396 Q. Why does the Church command us to abstain from flesh-meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent and to abstain from flesh-meat or do some other chosen penance on the other Fridays of the year? A. The Church commands us to abstain, from flesh-meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent and to abstain from flesh-meat or do some other chosen penance on the other Fridays of the year in honor of the day on which Our Saviour died.
397 Q. What is meant by the command of confessing at least once a year? A. By the command of confessing at least once a year is meant that we are obliged, under pain of mortal sin, to go to confession within the year.
“Within the year”—that is, the time between your confessions must never be longer than a year, or, at least not longer than the period between the beginning of one Eastertime and the end of the next. All persons who have attained the age of reason are bound to comply with this precept, and parents should remind their children of it.
398 Q. Should we confess only once a year? A. We should confess frequently, if we wish to lead a good life.
Some seem to think that they need not go to confession if they have not committed sin since their last confession. Two graces are given in penance, as you already know: one, to take away the sins confessed, and the other, to strengthen us against temptation and enable us to keep our good resolutions. Now, as we are always tempted, we should go frequently to confession to get the grace to resist. The saints used to go to confession very frequently, sometimes every day. They used to go when tempted, to obtain the grace to resist and to expose their temptations to their confessor and ask his advice. Again the Holy Scripture tells us that the just man falls seven times; and “just man” in Holy Scripture means a very good man, that is, one doing for God, his neighbor, and himself what he ought to do. St. Joseph is called in the Scripture a “just man,” and he was the foster-father of Our Lord. Now, if the good man falls seven times, he must arise after each fall; for if he did not get up after the first fall, he could not fall the second time. This teaches us that we all commit some kind of sin, at least, and have always something to confess if we only examine our conscience closely. It teaches us also that when we have the misfortune to fall into sin, we should rise as quickly as possible.
399 Q. Should children go to confession? A. Children should go to confession when they are old enough to commit sin, which is commonly about the age of seven years.
“To commit sin”—that is, when they know the difference between good and evil.
400 Q. What sin does he commit who neglects to receive Communion during the Easter time? A. He who neglects to receive Communion during the Easter time commits a mortal sin.