Receiving Eucharist in a state of mortal sin

Have you ever received the Eucharist when you were aware of Mortal sin in your life? Did this affect you, spiritually, physically, emotionally in any adverse ways? Have you gone from receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner to that of being in a state of Grace when you receive, and did/have you noticed a change in your spiritual, physical or emotional being? Simple/complex question!

It is my understanding that if I were to receive the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin, I could not go into a state of grace until/unless I went to sacramental confession, confessed the mortal sin AND the sin of having received the Eucharist while knowingly in mortal sin. Mortal sin deprives us of grace. Being in mortal sin keeps us from receiving further grace, or so both the old and new catechism teach, to my understanding.

Any changes that I might ‘think’ I felt of getting ‘grace’ from the Eucharist though knowingly partaking of it in mortal sin would not be actual or true. They would be ‘cheats’ of the devil trying to make me conclude that if I ‘felt’ good about an action, the action itself must be good. . .especially when the action was not good.

If I felt a change whereby I felt guilty, much more sinful, etc., those would be signs not of graces per se but of my own perception of the evil I had done and hopefully this would lead me to sacramental confession.

Provided I repented, this is not an ‘unforgiveable sin’, but it certainly would be a compound of sin to receive while **knowingly in mortal sin. **Especially if I knew that I could easily make or find the time to call the priest and either schedule confession or come to the ‘regular’ confession hours.

Suppose I sinned mortally on Saturday night but I wanted to receive on Sunday, in mortal sin, because even if I tried to call the priest he couldn’t see me in confession until after Mass. Would that ‘justify’ my reception if I said, “I NEED the Eucharist, I’ll make a perfect act of contrition and go to confession next week, but I have to have the Eucharist TODAY”? No, it would not. If I am in no danger of death and I have the ability to go to confession in 6 days, I need to wait the 6 days and go to confession before receiving communion.

It is my understanding that no one is OBLIGATED to receive the Eucharist at any given Mass, so that it would certainly not be sinful to refrain from reception while in mortal sin. It would not be sinful to refrain from reception while in a state of grace, either. Unusual, but not sinful.

While the Eucharist is our food, if we have made ourselves unable to eat, attempting to eat could make things worse.

If I develop a swallowing disorder and cannot eat solid food, in the long run I will need some kind of help, because if I go too long without food I will die. But I certainly won’t die if I miss a meal or two. And if I get panicky and try to swallow food anyway despite the doctor’s orders, I could wind up aspirating, develop pneumonia, go into respiratory failure, and wind up either needing a permanent ‘tube’ to be fed, which I would NOT have needed had I simply waited until my body had healed and I followed the doctor’s orders.

Again, the above is my understanding of what the Church teaches about the reception of the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin.

Hi MaryJ

Yes, I have been in the position you described. I had a mortal sin of which I was very ashamed. This made me turn away from confession for fear of the priests reaction and not feeling confident in myself to confess this. During this period of time, I discovered receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin was a mortal sin in itself. I had not been aware of this until this year. A couple of times I had just received communion anyway (feeling everyone else was receiving, it didn’t matter, my sin was the worst ever to me, for which I could never be granted forgiveness).

But yes, it did affect me. I felt terrible. I can’t quite put it into words, but I certainly felt like the biggest failure ever.
As Tantum has said in their post, this did eventually lead me to confession. After discussions with a friend and support from other sources including this website. I was assisting at a confirmation retreat and the priest was hearing confessions. I was nervous, but felt like this was my opportunity. I felt the priest was approachable. So I went and told him I hadn’t been to confession for a long time, confessed my mortal sin and the fact I had received communion in a state of sin. He was very understanding and gave some good advice and penance, making me realise that my mistakes and I were worthy of forgiveness, that God did love me.

Leaving the room, I felt very relieved. I felt like I had been released from my turmoil. Taking full part in Mass and receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace the next day felt truly amazing. Wonderful. I felt closer to God, able to pray more honestly and was truly thankful for forgiveness and absolution. It made me feel better in myself too and as a result have made a conscious effort to attend reconciliation more regularly. Ive attended more in the last few months than I had in a number of years and do understand the sacrament and it’s value more. It is still nerve wracking at times!

So to anyone reading this who may be in a similar situation, please don’t let it build up to a point that you feel you have been separated from God in this way. Find someone to talk to, and work your way through. Although it may be nerve wracking, i believe, from my experience, that an honest confession is definitely the best way.

Best wishes

In short, yes…many times when I was younger. Before I knew the difference, and then when I did learn the difference between mortal sins and venial, I was still a very proud young man thinking that it wasn’t all that bad, I’ve been receiving Communion anyway. But even then, deep down I knew it was wrong, and in all honesty, it weighed very heavy on me. I always thought about it when no one else was around and more and more I felt that I needed to get it all off my chest. Until one day, I finally brought myself to attend Confession and told the priest everything, let it all out. Both the sins AND the fact I was receiving while in an unworthy state. A weight was definitely lifted from my shoulders after that. And I’ve also made it a habit to attend Confession as regularly as I can. In fact, I’ll be off there on my lunch break (spare a moment to say a prayer for me if you can :slight_smile: )

God Bless!!

Good insightful answers. To clear up any confusion…I know that sacramental confession is needed to receive the Eucharist if one is in a state of Grave sin. I am perfectly clear on the churches rules on reconcilliation, and PRACTICE them.

I think it probably happens pretty often. There seems to be a lot of peer pressure to go up and receive in the modern Mass. I rarely see anyone sitting unless they aren’t Catholic at all. If you sit and don’t receive, you almost feel like everyone is wondering what you did that was that awful.

I still don’t understand the concept of “sacrilege”. If you need to receive Jesus, why is it so wrong to do so? For example, when I first returned to the catholic church, I was going to mass at noon once and stopped and got a smoothie. I took it into the church and drank it right before mass and went to communion. I didn’t know you still had to fast before communion. I remember a little part of me thought it was cool that you could do that. :shrug:How could that be a mortal sin or a sacrilege? I just don’t get it. Doesn’t God see our hearts, not rules?

A mortal sin has three requirements, all three of which must be met for it to be considered mortal:

  1. The sin must be grave matter
  2. You must know the act is sinful
  3. You must voluntarily choose to do the sinful act anyway despite knowing that it is sinful

As you say that you didn’t know about or remember the rule of the Communion fast, that means you most likely did not commit a mortal sin but at worst committed a venial sin. If your ignorance was through no fault of your own, ie the fault of another rather than negligence on your part, then the guilt for that sin may not even have been imputable to you at all.

But consider what it means to fulfill all three requirements for a mortal sin. First it has to be a sin of grave matter. Having a smoothie isn’t a sin of grave matter; absolutely speaking it isn’t sinful at all. Having a smoothie at a time the Church has instructed the faithful to not eat/drink anything but water and medication because our minds should be directed to the heavenly rather than the worldly is a different thing entirely. Such an act is disobedience of the Church’s moral authority granted to her by Jesus Christ. That disobedience is, objectively speaking, grave matter.

But of course grave matter alone isn’t sufficient. You must know that what you’re doing is wrong. God doesn’t hold us accountable for what we cannot know. If we don’t know something is wrong because those charged with instructing us in such matters have failed in their duty, then no guilt attaches to us. If we don’t know that something is wrong because we were told about it years ago but have honestly forgotten due to having imperfect human memories and never being reminded since then, no guilt attaches to us. God is perfectly merciful. But God is also perfectly just. He will hold us accountable for what we do not know if we SHOULD know it. If we don’t know because we willfully avoid opportunities to learn about or be reminded of our obligations as Catholics, then our ignorance is our fault and comes from an attitude of defiance rather than imperfect memory. My priest mentions the Communion fast every 2-3 months, either as a part of his homily or during the announcements at the very end of Mass. The only way to miss out on the reminder is to not attend Mass regularly, which is itself a sin of grave matter. I can’t speak for other parishes, but no one at my parish can realistically be considered ignorant of that particular rule if they’ve been a member for at least 6-9 months.

Then finally you must choose to do it while knowing it is sinful. Simply choosing to do it isn’t enough. You must say, to at least some degree, “I know the Church teaches that X is wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway”.

Note that the common thread in all aspects of a mortal sin is pride. I know better. I am above the law. The rules don’t apply to me. I will do whatever I want simply because I want to do it. That attitude is why a mortal sin is so bad. It’s not simply “Oops” or “I guess I wasn’t really thinking” or “Sorry, I forgot”. Those are venial sins at most. Mortal sins are a completely different degree of sin. A mortal sin is a voluntary twisting of our internal disposition away from others, especially God, and inward on the self.

What’s sacrilegious isn’t any purely physical action the world may see, such at eating less than an hour before receiving Communion. It’s an internal disposition of pride and arrogance. As you say, God sees our hearts. He can clearly see the pride and arrogance within us whenever we have committed a mortal sin, and that pride and arrogance are what offends God. When we turn away from pride and toward humility, bowing to God’s will and humbly accepting sacramental confession, repenting for the sins we have committed and acknowledging the need for forgiveness, we open our heart once more to God’s grace. Our disposition changes from being twisted inward on the self back to being aimed outward toward others, especially God. Then and only then are we properly disposed to receive our Lord in Communion.

There have been many times in the past I received our Lord unworthily. At the time I didn’t notice anything wrong because I was so turned in on myself that I wasn’t allowing myself to notice. Looking back on it, I can see that I received nothing good. Not because our Lord isn’t good, but because I would not let the good before me enter my heart. He entered my body, but that alone does nothing of any real value. He must be able to enter my soul as well. It was only once I repented, once I stopped lying to myself about the awful truth of the things I had done, once I accepted that I was being prideful and needed to be humble and beg for forgiveness, that I saw how arrogant and twisted my internal disposition had been for so long.

On rare occasions I cry after receiving Communion because the joy I feel at receiving our Lord is sometimes more than I can contain. That certainly never happened when I was living with mortal sin. When the burden of moral sin was on my soul, reception of Communion was nothing more to me than a rote, mechanical process.

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Alindawyl, excellent post. Thank you for sharing!!

What I have experienced ,is that, when we receive Jesus into our bodies, our hearts and our souls, when we are in a state of Grace…“rules” cease to be rules!


But received many times when I wasn’t aware at a younger age.

Thank you for this great explanation. I understand it now much better! I never before thought of the “internal attitude of pride and arrogance” and that makes sense.

BTW I’ve never heard my priest mention the fast, ever. And I’ve been going to mass for 2 years now. I learned of the fast here at CAF.

Can you also explain (apologies to the OP) what you mean more by this…

How will he hold us accountable for what we “should” know? I mean you could go around in circles forever re: what you “should” know but if you left the church you then “didn’t” know so how could you have “should” known? Wouldn’t God understand that, now that you turned your life back to Him in the church and excuse those things you didn’t learn either before you left or while you were gone, now that you’re trying to learn and follow it?

I looked up sacrilege and it said on Wikipi " Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense, any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege. It can come in the form of irreverence to sacred persons, places, and things. When the sacrilegious offence is verbal, it is called blasphemy."

So you are saying then that it is sacrilege because you misused it in the way that the catholic church says you are to use it, i.e., you are supposed to not take communion if you do not follow all the church rules regarding it such as fasting, not having an unconfessed mortal sin (even if in your heart you’ve confessed to God once you realize you sinned and so your heart isn’t hardened to God anymore), that you still have to go to formal confession as a catholic before taking communion-- or else you are breaking the rule and therefore it is a sacrilege which is always a mortal sin? Is that correct?

I was referring to the person who dies without repenting and is receiving their particular judgment from Christ. A person can plead ignorance, but that is merely a hollow excuse if they should have known better. God, as the perfect judge, will know the truth. If it was not their fault, He will be merciful and not hold the action against them. If it was their fault, He will not be merciful.

Going to confession removes the uncertainty, because confession is the infinite mercy of God at work. Rarely does anyone go to confession if they’re an obstinate sinner, and if they do they cannot be forgiven because they don’t believe that they have done anything which requires forgiveness. The only sins which cannot be absolved in confession are sins for which we are not sorry. God will not force his way into a closed heart because that would violate free will. But if we are penitent, all sins will be forgiven regardless of how minor or how severe. Forgotten sins are wiped away just as cleanly as remembered sins. We’re supposed to mention any forgotten sins the next time we go to confession, but they’re already forgiven. God doesn’t let our faulty memories serve as an obstacle to His grace. We don’t mention them the next time we go to confession in order to receive absolution. We do it for our own peace of mind, so that we can put behind us what God has already put behind Him.

Communion isn’t an it. Communion is a He - the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. That’s why receiving Communion unworthily is a sacrilege. That’s why the Church is so concerned about reverence, and the proper disposition of the soul when we come forward to receive. God is truly present at the Mass, not just spiritually or symbolically present. What appears to our senses to be a little white disc of bread or a bit of wine is GOD. Not a representation of God, or a vehicle to bring God to the people, but really and truly God.

We don’t make ourselves worthy to receive God. We recognize that fact just before receiving, when we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” We then immediately follow that with a penitent plea to God, “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

There are only two criteria which must be fulfilled in order for for God to make us worthy to receive Communion. First, we must be a Catholic who has “officially” received Communion for the first time. There is a great deal of preparation for the first reception of Communion, usually a year but sometimes two. The Church wants to make sure we have received that sacramental preparation, that we understand that Communion is Jesus, that we come forward in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving that God is sharing Himself with us in such an intimate manner. In case you didn’t know, that’s what the word Eucharist means. It’s the Greek word for thanksgiving.

The second criteria is that we must be in a state of grace. It’s not enough to be a Catholic with the proper sacramental preparation. We must also not have any unconfessed mortal sin on our soul. If we are conscious of any mortal sin, or any sin we think MIGHT be mortal, we must go to confession before receiving. Part of the sacramental preparation for receiving Communion for the first time is going to confession for the first time. Confessing directly to God is not sufficient. That smacks of pride, of us trying to forgive ourselves and make ourselves worthy instead of acting out of humility and doing things God’s way.

Since returning to being a practicing Catholic four years ago, by the grace of God I’ve only had to remain in my seat once during Communion due to being conscious of mortal sin. To make it even worse, I had JUST gone to confession the day before but then sinned mortally later that day. I never, ever want to experience that sick feeling of separation again, and it was even more intense when I knew I couldn’t go forward to receive. Now, my feelings were definitely deep sorrow over what I’d done. I could have told myself that that sorrow was born of my love for God and therefore I had perfect contrition, using that as an excuse to go forward and receive Communion anyway without having gone to sacramental confession. And I may honestly have had perfect contrition. On the other hand, I could have been lying to myself for selfish reasons out of a desire to not be “left out” and NOT had perfect contrition. Rather than presume that I didn’t need confession, I remained in my seat and went to confession after Mass. And that’s for the best. Confession removes any uncertainty.

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Wow, Alin, you are a far better person than I am! And how did you learn so much in only four years?

I still don’t “get” it, but that’s nothing new;). Maybe what I don’t understand is confession. I do understand communion is not an “it”, that was just bad wording. I also don’t understand how if you don’t understand something, specific to sacrilege.

What makes it a sacrilege if you’ve already confessed to God and are sorry? You said the purpose of confession is to be sure that you are forgiven. And that’s why you go to confession? Would you be forgiven at the time you realize you sin and pray to God in your mind and tell him you are sorry? If so, then wouldn’t that be the point where you are back in a state of grace?

Otherwise, you are just following the church’s definition of what makes you prepared for communion. Because in your own heart you could be prepared and just have not yet done the external yet which is confession. Do you know what I mean?

Wow, Alin, you are a far better person than I am! And how did you learn so much in only four years?

I still don’t “get” it but that is nothing new. :wink: I do understand communion is not an “it”, I just used poor words to express my thoughts.

Maybe what I don’t understand is confession. You said it is so you can be sure you are forgiven.A priest told me that once too. If so, then we are forgiven the moment we realize we sinned and ask God to forgive us, which happens before confession. Then afterwards, confession is the externalization of that, a formal exercise where we just admit that out loud, and get the priest’s absolution so we know for absolute certain that we are forgiven. Is that correct?

If we are forgiven when we ask God for help, and we pray “Lord I am not worthy” as you mentioned, then why would it still be sacrilege to receive communion? Sacrilege is misuing the sacrament, right? So we are only misusing it if we have not yet admitted we sinned, which is more likely the case of someone who doesn’t care and just goes through the motions rather than someone who has asked God for help and forgiveness. So the only thing sacrilegious that I can see is not following the church rule of going to confession first. And if you refuse to do that because you think it’s sort of ridiculous, then that’s pride which is the sin. Does that make sense?

PS I don’t know where you live but you sure know a lot and it must be very different there. I am very active at church and do lots of reading and still don’t understand all this stuff. I can’t imagine what someone who doesn’t read much must not know about all this.

I agree with this. I’ve only ever noticed a few people in my own parish abstaining from receiving the Eucharist, most just go up because everyone else is. I also admit, I used to think like this, everyone else is, so I might as well go up too. Thankfully, I had a friend who talked some sense into me :slight_smile:

It is possible to go up and receive a blessing from the priest - one doesn’t have to stay in the pew. All you have to do is cross your arms over your chest and the priest will give you a blessing. On those occasions, I do make sure it is a priest and not a eucharistic minister.


And what did this friend say to you? Did what this friend tell you have an immediate impact?

Having more knowledge than you when it comes to theology, moral teachings, Church practices, etc doesn’t make me a better person. It just makes me more knowledgeable than you about these particular subjects. There are subjects where you have more knowledge than I do; we’re all different. If you heard me sing at Mass, you wouldn’t think I was a better person :smiley:

My priest, if the seal of the confessional didn’t prevent him from talking about my sins, could tell you more than you’d care to hear about how I’m not a “far better person” :blush:

When I came back to the Church in 2008 and made my first confession in 14 years (I think it was 14 years; due to how long ago it was it may have been longer), I suddenly found myself full of joy but somewhat directionless. There was so much I’d forgotten, and I didn’t remember the meaning of most of what was happening at Mass. My priest suggested that, even though I wasn’t missing any of the sacraments of initiation, I sit in on the Wednesday night RCIA sessions since they had just started up a few weeks before. Just as a refresher. By Christmas, I started to feel a call I could not at first identify. I just knew that I belonged in RCIA. Thanks to prayer and help from one of our deacons, I came to realize God was calling me to be a catechist. So in fall of 2009 I started assisting with RCIA. Due to an odd series of events (which are quite clearly in retrospect not odd but the will of God making itself known to me), I found out that our diocese had just converted the local Mexican American Cultural Center into a college and in fall of 2010 began offering undergraduate degrees in pre-Theology (mainly for our seminarians but lay people are welcome to apply as well) and graduate degrees in Pastoral Ministry. I enrolled in the graduate program and have been back in school part time for the past two years. That plus preparing weekly lessons on Tuesday evenings for the children who lack sacraments plus preparing the occasional Wednesday evening lesson for the adults in RCIA has had me doing a lot of studying.

Understood. All of us have a problem to at least some degree with expressing our thoughts, since we can’t read minds and find out exactly how our audience thinks. More than once I’ve had to radically change the direction of a lesson I was presenting in RCIA because it was quickly clear the group wasn’t getting it based on how I was expressing myself.

We are forgiven at the moment we repent for a mortal sin ONLY if the sole reason we repent is out of sorrow for having turned our back on God’s love. That’s known as perfect contrition. If we are repenting with some other reason thrown into the mix, a more selfish reason such as fear of punishment, then we do not have perfect contrition. We’re motivated not purely by love of God, but by not wanting to experience suffering. That means our contrition is imperfect, and that’s where confession comes into play. God is, as usual, being both perfectly just and perfectly merciful. He’s being merciful in that we have an opportunity to be reconciled with Him if we express ANY degree of contrition, no matter how imperfect it may be. But he’s also being just in requiring us to do more than simply say “Oh dang, I’m sorry” when our contrition is not perfect.

So if repentance is done purely out of love for God, confession is technically not necessary because our internal disposition is already properly ordered toward God and love. But when examining one’s conscience, how often is that the case? If we are being honest with ourselves, there is fear of hell to at least some small degree almost every time we repent. My contrition is imperfect 99% of the time. I’m hardly a paragon of perfection. If it wasn’t for confession, I know I’d end up damned. God established the sacrament of confession the way He did because He knows we’re rarely perfect. The sacraments are for us, after all, not for God. He knows we cannot see the condition of our soul, cannot look into our own heart and accurately judge if our contrition is perfect or imperfect. So out of mercy, he gives us an avenue to reconcile with Him when our contrition isn’t perfect. He reaches down to us in our imperfection in order to lift us up toward His perfection. Now that’s love.

Confession is a great gift. Not only can we we reconciled to God when we aren’t prefect, we also receive great graces every time we receive the sacrament. The grace we receive in any sacrament is tailored to that sacrament. For confession, the grace is to help us resist the temptation to sin. Even if I’m not conscious of mortal sin, I still try to make it to confession on the first Saturday of every month because of a need for that grace. I firmly believe that if we’re going to receive Communion frequently (ie, every week and Holy Day), we need to be going to confession frequently as well. There’s usually no need to go as frequently as every week; you can go weekly if you want, but if you actually need as opposed to just want weekly confession, then you also need a spiritual director to assist with that. But only going to confession once or twice a year doesn’t seem sufficient for weekly reception of Communion unless you’re just so open to God’s grace that you only commit venial sins. Monthly confession is generally a good balance for most people. In addition to the grace from frequent confession, the examination of conscience made before confession really helps us recognize what is tempting us when we’re doing that examination regularly. Recognizing temptation as it happens makes resisting that temptation easier.

The best way of thinking about contrition is this. Since our internal disposition is what matters, when we have perfect contrition we have already fixed our internal disposition to be aligned to God and love, away from pride and selfishness. If we do not have perfect contrition, our internal disposition is not fully aligned to God and love because we are still acting to at least some degree out of pride and selfishness. But if we trust in God and humbly go to confession, even through our contrition is imperfect, God will provide whatever is needed to make up the deficiency. The act of humbly going to confession shows that we’re at least willing to meet God partway, so to speak. He will come to us where we are in order to lead us fully to Him. All He asks for is some effort on our part, a tiny bit, just a small amount, and He will take care of the rest.

Always remember that salvation is not a single event. It is a journey, a journey with a specific destination. God does not judge us at any particular point during our life; He only judges us at the very end when we die. During our life we will fall short and make mistakes. We will do things wrong. Confession helps us get back on our feet when we stumble and fall. Communion helps keep us focused on the goal, which is Christ. The two are intimately connected. Communion can’t help us focus on Christ when we’re lying on the ground with our face in the dirt. Receiving Communion in that condition doesn’t do us any good; we’re too distracted by all that dirt. But once we go to confession and get back on our feet, once we’re dusted off and don’t have dirt in our eyes, then Communion will help us keep our eyes on Christ.

I live in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

No. You must not go and receive if you are in mortal sin. (Mortal sin is a sin committed willingly, knowingly and in grave matter.) When you are in mortal sin you yourself have placed an obstacle between yourself and God’s grace, and it is only by the sacrament of penance that this obstacle can be removed (with the exception of being in danger of dying). Therefore you must not receive in this state (regardless of peer pressure). For one thing, receiving in the state of mortal sin will yield no spiritual gain because you are already divided from God and unable to benefit from the graces conferred by holy communion; and it is also sacrilege, which is a sin in itself, which you will have to confess. So by receiving in the state of mortal sin the only thing you achieve is digging yourself even deeper in sin.

Mortal sin.

The idea is that no one is allowed to participate in the sacraments without proper instruction (and fasting an hour before holy communion should definitely have been mentioned).

Yes, this is correct. The Lord gave Peter the keys, and it is the Church that holds these keys now. This is where the authority of the Church comes from, with which it establishes rules for all of us to follow. We can only access the sacraments according to how the Church, to which they belong, says we should, not according to what we individually think or feel.

The sacrament of penance is not the externalisation of one’s repentance and God’s forgiveness. Your sins are only forgiven when the priest pronounces the words of the absolution. What the priest said to you about “so you can be absolutely sure” may have referred to a sin that you weren’t sure whether it was mortal or venial. If it was a venial sin, you can repent and it will be forgiven without confession. But if you are not sure, if you think it might have been a mortal sin, then* to be sure* it’s best to confess it.