“Ask a Priest: Am I Wrong to Attend Mass If I’m Not Receiving Communion?”

Q: I attend Mass weekly and on holy days. There are multiple reasons why I do not receive Communion that I have not been able to come to terms with yet. Last week the priest told us during his sermon that it made no sense for people to come to Mass if they were not going to receive Communion. He said it was like attending a banquet and then not eating. Am I wrong to continue attending church when I am not ready to deal with reasons I do not receive the Host? This is the second time this priest has made me feel unwelcome in my church. – M.R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: While the priest is probably well-intentioned, his views (as you describe them) aren’t quite accurate.

First, even a Catholic who cannot receive Communion for whatever reason is still obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. This precept of the Church is meant in part to help Catholics live their faith fully and to strengthen those who need to return to a fuller practice of it.

There can be great benefits in attending Mass. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the readings, the homilies (usually), and the prayers. For that priest to say that it makes no sense for non-communicants to attend Mass is simply wrong.

Second, while it is ideal that a person attending Mass receive Communion, there is no obligation to do so every time.

Moreover, it is up to each person to examine her conscience about receiving. If you know that you aren’t ready to receive, then you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so.

You certainly should not be made to feel unwelcome in your church. If this priest’s homilies bother you, you might consider attending a nearby parish, at least for now.

It is interesting that you attend Mass regularly but don’t receive Communion. If you have issues you need to work out, you might consider speaking with a priest or spiritual director. You could even approach a priest within the sacrament of confession, though you might want to be mindful of his time restraints, especially if others are waiting in line.

If it’s something from the past that holds you back, you might want to take advantage of the sacrament of confession. If it’s something involving Church teaching or something else, then discussing it with a knowledgeable person might help.

On a side note, it is admirable that you have refrained from receiving Communion if you think yourself not ready. Too often the opposite problem occurs: People receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin.

Try to make time for prayer each day. And call on the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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