Frequently Asked Questions
Holy Communion is a sacrament in which the faithful receive Jesus as the Bread of life, as spiritual food. The Mass is both a sacrifice and a sacred banquet; Jesus is offered to the Father, and He is received as the nourishing strength of His people. Communion unites us more closely with Jesus Himself, and unites us also with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sometimes Catholics receive Communion under the form of bread alone; sometimes they receive it under the forms of both bread and wine. In either case, one receives the whole Christ.
Yes. Jesus Himself stressed that we must receive Communion to come to everlasting life. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6.53).
The divine precept does not indicate how often one should receive Communion. The Church commands the faithful to receive Communion at least once a year, ordinarily during the paschal season. The Church also speaks of the duty to receive Communion when one is in danger of death. But one who loves Christ naturally wishes to deepen his friendship with Him by frequent reception of this sacrament.
To receive the sacrament of Communion worthily one must be a baptized Catholic in the state of grace and believe what the Church teaches about this sacrament. One conscious of having committed a mortal sin must make a sacramental confession before approaching the sacrament. One must also receive Communion with an upright intention, for example, out of love for Christ or in a desire to grow in grace and in unity with all His Mystical Body. One should not receive Communion simply because others are receiving it. The Church also directs us to abstain from food and drink (except for water and medicine) for at least one hour before Communion.
If one who has sinned gravely has a pressing need to receive the Eucharist and has no opportunity to confess, one should first make an act of perfect contrition, an act which includes in it a promise to confess as soon as possible. One who deliberately received Communion while in a state of mortal sin would commit a grave sin of sacrilege.
“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” (1 Cor. 11.27).
Reception of the Eucharist together signifies unity in faith and union with one another in the family of faith. Catholics and non-Catholic Christians are regrettably separated in many ways. For this reason non-Catholics could not be admitted to Communion in the Catholic Church except in exceptional circumstances. The local Catholic bishop is to pass judgment in each case.
The Lord Jesus, on the night before he suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with his disciples. During this meal our Savior instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and to entrust to the Church his Spouse a memorial of his death and resurrection. As the Gospel of Matthew tells us:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:26-28; cf. Mk 14:22-24, Lk 22:17-20, 1 Cor 11:23-25)
Recalling these words of Jesus, the Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:51-55). The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called “real” not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374).