What does it mean to be a faithful Catholic woman?
Have you ever wondered if you really have a place in the Catholic Church? Can you reconcile the idea of being a faithful Catholic woman with the fact that you/your life looks nothing like the stereotype that popped into your head when you read “faithful Catholic woman”?
I can’t tell you that there isn’t a list of what makes a faithful Catholic.
There is a list, but it doesn’t involve occupation, vocation, devotions, number of children, or style of mass. Or most any of the multitude of things that come to mind when you think of a stereotypical “faithful Catholic woman”.
The Church, as a good parent who communicates expectations, has written out the standards for what makes a faithful, practicing Catholic. They’re called the Precepts of the Church. There’s only five of them, so I think we can handle that! Here’s what it might look like to live out the precepts of the Church in your life.
You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor
This sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Just show up on the required days and don’t work through days of rest. Welllll….
Yes, situations are going to come up when you can’t physically be at mass. Maybe you’re a teacher and have gotten sick for the umpteenth time this semester. Maybe you’re newly postpartum. Maybe you’re a nurse and frankly somebody has to show up on Sundays for those patients.
It’s ok. Creativity is the name of the game here. Make an Act of Spiritual Communion if you cannot be physically at mass. Read the mass readings at home. Maybe you have to work a shift at the hospital, but can you have a simple crockpot dinner at home and leave the laundry for Monday?
Don’t be looking for excuses to get out of mass or taking a day of rest, but it’s ok to accept the reality of your circumstances and take the grace the Church is offering.
You shall confess your sins at least once a year
Getting to confession is probably one of the most evaded of the precepts! I know I struggle to make regular confession a priority. The Church only requires that we make a confession once a year, but more regular than that is recommended.
I’ve heard a lot of techniques people have used to make this happen. Getting a priest as your spiritual adviser, and having confession as part of your spiritual advising, is my own goal, but I do not currently have that set up yet.
Having a confession buddy can help get you in the confessional! Maybe you go out for coffee and share some fellowship afterwards. Confession does not have to be a dreaded part of the life of a Catholic!
You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season
That’s now! Make a confession stop and receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a squeaky clean soul!
If you are not physically able to get to Church, don’t be shy about calling up your local parish and asking for a priest to visit you for confession and to receive the Eucharist. They want to help you!
You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church
These too are not asking for much. The only official days of fasting and abstinence as established by the Church are: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays of Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.
Now the faithful are welcome to add to that, if so appropriate to their spiritual growth or calling, but this is the extent of what is required.If you are pregnant, nursing, over the age of 59, or have other medical concerns you are exempt from the mandatory fasting and abstinence.
However, I find that it is beneficial for me to observe the fasting and abstinence days as best as I can, or in non-food ways, even if I am not able to observe the full requirements of the day. Maybe I still need to eat regular meals due to pregnancy, but I don’t need to have dessert or eat my favorite foods. Perhaps you fast from unnecessary screen time, Facebook, or from procrastination. Use the fast to address what needs to be addressed in your life and soul!
You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church
This precept is about providing for a material needs of the Church, but it’s not just about making sure the lights stay on and important ministries can keep functioning.
My pastor is fond of saying that they Church doesn’t need volunteers, She needs disciples. If this was just about getting the work done, God would have had the angels do it and they would have got it done faster and better! Each of us must examine our lives and gifts and determine how we can contribute to the physical needs of the Church. This is an individual call to action, and is something we are each to fulfill to the best of our ability.
Have you heard of the Precepts of the Church before? Does having the Precepts laid out make it easier or harder to think of yourself as a faithful Catholic woman?