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Who can receive communion?

The reception of the Eucharist is the loftiest experience any Catholic can have for in this we come in contact with the Lord in a sacramental way; our souls are filled with his presence and light, we are given a foretaste of heaven, graces to overcome mortal sins and forgiveness for our venial faults. We are united with Christ more and more. Receiving communion at mass is for the Catholic, the most important act since this is the most important aspect of being a member of Christ’s body, and of being part of the celebration of the Paschal mysteries.

Jesus’ words concerning the Eucharist are quite grave:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever" (John 6:53–58).

The Church therefore encourages everyone to receive the Eucharist regularly, even daily where possible in order to stay united with Christ and his body the Church and to ensure advancement in virtue.

Who can receive?

The Catholic Church has issued a couple of guidelines for the reception of the Eucharist. To receive one must:

  • Be in the State of Grace
  • Have made a good confession since your last mortal sin
  • Believe in transubstantiation
  • Not be under any ecclesiastical sanctions e.g. excommunication

1. State of Grace:

This is a most important requirement, one which can never be dispensed. Receiving the Eucharist without sanctifying grace in one’s soul profanes the Body of Christ and is also a grave sin on its own.

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup"

People so many times overlook this either out of crass negligence or concern for what others around would say if they don’t receive. However, remembering the fact that you’d expose yourself to death by committing such a sacrilege will help one make an informed decision. It is better to “look bad” in the eyes of men, than to offend against God by receiving unworthily.

2. Confession:

There is need to constantly go for confession, and the Catholic Church exhorts us to confess even venial sins so as to be stronger to resist graver sins. However, before one can receive communion he must be sure to have confessed and received absolution from all mortal sins. Venial sins cannot keep one from receiving communion as they can be forgiven through prayer and perfect contrition. Also, receiving Jesus cleanses the soul from venial sins.

"A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to . . . receive the body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible" (CIC 916).

This requirement can be dispensed if these four conditions are met:

  • There must be a grave reason to receive the Eucharist e.g. danger of death.
  • It must be impossible physically or morally to receive absolution first.
  • The person must first be in the state of grace through prayer and perfect contrition
  • This contrition must preclude a firm resolution to confess as soon as possible.

3. There must be Faith in the doctrine of Transubstantiation:

"For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor. 11:29)

This is more than simply believing in the real presence. Transubstantiation means that the bread and wine, though retaining their natural physical appearances have become actually the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ in substance.

4. Must observe the Eucharistic Fast:

 "One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion" (CIC 919 §1).
Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3).

The Bishop has power to dispense people from this obligation, also any priest who has received this power from his bishop can as well dispense. (cf CIC 89)

5. Must be free from any Ecclesistical censure:

"Those who are excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion" (CIC 915).
Provided they are in a state of grace and have met the above requirements, Catholics should receive the Eucharist frequently (CIC 898).

Other Christians:

Ordinarily it is required that one be a Catholic to be able to receive Communion, even though participation at Mass is open to everyone. The Local Bishop, following the directives of Canon Law can dispense one of this in special cases.

 "If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed" (CIC 844 § 4).

 










32 comments

  1. Abel Francesco Gregory Reply

    if i go on receiving the Eucharist even though i have committed a mortal but then after long time confess that sin what will happen to me

    1. Christian Catsanos Reply

      God forgives any sin confessed with true sorrow. Even if you have regularly received the Eucharist despite having committed an unconfessed mortal sin: when you receive the sacrament of reconciliation, provided you confess your original mortal sin as well as your receptions of the Eucharist while in the state of mortal sin, and repent of the sins resolving not to commit them again, you are in the state of grace again once you receive the sacramental absolution.

      1. Catholic Say Staff Reply

        Objectively speaking, God forgives every and any sin confessed with real sorrow for having offended God. But the problem with the picture you just painted is hardness of heart, when you become complacent, you begin the lose the gift of true contrition, sin become habits and no longer mistakes you struggle with and at one point you can no longer have real sorrow for having sinned against God. Don’t practice this dear Christian, we have too many sins to repent from as it is, let God see that we do our best not to willingly offend him. You cannot show him love by willingly offending him and confessing tomorrow only to get clean enough for another sin.. Penance is for those who struggle, not those who enjoy the regular dive into sin.

  2. patty Reply

    I married a diviorced man…his first marriage was in a Methodist church…I’ve always been told that if you are divorced or marry a divorced person you cannot receive the Eucharist….I don’t see that mentioned in this explanation….so can I start receiving the Eucharist again?

    1. Tim Reply

      Hi patty, I am not really sure about the answer but I guess the best thing that you need to do is to seek for an advice from a spiritual counselor you trust and go to a confession and seek for an advice from a pr

      1. Stacy D'Alessandro Reply

        Patty I went to confession and confessed that my marriage has not been blessed as my husband and I are divorced. The priest told me as long as we want our marriage blessed and intend to one day I can go to communion. The pope also excuses someone who has walked out on a marriage and turned their back on their family. I am both situations. My first husband (was he really) took off and left me with a 2 year old and 6 year old daughter not to be seen for at least 10 year. Appeared one day to say he wanted to see his children. That did not last. My children still suffer from the damage. He also remarried and foreclosed on their home and quite his job. This is not a stable man and continues to do drugs. I feel so horrible for my two girls who are grown with their own children and his children from his 2nd marriage. He did last a good 25 years. Of course I hear it was hell for his wife and children. Nothing has changed with being a man or taking responsibility for his current wife and all his children. This excuses the marriage but they still want you to try for an annulment. Quite difficult with a disturbed man. I believe God understands and encourages me to receive communion. I feel this in my hear and soul. It does bother me my marriage of 16 years has not been blessed.

        Stacy D’Alessandro

    2. Lori Border Reply

      You would not be able to receive Holy Communion because you are considered to be living in a state of mortal sin. Your husband was not free to marry you in the eyes of the Church, due to him still being sacramentally married to his first wife. You and he are committing adultery unless his first wife has died. The marriage bond is forever until death of one spouse unless found to be null by the Church. You would be committing sacrilege if you received Communion in your present state.

    3. Dina Reply

      Yes, you should be able to receive the eucharist, even without confessing, unless you’ve committed a mortal sin such as homicide, and as a precticing Catholic I’ve never heard that marrying a divorce person is a sin or a reason to be censured from church or Eucharist.

    4. rosemariemorgan Reply

      Based on a similar issue with my brother where he was divorced from his first marriage which was a civil marriage, he was told, that this marriage was not a true marriage in the eyes of God as it was neither conducted by a priest nor blessed. I imagine a similar situation would arise here, Although given it was conducted by a Methodist and therefore Christian minister, they may be an issue. definitely talk to your priest or other spiritual director. Please don’t go by your ‘gut feeling’ The devil is an expert at manipulating your feelings, can persuade you black was white if you are not careful and your eternal soul is far to important for you not to ask for and take the advice of the experts.

  3. Colleen Reply

    I do not understand why the church itself has set this rule that if you are divorced you cannot receive communion unless you have been told by
    The church you marriage is no longer valid. How do people who do not know my circumstances have the right to tell me if it was right or wrong. I was very very young and made mistakes. Me ex husband refused to cooperate with an unallmunet and i tried three times. Also at the time I did not have the money to to get one. I have a hard time with the church charging me and judging me to decide if I am worthy. I was told by a priest a very kind and understanding message. God forgives us all and if I feel in my heart that God has forgiven me and I truly feel God has forgiven me then I should go to communion if I feel that in my heart. That is what Christs message is and a committee the church puts together to make people have the power to tell you if you are forgiven or not and worthy to receive his body and blood is not. This is between me and Jesus. How does the church feel it is okay to charge the amount of money they do also for this? It is not cheap and I think there are a lot if people who feel charging money and having to write page after page of painful and embarrassing things that happened in your marriage to complete strangers is not how Jesus would handle this. I know some people would take advantage of it if it was just granted easily but the way it is now I am sorry it is wrong. The church is losing faithful people because I am sorry I have heard and seen it happen if you have enough money and know people in high places you are granted an annulment much easier. I love the Catholic church and I try to do the things Christ taught. I have been married over 25 years now and my first marriage was short by yes a mistake and I did try to do what the church requires but was not successful. I have raised my children all catholic and now my grandchildren and yes I go to communion. I know people will think this is terrible but I believe Jesus and yes God have forgiven me and I try everyday to live how Jesus taught us and I do believe He has forgiven me! Everyday I ask His forgiveness and if we confess our sins and truly in our hearts are sorry God knows, he is the only One who can truly see what is in our hearts. I could say anything on those questions on the forms to get a Church approved annulment just to get it but if it is to just have it in writing from the Church is it right? We are all human mistakes will be made but that is why God is so wonderful he does forgive! If a murderer can confess and say he is sorry he is accepted and can receive communion without having to write out all kinds of paperwork and pay a fee to have the church tell him he can receive Jesus why is it so difficult if at the age do 18 I made a judgement that turned out not the way I thought it would?

  4. Deseray Reply

    How could a priest tell u what u should or shouldn’t wear to church? Isn’t it come as u r not as people want u to be?

    1. Linda Reply

      Women and men should be modest in dress. I say don’t dress like a hooker in church. Heck I still believe in all Latin Mass, when it was all Latin and the same Mass at every church. Recently I attended a Mass that was like Baptist church, another was like folk music festival, I didn’t like either on I love our Mass at St. Thomas in central Oregon. Reverent and respectful.

  5. Louis Reply

    Jesus did not say ‘take this and eat/drink it, but only if you are Catholic’

  6. alejandro Reply

    i am a divorced man and remarry again. with this, i committed mortal sin. i did confess it to a catholic priest for forgiveness but was not allowed to take communion. i am a devoted catholic and my faith in receiving the body of christ thru holy communion is very important to me. what should i do to be in peace?

    1. Ina Reply

      If I were you, I will receive communion as its importance is not only for my soul but also my body and I believe the Holy Eucharist will give strength to face every day’s life. God is Love! and Jesus is the King of Love!! Why should we are not allowed by the rules and regulations created by the church not to receive the Holy Eucharist if we practice love?

  7. Immaculate Reply

    Please can you enlighten me more, which book is this “CIC”

  8. James Reply

    Try going four years without be able to take communion. To me the ultimate expression of love and belief in Jesus Christ and the church. It took me that long to get an annulment of my first marriage. My first marriage ended 42 years ago making the finding of witnesses and fulfilling church requirements a task which I undertook willingly. I try to be first in line.

  9. emily ward Reply

    If a person has been confirmed in the COE, I was told can receive communion in the Catholic Church according to the new Pope. I am converting to the Catholic faith and want to get it right. Also from what I have read, A priest can not give absolution for a confession unless you are a catholic, so I imagine that until I have received acceptance, I can not confess, if this right?

  10. pavaresia20061 Reply

    First of all God does not forgive anyone for murder, if you take someone else’s life. In church people need to dress normal and not. Shoving skin in any part of the body. When you go to church you go to worship God and to give God thanks.

  11. Amy que Reply

    Can civil married couple recieve holy communion !

    1. aymamibrockway Reply

      No. If you are both Catholic, a priest can bless your marriage and it will be licit and sacramental. It is called a convalidation ceremony. Ask your priest.

  12. Gordon Reply

    Please,read Vatican 2’s stand on the sacraments of Reconcilliation and the Eucharist. Canon law 960 points out many things about the sacrament of reconciliation. The law also in 920.1 points out that we must receive communion at least once a year.

  13. Juanita Lubrano Reply

    I am Catholic & my husband & his Mom are Christian. They both have been to services at the Catholic Church that I attend. When it’s time to receive communion my mother in law goes up & received communion. Is it ok for them to get communion?

    1. aymamibrockway Reply

      No. I think the article covered that pretty clearly.

  14. Elizabeth Barrett Reply

    I’m confused about Grace. I thought I read if your not in a state of grace( through confession) than you can receive communion. But the person who has/ or is not in this state, will not have grace. So I would like to know, is this not the person who would befit the most! When he would need Jesues Grace.

    1. aymamibrockway Reply

      Yes. As long as you have not remmaried and are in a state of grace.

  15. Tee Mend Reply

    The Eucharist is not a reward for being a Roman Catholic. All these rules for the reception of the Lord make it look like that. We receive the Eucharist in order to become more like Christ.

  16. Francis Reply

    What are the steps to make confession in a Catholic church and can you please tell me step by step

  17. Tee Mend Reply

    To quote Pope Francis, “Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” Use your conscience

  18. Brent Wambold Reply

    There is so much more to it than this…. As a Protestant who taught in Catholic schools for 13 years…I know. I got the Eucharist once…by mistake. I attended the opening day liturgy and went forward, the principal/priest didn’t know whether I was Catholic or not and served me. At lunch, his secretary, asked me and I was a little uncomfortable that there was a qualification and I had broken a rule my first week. She was very angry. I simply apologized and said that in my church, if you have accepted Christ, all are welcome to the table for the sacrament. Everyone around us accepted that explanation and the half non-Catholic staff never again made that mistake, attending liturgy and Mass, but never participating. Out of respect, I have never push the limits… but I think it’s sad that Christians worshiping the same Lord and Savior, can’t get closer on habits and traditions within their services.

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