Better Prepare Yourself for Communion

Sacramental Theology teaches a key principal that all Catholics should know so as to derive the most abundant graces that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Sacraments.  This key principal is called Dispositive Grace. What this term means, in clear and unequivocal terms, is that you receive graces from the Sacraments in direct proportion to your disposition of heart and preparation of soul.

Sacraments are like fire.  Fire can do immense good, but it can also do immense damage.  On a cold winter night, nothing more sweet and enjoyable than a sparkling, sparking, cackling bundle of flames in a chimney in the living room of your home.

On the other hand, fires that are not contained can cause huge forest fires. In California, fires have been  known to extend from San Diego County, through the County of L.A. reaching as far as Ventura County, cutting and burning through thousands of acres of land, devouring and consuming homes.

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, warns us to be aware of whom it is we are receiving.  Some were eating and drinking and ignoring the poor and then celebrating the Meal of the Lord—the most Holy Eucharist— in this ill-disposed condition.

The fiery Apostle to the Gentiles fiercely reprimands those who would receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, in such a condition. For that reason St. Paul said that some were eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Our Lord unto their own condemnation.  The same Apostle exhorted them as well as the Church at large (and that includes you and me) to be sure that we are in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion.

How does this apply to you and me as well as Catholics at large in the modern world in which we live, where the conscience has been so poorly formed over the last half-century?

The Catechism has taught for centuries, with respect to the reception of Holy Communion—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—that we must be in the state of grace. Reception of the Eucharist requires that our soul be in the state of grace to receive Jesus worthily and receive the innumerable graces available for our peace of mind, joy of spirit, growth in holiness and eternal salvation for all eternity.

Mortal Sin: Hold Off

If you are aware of having committed a mortal sin, then you should abstain from receiving Holy Communion, simple and clear. Otherwise this will be a Sacrilegious Communion, the fire that burns, damages and destroys your soul rather than the fire that heats and warms.

Probably you are thinking to yourself: “what then is a mortal sin?” I have heard the terminology years ago, but I forgot the definition. Good question, and here is our answer!

To commit a mortal sin there are three conditions.

  1.  A Grave Matter.   The sin that is committed is serious or grave by its very nature. Sins against the Sixth Commandment are by their nature grave or serious. Missing Holy Mass on Sunday, without any justifiable reason, is grave/serious matter—to give just a couple examples.
  1.  Full Knowledge. A mortal sin is not committed if the person committing it is not aware of it. However, as followers of Christ, we are morally responsible and obliged to make it a constant effort in our lives to study and learn our faith on a constant basis. This is called Permanent Formation. Some people, due to negligence and laziness, make no effort to grow in the knowledge of their faith. This is culpable ignorance that should be corrected.
  1.  Full Consent of the Will. Finally, to commit a mortal sin, one has to give free and total consent of the will. This means that a mortal sin is not done by accident, as if one were to slip on a banana peel. No! You know it is serious and you do it anyway against your conscience.

If these three conditions are present, then it constitutes a mortal sin. By committing a mortal sin, the state of sanctifying grace is lost thereby excluding one from the reception of the Holy Eucharist until….

Sacramental Confession. Yes! So as to be able to receive the most Holy Eucharist worthily, as faithful and practicing Catholics, we must have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, Reconciliation, or if you like The Sacrament of God’s infinite Mercy.

All too often today, even among Catholics you hear, “well I confess directly to God because He knows me, sees me, hears me and loves me.” If you are a Protestant, that is one thing, but not as a practicing Catholic. You must receive forgiveness through the proper means or channel that Jesus has determined through His Church and through the reception of the Sacrament of Forgiveness and through the presence of the ordained priest. When the priest absolves you: “And I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” then it is not so much that the priest forgives you (He is only the instrument), rather it is Jesus Himself who forgives you and washes you clean through His Precious Blood that was shed on the cross on Good Friday.

Worthy Communions. Then after having received the Sacrament of Confession, Holy Communion can be received in the state of grace and will serve as the most powerful means of sanctification and eternal salvation.

A Warning on Routine Communion.  A real danger for many Catholics is the danger of falling into the terrible pitfall of the “The Routine Communion”. In other words, Mass and Holy Communion are available in abundance and I receive Holy Communion with little preparation, poor participation in Holy Mass, with a cold heart and literally no thanksgiving after I have received the Eucharistic Lord. Jesus complained to St. Faustina because He said that many receive Him as if He were a mere object!  How terrible it is when we ourselves are treated like mere “objects” by others. How much worse when Jesus is treated as a mere object—Remember, Jesus is God.

Useful Reminder

In the sacristies of the convents of some nuns there is a reminder usually in eye’s view of the priest celebrant with this catchy admonition: “Priest, man of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.”  Should we not approach Holy Communion with the same disposition of heart—to receive Jesus with great fervor and faith and love as if it were our first Holy Communion, last Holy Communion, and only Holy Communion? If that is our disposition of soul, Holy Communion will definitely be the most powerful means for our constant sanctification and eternal salvation.


Fr. Ed Broom, OMV


Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of From Humdrum to Holy, which offers more words of wisdom for how to become a saint today. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

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  • Benny K

    Fr. Ed, I am inspired. Thank you.

  • Genevieve Price

    I appreciate this article and try really hard to receive Holy Communion worthily. What I find hard to understand….is how can God who is a just God have different standards for Protestant and Catholics. I do go to confession 3 timesa yrar and when I think I have committed a mortal sin. I try daily to confess my venial sins everyday to God.

  • Kellie

    God does not have different standards. He has only 1 Church, 1 Bride. Protestants were Catholics who “protested” against the Catholic Church. They broke away and made their own churches and their own rules.

  • Chris

    What church is shown in the picture?

  • Michael J. Lichens

    It’s from the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal

  • Annamarie

    Thank you for this timely reminder. I have been away from the Church for a while due to illness of both body & heart. I was divorced after 32 years and also have a chronic illness. To be unable to receive Holy Communion has been a constant source of added pain. I am back now, with successes and failures in getting to mass. I would never, ever, however, receive Holy Communion without first going to confession, due to my own circumstances. That anyone would just blows my mind!
    I feel sorry for anyone, this includes all Protestants of whom there are many in my biological family, who doesn’t have the guidance and comfort of these two sacraments their churches decided to just chuck for reasons they aren’t aware of. I mean by that, the egos of just a few men, such as Martin Luther, and Calvin, et al. How tragic they do not know what they have had taken from them. I ask for your prayers, Father, to help me in my struggle. I never in a million years thought my husband wouldn’t remember the part in our marriage vows of “…in sickness and in health.” Thanks again.

  • Annamarie

    Today’s Protestants don’t even realize what they had taken from them. As God doesn’t have differing standards, as Kellie pointed, it is up to His mercy how He deals with this lack. He never abandoned the Church; it was men who thought they knew more than anyone else. They certainly didn’t have the virtue of humility!

  • Daniel F. Crawford

    Daniel F. Crawford Is there any room for grace in this discussion? Suppose one receives a Sacrament “unworthily” – is there any hint here that even an unworthy reception might actually still offer the communicant grace? And what precisely is the nature of mortal sin? When I was growing up, the only mortal sins we were taught about were sins involving touching our bodies below the belly button, eating meat on Friday and missing Mass. This is a horrible and downright frightening essay for all sorts of reasons. I do hope we are not exposing our children to this kind of “if you don’t do it my way, you are cursed and will go straight to hell” thinking. I dread to think what effect this essay might have on Catholics who walked away from the church in despair because they could never think they were “disposed” properly – and the notion that somehow God’s grace is utterly dependent on how “good” we are is completely repugnant to the teaching of the Gospel.