“Ask a Priest: Do I Need to Attend Mass If I Can’t Go to Communion?”

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Q: I was brought up in the Catholic faith. In my family tree I have a priest and a nun (both deceased). At age 13 I moved away from my childhood home and lost touch with my faith and pursued a life of materialism and selfishness for 20 years. Two years ago I was made redundant from a well-paid job, but this has proved to be a turning point in my life. I now live a life of relative poverty, but it has reignited my dormant faith and I believe that this has all happened for a reason. I spent many hours in prayer seeking guidance, and I am now employed by the Salvation Army. I believe that I now do good work for the Lord. However, I still find myself torn about my own faith. I have returned to the objects of my childhood, such as the Bible, rosary and so on. I have lived with my fiancée for the past 10 years. We are not married and she has never been baptized. Am I right in thinking that this would prevent me from taking part in Communion? If I am unable to take part in this, do I still need to attend Mass to fulfill the requirement of the faith? I would greatly appreciate any guidance. – A.D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you seem to want to come back to the full practice of the faith.

Briefly, yes, as a Catholic you should be attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. These are privileged moments to give thanks to God and to hear him speak through the readings and homilies, etc.

As for Communion: no, you cannot receive it now. It seems as though you are living in an objectively, gravely sinful situation with your fiancée.

To be able to receive Communion again you would need to stop the conjugal life with your fiancée, ideally by separating, and then making a good confession with the intention not to fall into sin again.

There might be other issues that need to be addressed. The best thing would be to speak with a priest at the nearest parish and explain your situation.

With the grace of God you might be able to return to a full living of the faith. You might also be able to marry your fiancée within the Church. A special permission would be required, since she isn’t baptized.

But take things step by step. The Holy Spirit seems to be leading you. With the eyes of faith you already perceive that losing that job might have been an opportunity to refocus your life and rediscover your Catholic roots.

Try to make time for prayer each day, and stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. She will intercede for you. And who knows? Your full return to the practice of the faith could help bring your fiancée closer to the Church, too.

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