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The Holy Eucharist is the most important of the seven sacraments because, in this and in no other sacrament, we receive the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Innumerable, precious graces come to us through the reception of Holy Communion.
Communion is an intimate encounter with Christ, in which we sacramentally receive Christ into our bodies, that we may be more completely assimilated into his. “The Eucharist builds the Church,” as Pope John Paul II said (Redemptor Hominis 20). It deepens unity with the Church, more fully assimilating us into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; CCC 1396).
The Eucharist also strengthens the individual because in it Jesus himself, the Word made flesh, forgives our venial sins and gives us the strength to resist mortal sin. It is also the very channel of eternal life: Jesus himself.
In John’s gospel, Jesus summarized the reasons for receiving Communion when he said: “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).
Because of the gravity of Jesus’ teaching on receiving the Eucharist, the Church encourages Catholics to receive frequent Communion, even daily Communion if possible, and mandates reception of the Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter season. Before going to Communion, however, there are several things one needs to know.
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CATHOLICS AND COMMUNION
The Church sets out specific guidelines regarding how we should prepare ourselves to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Communion. To receive Communion worthily:
First, you must be in a state of grace. “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” (1 Cor. 11:27–28). This is an absolute requirement which can never be dispensed. To receive the Eucharist without sanctifying grace in your soul profanes the Eucharist in the most grievous manner.
A mortal sin is any sin whose matter is grave and which has been committed willfully and with knowledge of its seriousness. Grave matter includes, but is not limited to, murder, receiving or participating in an abortion, homosexual acts, having sexual intercourse outside of marriage or in an invalid marriage, and deliberately engaging in impure thoughts (Matt. 5:28–29). Scripture contains lists of mortal sins (1 Cor. 6:9–10 and Gal. 5:19–21).
Out of habit and out of fear of what those around them will think if they do not receive Communion, some Catholics, in a state of mortal sin, choose to go forward and offend God rather than stay in the pew while others receive the Eucharist. The Church’s ancient teaching on this particular matter is expressed in the Didache, an early Christian document written around AD 70, which states: “Whosoever is holy [in a state of sanctifying grace], let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent” (Didache 10).
Second, you must have been to confession since your last mortal sin. The Didache witnesses to this practice of the early Church. “But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14).
The 1983 Code of Canon Law indicates that the same requirement applies today. “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).
The requirement for sacramental confession can be dispensed if four conditions are fulfilled:
Third, you must believe 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). Transubstantiation means more than the Real Presence. According to transubstantiation, the bread and wine are actually transformed into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, with only the appearances of bread and wine remaining. This is why, at the Last Supper, Jesus held what appeared to be bread and wine, yet said: “This is my body… This is my blood” (Mark 14:22-24, cf. Luke 22:14-20). If Christ were merely present along side bread and wine, he would have said “This contains my body… This contains my blood,” which he did not say.
Fourth, you must observe the Eucharistic fast. Canon law states, “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). Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power to them (cf. CIC 89).
Finally, one must not be under an ecclesiastical censure. Canon law mandates, “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 AND COMMUNION
“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 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…” Scripture is clear that partaking of the Eucharist is among the highest signs of Christian unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). For this reason, it is normally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion, for to do so would be to proclaim a unity to exist that, regrettably, does not.
Another reason that many non-Catholics may not ordinarily receive Communion is for their own protection, since many reject the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Scripture warns that it is very dangerous for one not believing in the Real Presence to receive Communion: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor 11:29–30).
However, there are circumstances when non-Catholics may receive Communion from a Catholic priest. This is especially the case when it comes to Eastern Orthodox Christians, who share the same faith concerning the nature of the sacraments:
It is important to remember that, under the rubrics specified above, even in those rare circumstances when non-Catholics are able to receive Communion, the same requirements apply to them as to Catholics.
NON-CHRISTIANS AND COMMUNION
The Australian bishops’ guidelines for receiving Communion state, “We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.”
Because they have not received baptism, the gateway to the other sacraments, non-Christians cannot receive Communion. However, in emergency situations, they can be received into the Church via baptism, even if no priest is present, and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may bring them Communion.
COMMUNION OF DIVORCED
By itself civil divorce is not an obstacle to Communion. As a civil action all it does is settle the civil legal effects of marriage (distribution of property, custody of children etc.). However, understood as a moral action, the willful breakup of a marriage or abandonment of one’s spouse is indeed seriously wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, following on Scripture, that God hates such divorce.
Thus, the innocent spouse in a marital break-up has the same possibility to receive Communion as other Catholics, with the usual conditions (being free from mortal sin in other areas of life, going to Confession, Eucharistic fast and so on).
As noted above in the citation from the Catechism 2382, a ratified and consummated Christian marriage is indissoluble. This is a marriage where the vows are exchanged by two baptized persons, with the proper intention, and consummated by sexual intercourse. No power on earth can declare such a marriage null and the parties free to remarry. However, a marriage tribunal of the Catholic Church is empowered to judge whether a marriage actually did occur and to issue a Decree of Nullity (popularly, but wrongly, called an annulment) when it judges it did not. A person who receives a Decree of Nullity is free to marry in the Church since the first marriage was defective from its beginning (no marriage). A person who remarries in the Church after an annulment is free to receive the sacraments under the usual conditions (as noted above).
However, often times individuals or couples who have remarried but without a Decree of Nullity want to come into the Church, or if already Catholic approach the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. Sometimes they are even told they can judge these matters in their own conscience without going to a Marriage Tribunal (sometimes called “the internal forum solution”).
In “Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced-and-Remarried Members of the Faithful” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a letter to the world’s bishops on October 14, 1994 said,
The mistaken conviction of a divorced-and-remarried person that he may receive holy communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible. Marriage, in fact, both because it is the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.
By this document the Holy See affirmed the continuous theology and discipline of the Catholic Church that those who are divorced and remarried without a Decree of Nullity for the first marriage (whether that marriage was made within or outside the Catholic Church) are in an objectively adulterous union that prevents them from honestly repenting, receiving absolution for their sins, and receiving Holy Communion. Until the marital irregularity is resolved by a Marriage Tribunal, or other procedures which apply to marriages of the non-baptized, they may not approach Penance or Holy Communion. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in Reconciliation and Penance, the Church desires such couples to participate in the Church’s life to the extent possible (and this participation in Mass, Eucharistic adoration, devotions and so on is a great spiritual help to them), as they work toward full sacramental participation.
A Unique Case. One final situation is that of those who have repented of their illicit union, but remain together for a serious reason, such as for the sake of their children. Catholic pastoral practice allows that IF their pastor judges that scandal can be avoided (meaning most people are unaware of their remarriage and consider them a married couple), then they may live together as “brother and sister” (without any sexual relations), and be admitted to the sacraments. If scandal cannot be avoided, then they must either separate or refrain from the sacraments.
MAY A CATHOLIC MARRIED IN A NON-CATHOLIC CEREMONY RECEIVE COMMUNION?
Catholics as a rule must be married in accord with what’s called canonical form. This still applies even when one of the parties to the marriage is not Catholic. The canonical form of marriage requires that the marriage be contracted in the presence of either one’s pastor, or another priest or deacon deputed by him, like the associate pastor or a priest-friend of the family (canon 1108).In 1563, the Catholic Church officially rejected these claims with the publication of the Decree Tametsi of the Council of Trent. Under this decree,
Those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest or of another priest authorized by the parish priest or by the ordinary [the local bishop] and in the presence of two or three witnesses, the holy council renders absolutely incapable of thus contracting marriage and declares such contracts invalid and null, as by the present decree it invalidates and annuls them (Sessio XXIV, November 11, 1563). This Tridentine decree is the basis for the current law.
Understandably, a non-Catholic who wishes to marry a Catholic may be unhappy about this requirement. We Catholics cannot fault a person who was raised in a non-Catholic church for wishing to get married in his own church! So, is there some way that the couple could be married by the non-Catholic party’s minister, and yet still be married in the eyes of the Catholic Church?Well, canon law forbids that both a non-Catholic minister and a Catholic priest officiate together at the same wedding (canon 1127.3), so no compromise of that sort is possible.
Canon 1127.2, however, notes that the bishop may dispense a mixed marriage from canonical form, if observing it would lead to “grave difficulties.” It’s up to the bishop to determine what constitutes a grave difficulty and what doesn’t. He may, for example, grant a dispensation based on the desire to maintain harmony with family members on the non-Catholic’s side, who are anti-Catholic and who object to a Catholic wedding ceremony. Another common scenario is that of a non-Catholic party with a family member who is a protestant cleric, who naturally wishes to officiate at the wedding. The dispensation allows the Catholic party to marry before a non-Catholic minister, in a non-Catholic ceremony, and still be considered validly married (assuming no other separate issues affect sacramental validity, of course) in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Such a dispensation MUST be obtained in advance. A Catholic who gets married in a non-Catholic ceremony without a dispensation from canonical form is not validly married under canon law and must not receive the Holy Communion.
Communion may be received either in the hand or on the tongue. Around the year A.D. 390, Cyril of Jerusalem indicated that the early Church practiced Communion in the hand when he instructed his audience: “Approaching, therefore, come not with thy wrists extended, or thy fingers open; but make thy left hand as if a throne for thy right, which is on the eve of receiving the King. And having hallowed thy palm, receive the body of Christ, saying after it, ‘Amen.’ Then after thou hast with carefulness hallowed thine eyes by the touch of the holy body, partake thereof; giving heed lest thou lose any of it; for what thou losest is a loss to thee as it were from one of thine own members. For tell me, if anyone gave thee gold dust, wouldst thou not with all precaution keep it fast, being on thy guard against losing any of it, and suffering loss?” (Catechetical Lectures 23:22).
The Congregation of the Sacraments and Divine Worship permitted the reception of Communion in the hand. The option to receive Communion either in the hand or on the tongue always remains with the communicant. No priest, deacon, acolyte, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may refuse a communicant Communion on the tongue. Likewise, once the local bishop has introduced Communion in the hand, none may refuse a communicant Communion in the hand (except when Communion is being given by intinction, in which case it must be given on the tongue).
Finally, after you have received Communion, it is appropriate to stay after Mass and thank Jesus for coming to you in the Holy Eucharist. The Church mandates that: “The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence, with a hymn, psalm or other song of praise, or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time” (Inaestimabile Donum 17).
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR FASTING BEFORE COMMUNION?
The current rules for fasting before Communion, introduced by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, are found in Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law:
Regarding point 3, “elderly” is defined as 60 years of age or older. In addition, the Congregation of the Sacraments issued a document, Immensae caritatis, on January 29, 1973, that clarifies the terms of the fast before Communion for “the infirm, and those who care for them”:
To give recognition to the dignity of the sacrament and to stir up joy at the coming of the Lord, it is well to observe a period of silence and recollection. It is a sufficient sign of devotion and respect on the part of the sick if they direct their mind for a brief period to this great mystery. The duration of the Eucharistic fast, that is, of abstaining from food or alcoholic drink, is reduced to approximately a quarter of an hour for:
Finally, Catholics are dispensed from all of the rules of fasting before Communion when they are in danger of death.
Saturday (Vigil): 4:40pm Rosary & Rec., 5:00pm Mass
Sunday: 7:30am, 9am & 6pm
Monday: 9:15am Mass, Ador. & Rec.
Tuesday: 6:15pm Ador., 6.30pm Rosary & Rec., 7pm Mass
Wednesday: 9:15am Mass, Ador. & Rec.
Thursday: 9:15am Mass, Ador. & Rec.
Friday: 9:15am Mass, Ador. & Rec.
First Friday: Ador. 7am-7:30pm.
Masses at 9:15am & 7:30pm with Anointing of the Sick.
Ador. – Adoration.
Rec. – Reconciliation.
1 Beaconsfield St, Revesby, NSW 2212, Australia
Parish Office Hours
Mon, Wed, Thur & Friday: 8:30am to 4pm.
Phone: (02) 9773 9065
Deanery: South West Deanery
Diocease: Parish Boundary
Available (Entry Via Beaconsfield St)
Weekdays: Around the Church or on the road.
Weekends: Parking is located in the School yard.
Wheelchair Access: Available (Via Side Door)
Priest: Rev Dariusz Basiaga SDS PP JP
Pastoral Associate, Sacramental Coordinator & Secretary: Pauline Sahyoun
Parish Secretary: Jasmin (on leave)
Bookkeeper: Maria Amaral
Catechists’ Coordinator: Margaret Hill
Youth Coordinator: Ellina Nandan
Safeguarding Office: Felicity Chang
Parish Council: ....
finance committee: George Mansour
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