Mass to be said by Father Roger." What is the customary name of that offering? For what is it given? Explain the answer.

 * Angela, of St. Luke's parish, is going to marry Regis of St. Gemma's parish. Angela's brother Damian, a priest in a neighboring diocese, is to perform the marriage ceremony. Does Father Damian need special authorization to perform the service in his sister's parish? Explain your decision.

 * What two sacraments are the principal sources of strength in the Christian life?

 * In former times, the support of religion took a tithe of one's earnings. What percentage of one's income is that? Theophilus, a local storekeeper, is earning $50.00 a week. If religion were to receive a tithe of his annual income, how much would he contribute to the various collections, drives, charitable institutions, and other works of a religious character during the course of the year?

 * Basil, a Catholic, 23 years of age, meets Vesta, a Congregationalist Sunday School teacher, and falls in love with her at first sight. His parents make strenuous objections to his company-keeping with Vesta. Are the parents correct in this attitude? Why? Should Basil discontinue the company-keeping? Why?

 * Lorenzo and Concetta are working for a year with an oil company in the Near East. The nearest Catholic Church is 100 miles distant; and a priest comes to their camp only once every two months to say Mass and to administer the sacraments. The young couple decides to marry. They cannot get a car to journey to the church; and they know that the priest is not due to visit them for five weeks. May they marry even without the presence of a priest? Explain how this can be done.

 * Howard, an earnest Methodist, tells his fiancee Martha, a Catholic, that the Catholic Church is unjust in laying down the conditions it requires for a mixed marriage. He claims that the fair thing is to have two ceremonies, one in his church and one in the Catholic Church. Moreover, he says, as far as the children of the marriage are concerned, while he is willing that the girls be brought up as Catholics, he demands that the boys accept the Methodist religion. What should Martha reply, and what should she do if Howard persists in his demands?


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