Eucharist FAQs

What are the rules about fasting before receiving Holy Communion?

Over the past century the rules regarding fasting before receiving Holy Communion have changed significantly.  With the exception of water and medicines, the general rule is to fast for at least 1 hour.

When we fast we become aware of our physical hunger, not only for the nourishment of food, but more importantly the spiritual nourishment that comes from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

The elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them, can receive the Eucharist even if they have eaten something within the preceding hour.

Can non-Catholics receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church?

People of all faiths are welcome to attend Mass in a Catholic Church.  Non-Catholics are welcome to be present for the celebration but only Catholics in a state of grace are able to receive Holy Communion during Mass.

The Eucharist is not merely bread but the True Presence of Jesus; his real body, blood, soul and divinity and as such, it is appropriate that this is only distributed to those who have professed such a belief.

Although some Protestant communities have the ‘breaking of the bread’, unlike in Catholic and Orthodox Traditions, the bread in such Protestant celebrations is not Jesus’ True Presence.

There could be a number of people present at Mass who do not participate in receiving the Eucharist for a variety of reasons, being that they are not Catholic or that they are not in a position to receive Holy Communion.  But all are welcome to share in the prayer and celebration.

Do I need to go to Reconciliation before I go to communion?

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an integral part of the Catholic faith.  The Sacrament is about God’s love for us and his desire to heal us and set us free.  God does this when we turn to him and seek his mercy.

As a Sacrament of healing, Penance is for the good of the person participating, and brings many graces.

“Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion.  It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification.  The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as “the second plank (of salvation) after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1446)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides helpful instruction on the place of the Sacrament of Penance in relation to Communion: “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in the Eucharistic Communion must be in a state of grace.  Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive Communion without having received absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.” (CCC, 1415)

What options for receiving communion are there for people with gluten intolerance?

It is recommended you discuss your needs with the Parish Priest and ask what options are available to you.

For example, the priest might ask you to join the communion procession first and indicate to the celebrant that you require the low gluten host.

Some low-gluten hosts are so low in gluten that most coeliacs are not affected when they are received as Holy Communion.

If however your condition is so severe that it precludes even low gluten hosts, then you should make arrangements with the parish priest to receive Holy Communion from the chalice.  This is a practice that is widespread both here in Australia and overseas.

More questions may be answered here.  (NOTE: Opens in a new window)

Catholic Enquiry Centre