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Chapter 3: Charity, the Eucharist, and Church Membership


To be in friendship with God it is not enough to be loved by him; one also must love him in return. This means striving to abide in and deepen communion with God, a responsibility fulfilled especially by worthy participation in the Eucharist, but also by all one’s good acts, not least religious ones, including those pertaining to one’s personal spirituality and one’s duties as a Church member. Although hatred of God is possible, and is the worst sin, love of God does not require always having warm feelings toward him.

The principal act of Catholic worship is the Mass. One should participate devoutly in the Eucharist, while avoiding abuses such as the sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion. Sundays and holy days of obligation should be observed by participation in the Eucharist and other appropriate behavior and attitudes. However, eucharistic worship should not be limited to these days; on the contrary, in various ways the Eucharist should be extended throughout daily life.

The liturgy’s other elements also are necessary or at least very worthwhile. Moreover, each individual should develop his or her personal devotional style, incorporating into it elements recommended by the Church.

In many cases one may pray in common with others who are not Catholics. But sharing in worship at odds with faith is wrong. Merely being present at others’ worship, however, is not sharing in it.

Catholics should seek to build up the Church’s unity, peace, and vitality. Dissent and pluralism about essentials are incompatible with the Church’s well-being. Catholics should obey the pastoral leaders of the Church. Their authority extends to inner acts, but it is not totalitarian, and it does have limits. Schism is disobedience in its most extreme and radical form.

Catholics should support the Church and her life in many ways: prayer, mutual assistance, contributing services, helping to meet material needs, fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, contributing to missionary work, and revealing impediments to sacred commitments like holy orders and matrimony.

Catholics also should help to promote unity among Christians. This is not done by inviting non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion. Rather, the appropriate and efficacious means include prayer, one’s own personal conversion and faithfulness, friendliness toward all Christians, and collaboration with them whenever possible.