Two basic requirements for Catholics to receive Holy Communion

shutterstock 1362952169Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. | Sidney de Almeida/Shutterstock

The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments. Of these, the Eucharist stands apart. St. Thomas Aquinas called it the “Sacrament of Sacraments.”

The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is also referred to as “Holy Communion.”

“Communion” comes from the Latin communio, which means “to be in union with.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Church refers to the Eucharist by this name “because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body” (CCC 1331).

The Church teaches that anyone who receives Jesus in the Eucharist also receives “the pledge of glory with him” (CCC 1419). The Catechism says that participating in the Eucharist “identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints” (CCC 1419).

The Church also teaches that receiving the Eucharist “increases the communicant’s union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins, (CCC 1416).”

Receiving the Eucharist can transform one’s spiritual life. That’s why Pope Francis said in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

At the same time, the Church draws on the words of Scripture in setting forth requirements for receiving Holy Communion. For as St. Paul tells us, “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. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Cor 11:27-28).

The Church teaches that there are two basic requirements Catholics must meet in order to receive Holy Communion worthily.

First, one must be in a state of grace.

To be in a “state of grace” means to be free from mortal sin. As the Catechism states, “Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CCC 1415).

What is a mortal sin? The Catechism explains that a mortal sin “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God” (CCC 1855).

For a sin to be mortal, or deadly, one must be aware that the act is sinful and conscientiously commit it anyway.

Examples of mortal sins include: murder, adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, theft, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, and taking advantage of the poor. The Church teaches that intentionally skipping Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation when one is able to attend also is a mortal sin.

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