The following is the Introduction to “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper”: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist, a recent statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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The celebration of the Mass is the center of the life of the Church. The heart of the Mass is the Eucharistic Prayer, for through this prayer Christ’s sacrifice is both recalled and made present and we give our thanks and praise to God. The consummation of the Mass, however, occurs in Holy Communion, where we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. At each Eucharistic liturgy, Jesus speaks his healing word to us and gives to us his life-giving Body and Blood — his very self. In so doing, Christ continually nourishes and forms his pilgrim Church as she journeys towards the Kingdom. In the Roman rite, immediately prior to receiving Holy Communion, the priest calls us to the joy of receiving the Lord, saying, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” In the presence of such a great gift, we humbly respond echoing the words of the Roman centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8). Because of our own human sinfulness none of us is worthy of so great a gift. Yet Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist to give us a share in his divine life.
As bishops and shepherds of the Catholic faithful in the United States of America, we recognize our responsibility to nurture the faith of our Catholic brothers and sisters in this most wondrous mystery — Jesus’ Real Presence in Holy Communion.
In the following series of questions and answers, we wish to affirm clearly what the Church believes and teaches concerning the Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion. We also wish to provide a clear affirmation as to who may receive Holy Communion within a Catholic Eucharistic celebration. Finally, we want to recommend some practices that every Catholic can use for preparing to receive Holy Communion in a more worthy fashion.