“Ask a Priest: Returning to Mass After Years … May I Receive Communion?”

Q: I will be attending Mass on Sunday for the first time in many years. Am I allowed to receive Communion? – L.D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good that you will be attending Mass again. Our Lord will be happy to see you back. In the Mass he will be speaking to you through the readings and homily, and giving you help just by his Eucharistic presence.

If you haven’t been to Mass for many years, it sounds as though you would need to go to confession first before receiving Communion.

Another name for “confession” is the sacrament of reconciliation. The Church offers this sacrament, especially to those who have been away from Mass and the Lord for a long time, as a way to reconcile a person with God. The sacrament leads to the absolution of those sins that have damaged a person’s relationship with God, and it gives the penitent a chance to examine the factors that might have triggered or prolonged the separation.

Receiving Communion is a special way of signaling both our unity with the Church and its teachings, as well as our belief that we are in a state of grace — that is, we are free of mortal sin as best we can tell.

If you need help preparing for confession, you could find guides online, such as this one. If you are nervous about going to confession (which would be understandable), I can recommend our videos about the real meaning of that sacrament: “From Sorrow to Joy: A Retreat Guide on the Sacrament of Confession.”

If there are complex issues in your life – such as a marriage outside the Church, for instance — then there would need to do some preliminary steps first. You could speak with a priest about this.

Even if you aren’t ready for confession and Communion yet, you should feel free to attend Mass. The important thing is that you commit to drawing closer to Christ and following his ways.

In the meantime try to make time for prayer each day, and call on the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary to guide you. Count on my prayers.

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