Knowing just what is required of faithful Catholics can be confusing. Especially in this time of blogs and social media. Blogs can be a really great way to learn about our faith, but it’s easy for bloggers (even yours truly) to make it seem like particular practices are mandatory for Catholics, or even just “better,” when in reality those are just practices that SOME people find helpful in living out their own faith, but that are by no means required to be practiced by all Catholics.
Things like homeschooling, and not working outside the home, have been such an important part of my own faith journey that it’s easy for me to confuse them for “Best Practices for Catholics.” They may be best practices for ME but they’re not universal.
Similarly, I’ve encountered folks who present things like veiling, or attending Latin Mass, or adhering to a prairie-dress-type standard of modesty, or boycotting, as things that “real” Catholics should do, but I haven’t personally felt called to any of those things, myself.
On the other hand, many beliefs and practices that ARE required of the faithful are often presented as optional, or expired, or nice but unrealistic, or a private matter of individual conscience. When, really, they’re not.
If only there were a list, right? A list of the opinions and actions
that ARE required of Catholics. Well, now there is. Just kidding. One
comprehensive list would be pretty much impossible, but here’s my
attempt to compile a list of the basics, so we’ll all know what our
A good Catholic is required:
- To believe in God, the Father Almighty, the first person of the Trinity, who created Heaven and earth.
- To believe that Jesus Christ is God’s only son, the second person of the Trinity, fully God and fully man.
- To believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried.
- To believe that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.
- To believe that the Holy Spirit is God and the third person of the Trinity.
- To believe that the Catholic Church is the one established on earth by Jesus Christ.
- To believe that the souls of the just live in Heaven and that they can hear us and intercede with God on our behalf.
- To believe that Jesus Christ gave to his apostles the power to forgive sins, and that this power has been passed along to the priests of today.
- To believe that this world will come to an end, at which point there will be a final judgement of each and every soul by Jesus Christ, and our souls will be reunited with a corporeal body, and we will live forever.
- To believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God, a perpetual virgin, immaculately conceived, and assumed into heaven.
- To believe in the power of baptism to forgive sins we have already committed and strengthen us against future temptations to sin.
- To believe that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present—body
and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine.
- To renounce sin and the lure of evil.
- To believe in and renounce Satan, not as a concept, but as a being.
- To avoid occult and new age practices including Ouija boards, horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, and mediums.
- To attend Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation.
- To fast and to abstain on the days appointed.
- To confess our sins at least once a year, but monthly or even weekly is recommended.
- To receive Holy Communion during Easter time, but weekly or even daily is recommended.
- To contribute financially to the support of the Church.
- To observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage.
- To raise our children in the Catholic faith.
- To remember Jesus’ Good Friday sacrifice by observing every Friday of the year as a day of penance by abstaining from meat, or with the permission of the bishops (as in the US) to substitute another voluntary penance instead of abstinence from meat.
- To observe the Ten Commandments.
- To love the Lord our God, and our neighbor as ourselves.
- To defend Catholic social teaching and, whenever possible, to vote only for policies and candidates that are in line with those teachings.
- When that isn’t possible, to vote giving greatest weight to the matters of greatest moral significance.
- To oppose abortion, euthanasia, sexual activity outside of marriage (be it heterosexual, homosexual, or solo), contraception, sterilization, polygamy, divorce, pornography, unjust war, and unjust use of capital punishment.
- To practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as our station in life allows, and to support others who do with prayers and financial support.
- To properly form our conscience. A good way to do that is by reading the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the lives of the saints, and getting to know faithful Catholics.
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Ummm, apparently, I’m not a good Catholic. Now what?
Well, the good news is, you are still welcome. As James Joyce said of the Catholic Church (in Finnegan’s Wake), “Here comes everybody!” The Catholic Church on Earth is called the “Church Militant.” That means fighting. It means fighting against sin, against our baser inclinations, against our failures. It also means fighting against our ignorance and misunderstandings. It means we’re all a work in progress.
I’m pretty sure I’m in a state of mortal sin. What now?
Don’t receive communion until you have made a good confession. Change your life. Avoid the near occasion of sin.
I want to be Catholic, and I agree with most of it. But the Catholic Church is wrong about <insert particular issue here>.
Inform your conscience and pray. Learn what the Catholic Church really teaches about that issue and why. Check out Catholic Answers. Read a good book. Find a faithful priest and talk to him about it. Email a faithful Catholic blogger. Pray about it. Ask God to help you understand. “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”
I’ve tried before, but I just can’t do it.
Try again. Trust in God. You can do it. Read the lives of the saints. Some of those guys were a MESS. If they did it, you can do it.
The Nicene Creed
Rite of Baptism for Children
The Precepts of the Church
The Real Presence
Doctrine Concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Laws of the Church Concerning Marriage
The Ten Commandments
The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
The Participation of Catholics in Political Life
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Where to learn more:
Catholics Come Home
What a fabulous post, Kendra! You are such a gift, inspiring others to truly give everything over to Christ. Thank you today and always!
Awesome! Thank you for compiling this list. 🙂
Love it thank you
Useful for Catholics who aren't really sure what they're supposed to believe. I know quite a few of those!
Yep, I'm still a Protestant. =)
Thanks for this, though. It's nice to be able to point some (less informed) Protestants to what Catholics actually really and truly believe, instead of just watching them fling rumors around. I don't agree with everything the Catholic church believes, but I do know that the Jesus who unites us is greater than our divisions! =)
"Read the lives of the saints. Some of those guys were a MESS. If they did it, you can do it." Amen. This keeps me going sometimes!
Yesssss…..I try to remind myself to compare all of those "good Catholic options" (the homeschooling, skirt wearing, large family, etc. etc. type of choices) to different religious orders. There are so many different wonderful religious orders,,,some are very active, some are contemplative, some are cloistered all different sorts of works and charisms and rules…all are good (not speaking, obviously, of the handful of ones that are defying church teaching). None of them, however good, does All the Things.
Nor should they, I meant to add, to complete my weak and distracted metaphor. 😉 An order called to be cloistered obviously can't be doing the work of a more active order, etc., etc. Ok, I'm done. Why do these children want to eat EVERY DAY?
This is a great point, Mel.
This is great!
You're so balanced and practical Kendra. I love that about your blog. It's important for me to remember not to confuse life choices which can enhance our faithfulness, with faith in the doctrine absolutely required of us. Thanks!!
Ok emoji fail.
Can I just say that you are BRAVE?! You write about some tricky topics, but you manage to do it respectfully and cheerfully every time (that I've read). God bless!
I might add: to believe that the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ. I keep thinking about this list. What a great idea.
Excellent. I can't believe I forgot that. It's in there now, and I updated the image, too.
Thank you for this list and for doing what you do!
This is wonderful! I'm still pretty new to the Catholic faith and have been looking for a concise and easy to understand (at least on the surface) list of Catholic beliefs to share with my husband and friends who are not Catholic but want to better understand my new faith. Thank you!
Thanks so much for this list. I am curious about the big O – obedience. Obedience to the pope and bishops can be a hot topic at times… where does it fit in for a "good catholic" Thanks again for what you do on these topics!
Thanks for this, Kendra. I was raised Catholic, but not always well informed about my faith. Most of my knowledge about my faith has been formed in the last 5-6 years. It's frustrating and confusing even for me to see how so many people live out their faith and think to myself "I'm supposed to be doing that, aren't I?" and proceed to beat myself up about my inferior knowledge about and ability to practice my faith. This attitude, in fact, has at times prevented me from truly living my faith because I'm a) busy at trying to keep up with the Catholic Joneses and b) feel defeated at even trying to do all of the things I see other moms in the Catholic blogosphere doing and decide just to give up. Anyway, this list really narrows it down to what truly matters, and I think that's where we have to start before we start worrying about what meal we're "supposed to make" on the feast of the Archangels.
Hey Kendra, have you thought about adding the "5 non-negotiables" to this post?
Your future best friends
“To oppose . . . unjust use of capital punishment.”
Didn’t the Pope just change the Church’s teaching to say that capital punishment is to be rejected in EVERY case?
“Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the new paragraph states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
What the Holy Father was saying was that, in our current world, all instances of capital punishment are unjust. There may have been times in the past where capital punishment was essentially a just act of “self-defense” on the part of society, but in our world today that is never the case.