GUIDELINES FOR RECEIVING COMMUNION
As we observe the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ) this weekend, it is an appropriate time to be reminded of the guidelines for receiving Holy Communion. We know that as Church, we must always be welcoming and hospitable to others. We welcome all people, Catholic or not, to join us in the celebration of the liturgy. We encourage them to actively participate, if they so desire, by joining us in song, listening intently to the Liturgy of the Word and reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures’ meaning for us, and worshiping our Lord present to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. That said, however, there is one aspect of the liturgy that is reserved only for Catholics in a state of grace and old enough to understand the mystery of the Eucharist: the reception of Holy Communion.
So, these guidelines set forth by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and updated periodically as needed, are offered:
For Catholics — As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. 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 (Code of Canon Law, canon 916). Persons conscious of grave sin must first be reconciled with God and the Church through the sacrament of Penance. A frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all (we recommend seasonal reception – Advent, Lent, summer, autumn.)
For our fellow Christians — We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one (John 17:21). Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
For Those Not Receiving Communion — All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another. Older children and adults are best served by making a Spiritual Communion. This is a prayer that expressed our desire for unity with Jesus, especially unity with Him in the Eucharist, when for some reason, we are unable to receive Holy Communion. It is a prayer that opens us to the tremendous graces of our Lord when we are unable to receive them directly through the reception of the Eucharist. There are many versions – the following is a more common one:
“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.”
For Non-Christians — We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.