Thursday

Should you Confess before you receive Communion?

By Paul Dion, STL


"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you," we say. Then we go to communion anyway. Well we should. Jesus didn't let the words of the Roman Centurion stop Him from blessing him and his family with a miracle.

It is Christ Himself who invites us to "Take this and eat it, all of you". He further states, "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." (John, 6:53)

More than ever, more and more people approach the altar of Communion. This is happening at the same time that fewer and fewer people are approaching the sacrament of Penance (confession).

Some Catholics, including some priests, wonder therefore if everyone who approaches the altar to partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is truly ready to do so according to the spiritual demands of the Act of Taking Communion.

At the same time we are reminded that John Paul II exhorted the bishops of the United States to encourage more people to participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

It remains true also that some Catholics stay in the pew. Others leave the church when the communion procession forms. Some feel genuinely unworthy to receive their Lord, some realize that they have not observed the rule of fasting for one hour before the time of communion and some judge themselves to be too full of sin at the time and so they refrain from receiving.

In the not-too-distant past, and even at the present time, people go to confession before every communion, and many receive communion only rarely. The life style of the practicing Catholic has changed.

But the question is still valid: In your opinion, is it required to go to confession before receiving Communion? Let me add, If you haven't been to Confession in more than one year, should you feel free to receive Communion?

If you are among those who receive Communion without going to Confession first, tell us your reasons. If you Confess before you receive Communion, tell us why.

Give us your comments. The electronic soapbox is all yours.
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35 comments:

  1. EGD from Ft. Wayne10:40 PM

    It is a basic teaching of the Church that you confess all your sins before you receive Communion. Yes, Confession is a must for me.

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  2. Anonymous10:45 PM

    I plead guilty. I'm one of those who receive Communion every week but haven't been to Confession in over 30 years. Why do I do it? I do my best to live a good clean life. I treat my neighbors as I treat myself. And I love God above all else. But Confession intimidates me. And I need Jesus and the Eucharist in my life every Sunday. My life is just not complete otherwise.

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  3. Anonymous6:54 AM

    Am I missing something? I thought the church's teaching was that you must confess prior to communion if you have committed mortal sin. I would really like to know what the church's position is on this very important question not how many catholics may wish to interpret it.

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    1. Thank you for saying this. I have struggled with what I thought was my faith in God, but actually was struggling with the huge amount of "Catholics" who pick and choose the doctrine that they live by. I went to confession with my mother several years ago. My mother entered one room with a priest and I the other. She had not gone to confession in over 40 years and received a blanket absolution. I had not gone in 5 years and since that time had married my husband at the time by a judge. Though my mother had also been married outside of the church, I was refused absolution and my mother could hear the priest yelling at me in the room while she said her penance. I have not received communion since and was crushed. It was a confession gone bad and it bothered my mother deeply and on her death bed while having last rights less than 2 weeks ago it was her main concern. After her conversation with the priest I came into the room and the first thing she said, Father said you can be absolved because your divorced now. It was her wish that i go to confession and unburden myself and have an appointment with a priest tomorrow. I may struggle with doctrine as a Catholic but do not pick what I like and leave the rest. You can lie to the entire parish, but cannot like to God as he knows your heart.

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  4. Anonymous7:15 AM

    The complete text of the pre-Communion entreaty is "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." I truly believe what I am saying and, in my mind, that is the prayer for forgiveness.
    I am also one of those who needs Jesus and the Eucharist in my life every Sunday, but hate going to Confession - especially since they insisted on making it a face-to-face excercise. So I don't go to Confession, but I try to live a good life, and I fully participate in every Mass I attend.

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    1. Anonymous4:43 AM

      The complete text of the pre-Communion entreaty is "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
      That's right and only God knows your heart. Your sins are forgiven when you confess your sin to God with a contrite heart. We need spiritual direction not confession to to overcome our weaknesses.

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  5. • We know that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Matt 5:8, Ap 21:27), and thus, we must all “wipe our feet” before entering the Heavenly Kingdom (Purgatory), purging us of our bad earthly habits and venial sins that remain. Since, we can understand how pure we must be to be in the Presence of God in Heaven, it is not hard to understand how pure we ought to be when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist (State of Sanctifying grace- no mortal sin on the soul). Otherwise, we must receive sacramental Confession/Reconciliation/Penance first before approaching Holy Communion. If not, as St. Paul teaches, “we eat and drink judgment” upon ourselves (1 Cor 11:29).

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  6. o Jude 1:24- present yourself spotless.
    o Matthew 5:23-24- reconcile with brother first before offering sacrifice

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    1457 According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.

    1395 By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins - that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.

    1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

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  7. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Offering the Sacrament of Penance one hour once a week for a large parish is giving a message to the parishioners that the Sacrament is not that important. It amazes me to see almost the entire church get up to go to Communion at Mass and see only 25-50 people in the Confession line. If our priests to not emphasize the importance of this Sacrament at Mass and our children don't learn it in CCD and at home, then this is the result.

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  8. AMEN... It's easy to say "Parents teach your kids"... But the parents don't know the truth either. It's easy to say "Catechists teach the kids", I have myself, many catechists don't, but what difference does it make if the parents won't drive them?

    The people have forgotten Confession, because they have forgotten sin...

    Luk 5:31-32 DRB
    (31) And Jesus answering, said to them: They that are whole need not the physician: but they that are sick.
    (32) I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance.

    God Bless,
    Laurence

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  9. To EGD from Fort Wayne:
    It is a basic teaching of the Church that you must confess all your mortal sins before you receive communion. Confession is not necessary for the remission of venial sins. A sincere act of contrition will do. It has been thus for a very long time.

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  10. To anonymous, "Am I missing something?":
    See my previous comment. You aren't missing anything.
    The church's position will always be stated in the comments generated by parishworld.net. The "commentors" (That's perhaps not a word) can then see for themselves where the practice of the faith has carried other members of the flock. The information that is generated through this process is meant to feed the faith and the religious practice of it. In this instance, you hold the correct position.

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  11. To Anonymous who quoted the entire pre-communion entreat" The complete text of the pre-Communion entreaty is "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

    Just a couple of weeks ago a report came out of the Vatican concerning an instruction by Pope Benedict XVI himself who said that the pre-communion prayer in and of itself is not a substitute for confession. Parishworld.net takes the position that this can be a solid act of contrition as required to prepare the soul that is tainted with venial sin, but is not a substitute for confession in the cleansing of the soul from the weight of mortal sin. It is also to be remembered that Church Law requires "...after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." (Canon 989)

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  12. Faher Greg Elder4:07 PM

    This message to the the unnamed person who has not been to Confession in
    thirty years. My dear brother or sister in Christ, I am sorry to read that
    Confession intimidates you, but I do understand. Believe me, as a convert to
    Catholicism (at age 46) regular confession is a bit new to me too.

    But remember several things. (a.) God already knows what is in your soul,
    so its not like you are saying anything He does not know. (b.) You are not
    going to tell the priest anything her has not heard before MANY times. (c.)
    Canon law and Church custom give you the absolute right to privacy and to the
    selection of which priest you go to. In spite of what some people think,
    its actually extremely difficult to know who is on the other side of the
    curtain in most confessionals, particularly when there is a long line. It is
    also a fact that God is so merciful that He enables us to forget what we hear
    most of the time. (A priest once told me that and I didn't believe him. Now
    I am a priest and its true!)

    The reason why most confessional times are about an hour is thats all the
    time thats needed to hear the confessions in most parishes - I am sorry to
    say. If people at my parish collectively required more time, we would
    schedule more times. I entirely agree we need more teaching on the subject
    at all levels. But there is no point using up the limited amount of time a
    priest has by putting him in an empty box.

    As Laurence gave our confession times at St Adelaides, let me add that most
    priests always glad to hear a confession at any time. A priest who does not
    want to hear a confession or refuses to do so without an EXTREMELY urgent
    reason need to sit in a monastery cell for a few months and reflect on why he
    freely chose to become a priest. I have never refused to hear a confession
    and only on very rare occasions had to delay one. The only times I have ever
    delayed to hear a confession is when I am in the box so long that Mass is
    late - and on that occasion I told the people in the lines I would hear their
    confessions after mass and stay as long as they needed it. But that was a
    rare and unique occasion. At that Parish, they actually did need more times.

    One of the reasons we wear that funny collar to to make ourselves available
    to people. And people do just walk up to me and request the sacrament
    outside the Church. I often am asked to hear confessions before and after
    daily masses in addition to our regularly scheduled times. (I am at the 7 am
    Mass Mon-Thurs and Father Ryan does the Friday - and he is also glad to share
    his time. For the record, I have never personally confesed to Fr Ryan, but a
    lot of people I have talked to absolutely love him.) Ask someone you trust
    who is a good and wise confessor.

    I appeal to you as a brother in Christ to make that confession to the priest
    of your choosing! You will be allowing yourself to be healed in ways you
    cannot now suppose. And if there are really vile, or just plain old
    embarassing things which are troubling you - consider how wonderful it will
    be to get rid of them.

    I have said to my congregation - if you want to see the power of the
    Sacrament of Reconciliation, sit in the back of any parish during confession.
    You will see sad people go in, eyes downward, and cheerful people walk out
    with their heads held high. Miracles happen in this Sacrament.

    I will be saying Mass later today and you will be on my heart as I do so.

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  13. Anonymous4:23 PM

    As a young girl I attended Catholic elementary school and Catholic High School. I was very blessed and very thankful for the regligious education I received as my parents did not always go to church or confession on a regular bases, the school I attended became my infulence for my love of Jesus. We were taught to attended confession,if needed, before Sunday mass in order to be holy enough to received the host. As an adult I do receive communion even though I have not gone to confession the week prior to mass. At every mass I think about my sins and go over my actions, ask for forgiveness and remember to try to make my self better in the following week. I do attend confession a few times a year but I do not want to miss the wonderful feeling and strength I receive when I take Communion. I sometimes struggle with the fact I have not attended confession the week before, but feel at peace when asking Jesus for forgiveness and receive communion. Perhaps I feel the sins I committ arn't extreem enough to make me want to miss communion, and I also feel that Jesus does forgive me when I ask for forgiveness humbly and with meaning.It just feels right as if Jesus is saying " I know you are sorry and you have been forgiven, come and eat of my table." I do feel comfortable, comfort comming from Jesus, to receive communion. I also don't believe that we should be exempt from going to confession. It is a wonderful thing to cleans the soul and get the wonderful feeling of being closer to God. Every year I seem to attend Confession a few more times than the year before. Just goes to show you, Jesus never gives up!

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  14. Anonymous8:03 AM

    It is not only acceptable, but we Catholics are encouraged to go to Mass and Holy Communion regularly (ie. daily and/or weekly. Confession is there for the asking. We are required to confess our sins to a priest once a year as part of our Easter Duty. However, one can freely receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist without having gone to confession recently, provided that no mortal sins are present. God loves us, and gives us Himself, infusing us with God's Holy Spirit every time we partake of His Holy Meal. This very act keeps us close to God and gives us the strength to continue to resist daily temptations. Further, we are keeping His New Covenant, when Jesus said, "Do this in memory of Me". JimB

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  15. Anonymous3:43 PM

    Raised a Catholic, I was taught, in my memory, that a sin is only a sin if we truly believe and understand it is. Well, at 62, I do not believe I am committing any sins in my life. I am a good person, I do my best to treat all people and living creatures with respect. I believe only doing wrong in that area would be a sin. I live by one rule, the Golden Rule..do unto others...if I do that, I have nothing to confess.

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  16. Anonymous10:09 PM

    I believe that God knows we are sorry for our sins even before we ask for forgiveness, and that confession was created by man for those who need to hear from a priest that we are forgiven. I believe that God is all loving and forgiving and that if you don't feel the need for formal confession, then it is a personal thing. I don't go to confession regularly, but I ask God to forgive me of my sins before I receive communion.

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  17. Right you are about God knowing that we are sorry for our sins even before we ask for forgiveness. You stray when you say that confession was created by man for those who need to hear from a priest that they are forgiven.
    Confession would not be created by humans since humans do not have the natural inclination to admit their weaknesses to their fellow humans. Confession had to come from God, and that is indeed its source. When we confess sacramentally, it is not to the priest that we are speaking. It is to the Divine judge, Who, through the sacramentality of the priest gives us the grace of pardon. Jesus Himself tells us this when we hear Him tell His disciples, "Receive the Holy Spirit for those whose sins you forgive will be forgiven and those whose sins you retain shall be retained." (John 20; 22 - 23) Now the only way the disciples could come to know the sins of others is through a personal declaration. Confession.
    God is all loving and forgiving but confessing or not confessing is not a personal thing. It is a Divine expectation that we admit our sins to God and then do something to set our relationship with Him straight after having harmed it through sin. This is as old as the first pages of the Bible. Adam and Eve had to confess. Why else would God have asked, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3; 10) He knew where they were. God makes Adam and Eve confess before He makes the promise that He would return righteousness to His creature. It is not correct to think that God forgives without a price. Forgiveness does not come without contrition. Forgiveness does not come without reparation.
    You do well to ask God to forgive your sins before receiving Communion. We all must do that before approaching the Sacred Table.
    Lest you and the other readers leave under the impression that I am saying that this petition for forgiveness suffices if we are under the weight of a serious sin, a mortal sin. I am not saying that at all. If we are in the state of mortal sin, formal confession is necessary before we can receive Communion without grave spiritual consequences.
    We should never forget that God's infinite love and infinite Will to bring forgiveness down upon us is also matched by His infinite justice. He forgives, yes. He also punishes. Believe it.
    Paul Dion, STL
    Theology Editor, ParishWorld.net

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    1. Anonymous4:48 AM

      Paul I have a question, I only came back to the church at Easter after 15 years, I made a confession on Pentecost Sunday and although I recieved communion before that I now feel I have to be more descerning. At that confession I didnt actually tell all which I later regreted but when I went back about 8 weeks later the priest refused to hear my confession but to be fair he had just given me the sacrement for the sick. I went to weekly communion until last night, I feel I have sommitted mortal sin and will continue to be in that place for some time so what do I do . can I go for a blessing? do I dare approach him again ? do I go else where? my pp knows me very well but since no one seems to use the sacrament at church i just wonder if I am reading more into my sinfulness than i need too.........lost

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    2. It is my understanding that if during the confession itself, if you honestly tell all that you know and remember at the time and didn't purposely leave something out..then later remember, as long as your intention was pure during confession..you are absolved. You know in your heart if you purposely skipped the hard stuff or honestly forgot it. God knows your heart and he is kind and forgiving of our feeble human minds. :)

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  18. Anonymous3:20 AM

    I consider confession a great gift. For me, it is the palpable way for me to receive the pardon of God, through the blessing of a priest. For me, a prayer to God for the pardon of my sins is not the same -at all- as verbalizing in front of the priest the precise list of what I have done -or not done- that was wrong. I know my sins are not that original, and the priest, if anything will be more bored than scandalized by what I say. So frankly, what´s not to like?

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  19. Anonymous1:35 PM

    If you participate in the Penitential Rite (I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters...) at the beginning fo each Mass, do you REALLY need a priest to absolve you of your sins in order to take Communion? You are at Mass in the very presence of Christ (AND your priest) confessing your sins to Him. Christ knows your heart. So long as you are honestly repentant at that time, who cares if a priest absolves you or not? You are NEVER worthy to receive the grace of God in the Eucharist (even if you go to Confession, you say "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...), I don't see why it matters if you actually go to Confession beforehand. I do believe that Confession is a sacrament that Catholics should participate in, but not going to Confession should not impair your ability to receive the body and blood of Christ. And why do we continue to deny the body and blood of Christ to little children, who understand the concept of God and transubstantion better than most adults? Time to move into the 21st century, people.

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    1. Anonymous1:03 AM

      Spoken like a true protest-ant!

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  20. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Dear Anonymous, the teachings of the Church are ageless. Just because we are now in the 21st century doesn't mean the Church changes and follows what you perceive to be your more modern way of worship. I suggest you talk to your parish priest about your views on the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. Maybe a little Catechesis might help.

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  21. Anonymous8:53 AM

    I go to church every Sunday but never line up for the communion. My grandmother told me that confession is the only way to be worthy of the bread. The only thing I do not understand is when the father says "I am not worthy to receive you but only say the words and I shall be healed". Does that mean sinners can take the bread?

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  22. I am so glad I joined this forum but wait at the altar, the priest says take this ALL of you and eat it, this is my body which was given up for you and same for the blood.Are you now trying to say that our LORD segregates?I believe sin is sin, be it mortal or venial.I believe Jesus Christ died for ALL sinners, has there ever been an announcement at the altar that says if you have venial sins and have gone to confession, come out and receive or those with mortal sins, stay back.If I go to receive the body and blood with sincere repentance, when not in the position to confess, will Jesus refuse me? I am not against going to confession as the book of james said confess to one another but when not in the position or time to confess, will the lord ignore you? I believe my lord Jesus Christ died for ALL sinners,mortal or venial and my lord never segregates or are you trying to say that holy communion is only for the righteous?Please answer me and please quote some scriptures so that I can understand.

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  23. Anonymous8:25 PM

    I have been masturbating 4 years now and have been confessing but i am ashame of my self now & feel not to confess again, but take holy communion after self confession: is it right?

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  24. Anonymous2:58 PM

    I hate aural confessions! I have been confessing the same sins for 40 years and finally realized I won't or can't stop.
    Aural confession is entirely manmade in 1512 by the council of trent. No where does scripture say we should confess to a priest.
    Easter Duty: How can the church order you to be sorry and confess your sins! This is just control. I haven't gone to confession in 8 years and still receive.
    Confession is humiliating,unnecessary,anxiety producing and counterproductive as has been my lifelong experience.
    Didn't Christ die on the cross for all,ALL sins, past,present, and future? I don't believe a loving God will prevent you from the kingdom over an ancient,created ritual.

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    1. Anonymous4:27 PM

      A mortal sin requires 3 ingredients,1. Grave Matter,2.Full Knowledge and 3. full consent of the will,all 3 may not be present in actions that are considered sins,it is quite difficult to commit a mortal sin in everyday life,premeditated murder would certainly be a sin because it was premeditated.

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    2. Anonymous1:06 AM

      SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE PROTEST-ANT!

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  25. Anonymous5:04 AM

    Is it not writion and do we not say every Sunday:(But only say the word and my soul SHALL be Healed!)Is this not what Jesus said:? "Ask in my Name and your Sins WILL be Foregiven!" I Do go to Confession every 2-3 Month. for I know I am a Sinner,for my Mind and Body are week, But my Sperit is Stronger thin I.

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  26. Anonymous9:07 PM

    When you are confessing to a priest you are actually confessing to jesus. when the prodical son came back home, the father didnt say no dont tell me you are sorry, go seek out a priest and confess to him. of course in this parable jesus is the father.. instead the father put the finest robes on his son and forgave him. so why if when i speak to a priest , who is actually a vessel for jesus at the time, it is better than actually confessing to jesus on a personal level? and why would anyone deny the body and blood of christ to someone because they havent followed mans rules? the woman who touched jesus' feet to be cured was cured based on faith. not because she went to a priest and confessed her sins.and dont we sin after confession? thats a whole day! the body and blood of christ being a part of me is unbelieveable miraculous and i would never judge anyone for confessing to god rather than confessing to a priest. you can judge a tree by its fruit. if the fruit of someone confessing to god and not a priest is him being filled with the spirit because he does not need to see someone in front of him to know that god is listening, then the tree is good.. the tree here is the confession to jesus rather than a priest. when jesus came down from the mountain the disciples said jesus these guys are casting out demons in your name and they havent gone through all of the steps it takes to do that! jesus' response was hey man they are doing a good thing and their faith is strong. the eucharist is the most precious thing a person can recieve. it is jesus. would you deny someone that or make them feel bad for that because they desperately need and appreciate the value of the eucharist? how can you judge a person for wanting something so special. you do not know their relationship with god. If you truly believe that god is real, as real as apriest, than who better to confess your sins to? jesus or a priest? I choose jesus because he sacrificed for me because my sacrifices would not make me worthy. in fact nothing i can do will make me more worthy than the next person. so if you feel that going and talking to a priest will make you more worthy of gods grace you are wrong. not one of us is worthy of his grace. not one.

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  27. I wrote a long reply but it just vanished. I was not baptized at birth and on my own accord spent 4 years without parent urging going to ccd learning about the vows of Catholic doctrines and had full understanding of the faith I chose. Communion without confession is just unlevined bread.

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  28. I recently had my first confession and then took communion for the first time in 25 years. I requested a meeting with a priest and didn't go to the traditional
    "confession" I wanted to discuss the things that had kept me away from God for so long and why I was coming in then. My mother had recently passed away and had upon her death bed made her first confession in a very long time, and she felt as though it had been a bit cheating to wait till the end. She urged me to go the night I sat next to her at her death bed.

    I had kept away from the Catholic faith and religion because of those souls who are sloppy Catholics. The one's who pick-and-choose the rules they want to follow, the people who think they speak for Christ, (as if they could!), and people who are religious and do the right thing for the "pay off" of heaven. I struggle with some rules but unfortunately I have an affliction which is part of my OCD which is called Hypermorality. It makes lying or doing certain things of a dishonest nature very uncomfortable for me. If I know a rule, I can't forget it or break it. I panic and think of the consequences constantly so confession is almost a relief to me.

    This affliction has been often damaging to me in work, relationships, and interpersonal daily life. I throw myself under the bus all the time. Thank goodness the lady who does my taxes is understanding with me as I will report income as little as $5 dollars and if I didn't would worry it in my mind.

    I spoke with the nicest priest who explained to me that my relationship to God is not related to other's and our hearts are ours alone. We talked for almost 2 hours and I told him all my naughty things and he gave me absolution. My penance was to say a rosary for my mother and take communion. He asked if I would try to go to the Mass that he was saying the next day as he would feel privileged to give me my first communion in 25 years.

    The next day I was there with a friend and cried as I knelt after taking communion and prayed to God for my mother's soul and was grateful for the whole event.

    I am "old school" Catholic and if you miss mass one week I don't think you should take communion and I need to go to confession again as life get's in the way of my connection to God. I feel that you can not take the love of God into you if you have sin on your soul. Just my story on it.

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