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Receiving the Eucharist

The topic of who can receive Communion in the Catholic Church has come up a couple of times in recent weeks.  It probably began about the time we had the “divorce readings” on Sunday.  The topic of divorce and receiving Communion is often misunderstood.  Divorce itself does not prohibit one from receiving Communion.  For instance, a spouse who leaves a marriage because of abuse has not committed a sin.  Only if a person remarries without first obtaining an annulment are they considered to be in a state of sin (adultery).  Anyone who is guilty of mortal sin needs to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) (and seek to change the behavior) before receiving Communion.  I would like to add a clarifying statement about divorce.  Divorce itself is not a sin but if someone has engaged in sinful behavior such as adultery that led to the divorce, they would need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Communion.

Adultery and remarriage are not the only sins that need to be confessed before receiving Communion.  Any mortal (serious) sin is to be confessed before receiving Communion.  When the Church says that a person who has sinned shall not receive Communion without receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is not the intent to deny the person Communion.

To receive Communion in the Catholic Church, one must be in communion with God.  If we have committed a mortal sin, then we have broken that communion and need to ask God to restore it through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Without a doubt, all of us need the grace of receiving Communion.  It is the Bread of Life that strengthens against temptation and sin.  As a sign of our desire to follow God, we confess our sins and complete a penance to show our desire to be in communion with God.

The belief that we need to be in a state of grace to receive Communion is based on our belief in the Real Presence.  It is a foundational belief in the Catholic Church that through the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ.  So, receiving Communion is no small matter.  We must take it very seriously.

Another question that people ask about receiving Communion is “Why does the Catholic Church say that only Catholics should receive Communion?”

Again, it is the concept of being in ‘communion’ that is of concern here.  To be ‘in communion’ means to share a common set of beliefs.  If a person does not belief in the Real Presence, then they are not in communion with our beliefs.  The same is true for other beliefs.  (There are some uncommon exceptions in emergency situations that I will not to go into here.) 

I want to be able to explain this better but I am not sure how to put it.  Some people might wonder if we are offending non-Catholics by saying Communion is only for Catholics.  It is not the intent to offend anyone.  The Catholic Church takes Communion very seriously and desires that everyone would be able to receive Communion as members of the Body and Blood of Christ.  But to just say it is ok for everyone to receive Communion without a common set of beliefs belittles the notion of ‘being in communion.’

I hope I have explained this well with care and compassion.  I mean no judgment on anyone.  I leave the judging to God.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

2 Comments

  1. Karl says:

    Your explanation is lacking. Not gonna waste my time with you. You can email me in person if you want to understand, truth.

    Your words are more harmful than helpful. You should remove this post, if you are a wise man.

  2. Fr. Jeff says:

    I’m sorry you feel this way. It is not my intention to harm anyone. I simply hope to help people understand what the Church teaches about receiving Communion. I know some may not like it. I simply write to try to clear up misunderstandings. If someone has a question about what I wrote, I will do my best to answer it.

    Peace,

    Fr. Jeff

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