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Christian Doctrine

Days of Penance

“Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of pen­ance.” “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.”
All members of the Christian faithful are, in their own way, bound to do penance in virtue of divine law. In order that all may be joined in a common ob­servance of penance, penitential days are prescribed in which the Christian faithful, in a special way, pray; exercise works of piety and charity; and deny themselves by fulfilling their responsibilities more faithfully, and especially by observing fast and abstinence according to the following:

  • The time of Lent and all Fridays of the year are, throughout the universal Church, days and times especially appropriate for spiritual exercises; penitential liturgies; pilgrimages as signs of penance; voluntary self-denial, such as fasting and almsgiving.
  • Abstinence from meat (or some other food) or an­other penitential practice, according to the pre­scriptions of the conference of bishops, is to be ob­served on each Friday of the year unless it is a solemnity. Fast and abstinence from meat are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday.
  • All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence. All adults (eighteen years or older) are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by a law of fast or abstinence are educated nevertheless in an authentic sense of penance.
  • It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observances of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast or abstinence other forms of penance, espe­cially works of charity and exercises of piety and missionary works.
  • Diocesan bishops can proclaim special days of penance for their own dioceses or territories, but only for individual occasions (per modum actus).

Works of Mercy 

 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor’s spiritual and bodily necessities. Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity; it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

Corporal Spiritual

  • Feeding the hungry.                      • Counseling the doubtful.
  • Giving drink to the thirsty.          • Instructing the ignorant.
  • Clothing the naked.                       • Admonishing sinners.
  • Sheltering the homeless.              • Comforting the afflicted.
  • Visiting the sick.                            • Forgiving offenses.
  • Visiting the imprisoned.               • Bearing wrongs patiently.
  • Burying the dead.                         • Praying for the living and the dead.


Sacramentals are sacred signs by which spiritual effects, especially, are signified and are obtained by the intercession of the Church. “They prepare the faithful to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify various circumstances of life.”
“Among the sacramentals, blessings occupy an important place. They include praise of God for his works and gifts, as well as the Church’s intercession for people, that they may be able to use God’s gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.” Besides blessings, other sacramentals are the Sign of the Cross, use of holy water and the religious articles mentioned above.

Cardinal Virtues

A virtue is a habitual disposition to do good. Among all the virtues, there are four that play a pivotal role and accordingly are called cardinal.

  • Prudence, which disposes of the practical reason to discern in every circumstance one’s true good and to choose the right means for achieving it.
  • Justice, which consists of the firm and constant will to give God and neighbor their due.
  • Fortitude, which ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.
  • Temperance, which moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Holy Spirit belong in their fullness to Christ, the Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

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

Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.
The apostolic tradition of the Church lists twelve fruits:

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

Mortal and Venial Sins 

“Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in the Scripture, became part of the apostolic tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.”
‘Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart” of the sinner. It requires “a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accom­plished within the sacrament of Reconciliation. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met”.

  • Grave matter is specified by divine law (Ten Commandments) and the ultimate end of man.
  • “Full knowledge [is] knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law… Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even re­move the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.”
  • “Complete consent [is] a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin… The promptings of feelings and passions can diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.”

“Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.”

Capital Sins and Opposed Virtues

The Capital Sins can be classified according to the virtues they oppose. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.

Capital Sins Virtues Opposed
Pride Humility
Covetousness Liberality
Lust Chastity
Anger Meekness
Gluttony Temperance
Envy Brotherly love
Sloth Diligence

Sins Against The Holy Spirit 

“(I ”’Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.’ There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss,” This sin blocks the person’s route to Christ, and the sinner puts himself outside the range of God’s forgiveness. In this sense, the sins against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven.

Sins that Cry to Heaven

Catechetical tradition recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven “: the blood of Abel; the sin of the Sodomites; ignoring the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt and that of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan; injustice to the wage earner.


“The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw us to the One who alone can fulfill it.” They “teach man the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom, the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God,” They are the heart of Jesus’ preaching. “They continue the promises made to the Chosen People from the time of Abra­ham to the time of Christ, fulfilling the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but also to the Kingdom of heaven:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when men revile you and perse­cute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”