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1. One of the main points about being Catholic is that we belong to something that is more than ourselves. When we are baptized, we are brought not only personally into a relationship with Christ, but we become part of God's very family. We come into the world through a human family, but that family is to lead us to an eternal family, God's family. So, the first thing we need to realize is that we are not the center of reality and we don't have it all together ('there is a God and He's not me'). Our life with Jesus is never just about 'me and Jesus': It's about me, Jesus and the whole family of God.
2. Because the idea of God's family is central to who we are as Christians, we have an obligation to support and love each other. We have a responsibility to every Christian to help them live a life of holiness. This means that we not only are to avoid sin, causing scandal to others, but we are to positively lift people up. That is why being part of a youth group in our parish is not, like some people would want you to believe, an optional part of our Christianity. We need peer support to be able to live out our Christian calling. We need our friends to help us live holiness, we need a group that is going to challenge us to go deeper and to help love and support us when we are down. In a word, we need fellowship, the idea of being in community with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
3. Fellowship has always been part of the Christian family (Acts 2:42). The early Christians faced constant persecution and often death, so they needed to support each other. What if they decided to try to be Catholics on their own and forgo fellowship? They would have fallen away. Think of Catholics who fall away: Many times, they do so simply because they didn't know anyone. Many of you have started coming to Church because a friend invited you: Christ works through others to help keep us rooted in Him. Our pride is often what keeps us from being involved in a community, especially a church community, because we don't like to think that we need help from anything, or anyone. The truth is that we can't stay committed to Christ without the support of mentors, peers, and family members. We also can't run away from our responsibility to support others in their faith. We must continue to stay fervent in our faith, supporting others as they try to grow in holiness.
4. Along with Fellowship and Community, one of the most beautiful things about the Church is her Traditions. We will touch briefly on these traditions.
a. The Liturgical Year: *PDF available below* The Liturgical (Church calendar) year is our constant reminder of the Paschal Mystery - the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. It also serves as a way for us to enter the Paschal Mystery, both individually and as a Church.
b. Church Precepts (as listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church): The Church gives us precepts, or basic minimal requirements, for being considered a practicing Catholic. They are:
i. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor (work)
ii. You shall confess your (serious) sins at least once a year
iii. You shall receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter Season
iv. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church
v. You shall help provide for the needs of the Church
c. Additional Customs:
i. Fasting: On certain days (such as Ash Wednesday and Fridays in Lent), the Church calls us to fast. The Church also asks us to fast one hour before we consume the Eucharist. The reason we fast is so we give up a temporary good (such as food) to focus on a greater good, God. We can and should fast throughout our lives, no matter the occasion. Any time we stop doing something we enjoy that is a temporary reality, such as watching TV, we can turn our focus over to an eternal reality, God. That does not mean to say that food, TV, etc. are bad: They just aren't eternal. Our primary fast, however, should be from sin.
ii. Devotions: Devotions are private prayer practices that Catholics take part in to mark their lives to Jesus through prayer or other customs. Some devotions include First Friday/Saturday devotion, Sacred Heart devotion, Consecration to Mary, etc. They are a great way of anchoring our lives to Christ and taking our baptismal commitment deeper.
iii. Sacramentals/Religious objects: We can use different objects to be reminded of Christ, and His presence in our lives. Many people wear crosses, T-shirts, scapulars (a necklace-type garment that reminds us of our devotion to Mary) and carry rosaries to remind them of Christ. Other people use sacramentals, objects used to remind us of the Sacraments, to help them in their devotional life.
iv. Devotions to Patron Saints: Many people ask particular Saints for special intentions and help based on their special patronage. For example, many priests pray to St. John Vianney because he is the Patron Saint of Parish Priests. Because of the Saint's unique life experience, their patronage helps us learn and grow through their intercession.