Precepts of the Church


The Precepts of the Church describe the minimum effort we must make in prayer and in living a moral life. All Catholics are called to move beyond the minimum by growing in love of God and love of neighbor.

The Precepts are as follows:

  1. Attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
  2. Confession of serious sin at least once a year
  3. Reception of Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter season
  4. Observance of the days of fast and abstinence
  5. Providing for the needs of the Church

The Precepts of the Church

As early as the fourth century, we see the Church insisting that its members behave in certain ways: They were to attend Mass on Sundays and special feasts, receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, and not get married during Advent and Lent. By the end of the Middle Ages, there was a consensus that Catholics were obliged to perform certain practices. Saint Peter Canisius, writing in 1555, listed five precepts, and his list is used in Germany and Latin America. Saint Robert Bellarmine, writing in 1589, listed six precepts, and his list is followed in France and Italy. The Baltimore Catechism used in the United States listed six precepts, and the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the five precepts that are given on page 95. Whatever their number, the purpose of the precepts has always been to preserve good order in the Church, to maintain discipline within the Church, and to establish a specific Catholic identity.