by HFH Reuvers


The 1948 school catechism is the well-known question and answer catechism with first question: "For what are we on the earth?". The children had to learn the answers by heart. In those years, my mother heard me my answers more than once. This catechism also raised the matter of the five commandments of our holy Church. In more recent catechisms these commandments can't be found any more. Of course, this makes trespasses of these commandments less serious. Here they are:

'You shall keep holy as Sundays all holidays of obligation' - In the Netherlands, this applies to the following feast days, in case they don't happen to coincide with a Sunday: Christmas, Ascension, Assumption and All Saints' Day. Nowadays, the latter two aren't even holidays in the Netherlands, and Ascension is mostly hidden in an extended free weekend.
'You shall attend holy Mass and abstain from servile work on all Sundays and holidays of obligation' - These are further elaborations of the third of the ten commandments: "Remember you shall keep holy the Day of the Lord". See the sections 1.3.1 and 1.2.3.
'You shall not have meat on days of abstinence, and on days of fasting you shall fast' - In my childhood, we used to eat fish instead of meat on Fridays. In Lent, each of us had an own box for sweets, in which we saved up all forbidden sweets until Easter. Nowadays I don't eat meat anyway, because cattle raising and other animal raising is often cruel and bad for our environment. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I may eat a sandwich without filling or skip the after dinner sweet. Nowadays, Lent isn't as strict as it used to be.
'You shall confess at least once a year' - Even this one confession has been abolished in practice, for who does ever confess yet? Anyhow, it's only REALLY necessary if you have turned away from God willingly and knowingly.
'You shall receive Holy Communion in Easter time' - On Easter Sunday, large churches are usually full again, just as on Christmas. All people go to receive communion as well, but I doubt they have scanned their conscience before.

So nowadays the Church thinks it's more important that we should be subservient in daily life than that we should scrupulously observe strict rules.