11 Practical Tips for Catholics Receiving Communion

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Here are some tips for Catholics as they prepare to Receive Holy Communion (these were originally sent to families as their children were preparing to receive Holy Communion for the first time):

Communion Tips

  1. Reconciliation Before Communion – It would be very healthy for you to establish a routine for your whole family of going to Confession monthly
    • Find your local Confession times, or call to make an appointment
      • If possible, get in line together and go one-after-the-other
    • If anyone has committed a mortal sin, he/she must be absolved of that sin (via Confession) before receiving Holy Communion (otherwise he/she commits another serious sin: sacrilege)
    • Keep in mind St. Paul’s warning not to profane the Body and Blood of the Lord:
      • 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 . . . For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. (1 Cor. 11:27, 29)
  2. Refrain From Food & Drink for an Hour – We are required to not eat or drink anything except water and medicine (as needed) for an hour before receiving Holy Communion
    • Special circumstances can relieve you of the requirement to fast (e.g. pregnant women or others who need to replenish nutrients more frequently, etc.)
    • We had to remind our daughter who was preparing for her First Holy Communion that she would no longer be able to have a mint on the way to Mass because she would need to observe the hour fast in preparation for receiving Jesus
      • If you happen to have other things you normally consume while you travel (coffee, other non-water drinks, gum, snacks, etc.), remember not to have them while traveling to Mass (or, for that matter, any time within an hour before receiving Holy Communion)
  3. Reverence Jesus to Greet Him – When you enter a Catholic church, look for the tabernacle. At some point (generally, as you get to your pew), it’s customary to genuflect as a sign of honor and greeting to Jesus.
    • Orient your body and your mind toward Jesus in the tabernacle as you genuflect
    • Genuflect slowly and deliberately
    • Touch your knee to the floor
    • The knee is a sign of power and bending it is a sign of your respect of greater power and you placing what power you have at the service of someone else (we obviously do both for Jesus)
    • Traditionally, we lower our right knee
      • If Jesus is exposed in the monstrance, we traditionally use both knees
      • There is also an old tradition of genuflecting on your left knee for your bishop, the bishop of a diocese you’re visiting, or the Pope)
    • A traditional prayer (for which there is an indulgence) whenever you reverence the Eucharist is to say “My Lord and My God!”
    • While genuflecting, you may also bow your head and/or make the Sign of the Cross
    • We also genuflect as we pass in front of the tabernacle (i.e. when walking across the church we stop and genuflect at the middle line of the church instead of just passing in front of Jesus without showing Him any sign of respect) and entering/leaving the Sanctuary (the raised area where the altar and tabernacle are)
    • If you are physically unable to genuflect, no worries! Genuflection is a custom, not a rule. If you are able, you can make some other form of reverence.
    • When we offer acts of reverence like this, we help train our bodies and others around us (e.g. our children) to see/understand Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist
  4. Remove Your Mask – When approaching to receive Holy Communion, before you get to Father, please remove/lower your mask.
    • Since mask-wearing was implemented, we’ve had a number of people who have dropped Jesus because they were trying to negotiate transferring Our Lord from their hands to their mouths while taking off a mask
    • The King of the Universe humbles Himself to take the form of bread so He can come to us in love. We ought to take the greatest possible care to treat Him well.
    • It’s much safer if you simply remove your mask before getting to Father, so you can receive Jesus without any fear of dropping Him
  5. Recognize Jesus – As Father holds up the Sacred Host, look at it and remind yourself that the thing in his hand is actually God Almighty
    • Consider, since this is God Almighty, how ought you treat Him?
    • What can I do to show Him the respect and honor He is due as God?
    • There is nothing in the entire world more valuable than what the priest is holding and you are about to receive
      • If you really believe this, how ought your life change?
  6. Reverence Him – As the priest presents the Eucharist to us, we reverence Jesus by either bowing or kneeling
    • If you bow, bend your head far enough that the top of your head points to Jesus (your face will be pointed toward the ground)
  7. Respond “Amen” – After the priest says “The Body of Christ,” we respond “Amen.”
    • This means not only “I agree,” but “I stake my life on this”
    • It is not simply an agreement that what the priest is holding is Jesus (which, in itself, is a lot), but your “Amen” says “I believe all that the Holy Roman Catholic Church officially teaches”
      • As such, only Catholics may receive it, and Catholics may not receive communion in any other religion
      • Receiving Holy Communion is a sign of unity within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church today and throughout time
      • Holy Communion makes us the Church (i.e. we receive the Body of Christ and thus He makes us the Body of Christ–the Church
  8. Receive Communion – It’s important to note that we never “take” Communion (e.g. grab the Sacred Host from the paten or from Father’s hand). We always “receive” Communion (i.e. allow Father to place the Sacred Host on your tongue or hand). This echoes how we receive all graces from God (as free gifts).
    • On the Tongue (the historical and worldwide norm)
      • Stick your tongue out as far as possible (your head will naturally tilt back slightly)–this will give Father a good surface on which to place the Eucharist
      • The host will stick to your tongue–just don’t pull back before Father has given you Communion
    • On the Hand
      • Make a throne for Jesus – put your right hand below your left. Receive with your left hand; transfer Jesus to your mouth with your right hand
      • Give Father a good surface – make your “hand throne” nice and flat
      • Hold your hands high – show God that you are eager to receive Him by lifting up your hands (shoulder height–or right below his hand level)
      • Every Crumb of Communion is Jesus
        • Reverently consume all crumbs as Jesus
        • Don’t wipe the crumbs off your hand (we don’t want to be brushing Jesus onto the floor to be trampled on); rather, reverently bring them to your mouth
    • Most people make the Sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion
  9. Reflect on Our Lord – After you have received Jesus in Holy Communion, you have time to just sit and be with Him
    • Whereas most of the rest of Mass is communal prayer, this time after receiving Communion is an intimate time for you and Jesus
      • primarily worship Him as God
      • tell Him how much you love Him
      • praise Him
      • thank Him for His providence
      • ask forgiveness for your sins [receiving the Eucharist forgives small sins if we ask]
      • you can also ask for help to live a better life
      • ask for your needs and the needs of others
      • tell Him what is on your mind–hopes, fears, anxieties, sadnesses, joys, etc.)
    • Many people will bury their faces in their hands to block out distractions or they will stare at the crucifix to better focus on Jesus (obviously, we still have to be mindful of our children, but, to the degree you can, focus on Jesus as much as possible)
    • Kneeling is normal during this time as a sign of honor to Jesus, but you can also sit–the important thing is to focus on Jesus
    • This time lasts until the priest says “Let us pray”
      • Many people wonder when is the appropriate time to switch from kneeling to sitting. There is no particular time because you can either sit or kneel during the entire time.
      • Whether you’re kneeling, sitting, or you do a little of both, take this entire time to talk with Jesus very intimately inside you until Father says “Let us pray”
  10. Return Thanks After Mass – It’s customary to offer prayers of thanksgiving after Mass has ended
    • Thank You, Jesus, for allowing me to receive You
    • Thank You for this great gift of Yourself to me
    • Thank You for being in Your Catholic Church
    • Thank You for my faith
    • Thank You for being able to go to Mass (without being persecuted for it)
    • Thank You for our parish
    • Thank You for our priest
    • Thank You for my life and Your plan for my life
    • Thank You for my family
    • Thank you for all you provide for me
    • etc.
  11. Respect Jesus’ Presence in the Church – Jesus’ Presence remains in the uneaten hosts that are placed in the Tabernacle
    • The nave (where the pews are) and the sanctuary (where the altar and tabernacle are) are special because they have Jesus’ Presence.
      • We respect Jesus’ Presence by leaving those spaces as a room for prayer
      • Please try to move socializing to the narthex (gathering space) so people in the nave (where the pews are) can better focus as they pray
    • A great way to respect Jesus’s Presence in the Tabernacle and build your relationship with Him is by visiting Him outside of Mass (this is called “Eucharistic Adoration”)
      • Whether you can come and spend an hour in Jesus’ Presence or you can simply stop for a minute on your way to work, visits to the Blessed Sacrament are some of the best time you can spend on Earth
      • The practice of visiting Jesus in the tabernacle has been the springboard that started many ordinary people on the path to sainthood

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