Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the guidelines for receiving Holy Communion?

For Catholics: As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (Code of Canon Law, canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For our fellow Christians: We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (John 17:21 ). Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches , the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).

For those not receiving Holy Communion: All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians: We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

Copyright © 1996 United States Catholic Conference. All rights reserved

When does the Easter Triduum officially begin and end?

The Easter Triduum begins with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, ending with the conclusion of Vespers on Easter Sunday.

What are the Scrutinies?

The Scrutinies are rites belonging to the period of purification and enlightenment for the elect as they prepare for Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist immediately preceding the Easter Vigil (the culmination of the RCIA process). The Scrutinies, which are normally celebrated on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent, are rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. The Scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the Scutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. The Scutinies are celebrated as part of Sunday Mass. The Readings and Chant are always those normally used on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent in Cycle A.

When does Lent officially begin and end?

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with the start of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

What are the Holy Days of Obligation in the United States?

In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite Dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with Canon 1246, are as follows:

  • January 1 
    Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
  • Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter 
    Solemnity of the Ascension
  • August 15 
    Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • November 1 
    Solemnity of All Saints
  • December 8 
    Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25 
    Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Whenever January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.

What are the rules governing days of Fast, Abstinence, and Penance in the United States?

All Fridays of the Year and all days of Lent are Days of Penance.

All Fridays of Lent are Days of Abstinence.
Abstinence means not eating meat. All persons 14 years and older are bound by the law of abstinence.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are Days of both Fast and Abstinence. 
Fasting allows one full meal, but a light breakfast and lunch are not forbidden. All adults, 18 up to the beginning of their sixtieth (60) year, are bound by the law of fasting. Pastors and parents are to see to it that children while not bound to the law of fast and abstinence are educated and introduced to an authentic sense of penance.

On Fridays, when abstinence is not required by law, acts of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety are suggested. Abstinence from meat is especially recommended but under no obligation by law. §

What are the Ten Commandments?

Traditional Catechetical Formula

  1. I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.
  2. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.
  4. Honor your father and your mother.
  5. You shall not kill.
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not steal.
  8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

(Grade 2)—The following or similar language is appropriate for First Penance preparation

  1. Love God more than all things.
  2. Say God’s name with love.
  3. Keep Sunday holy.
  4. Honor your parents.
  5. Take care of all living things.
  6. Show respect for yourself and others.
  7. Do not steal.
  8. Tell the truth.
  9. Do not be jealous.
  10. Do not be greedy. §

What are the seven Sacraments?

The Sacraments of Christian Initiation

  • The Sacrament of Baptism
  • The Sacrament of Confirmation
  • The Sacrament of the Eucharist

The Sacraments of Healing

  • The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
  • The Anointing of the Sick

The Sacraments at the Service of Communion

  • The Sacrament of Holy Orders
  • The Sacrament of Matrimony

Who are the Twelve Apostles?

  • Saint Andrew , the brother of Saint Peter
  • Saint Bartholomew
  • Saint James , the son of Alphaeus
  • Saint James , the son of Zebedee
  • Saint John , brother of Saint James, the Son of Zebedee
  • Saint Matthew , the tax collector
  • Saint Matthias (replaced Judas Iscariot)
  • Saint Peter
  • Saint Philip
  • Saint Simon , the Cananean
  • Saint Thaddeus
  • Saint Thomas §

What are the Cardinal Virtues?

  • Prudence
  • Justice
  • Fortitude
  • Temperance

What are the Theological Virtues?

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity

What are the Works of Mercy?

Corporal Works of Mercy?

  • Feed the hungry
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Clothe the naked
  • Visit the sick and imprisoned
  • Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy?

  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Advise the doubtful
  • Correct the sinner
  • Comfort the afflicted
  • Forgive offenses
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Pray for the living and the dead

What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Council
  • Fortitude
  • Knowledge
  • Piety
  • Fear of the Lord

What are the Fruits of the Holy Spirit?

  • Charity
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Faithfulness
  • Modesty
  • Self-control
  • Chastity

What are the Marks of the Church?

  • One
  • Holy
  • Catholic
  • Apostolic