Proper Dispositions of the Reception of Holy Communion

As is the case with each of the Sacraments, the fruitful reception of Holy Communion brings about in the recipient an increase of Sanctifying Grace, the Infused Virtues, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  But the degree of growth in each of the recipients will be proportional to one’s disposition.

The minimum required disposition for the reception of Holy Communion is that one be a Baptized Catholic in good-standing; in a state of Sanctifying Grace (that is, not aware of any unconfessed mortal sins); and have kept the one-hour fast from all food and drink except for medicine and water.  But the faithful should desire to go beyond the minimum.  Further dispositions can be divided between bodily dispositions and spiritual dispositions.

One is well-disposed to receive with regards to bodily dispositions when one is wearing suitable dress and one is externally clean.  This being the case, one’s clothing should be proper for the reception of the Sacrament and the House of God, that is not dirty or immodest.  Regarding one’s person, any noticeable dirt should be cleaned off before entering the Church.  This is important not only because it shows respect to Our Lord but because our external state affects our internal dispositions.  And it is these internal dispositions which are the most important –namely faith, devotion, and right intention. 

Regarding faith, one needs to recognize, by faith, that what one is receiving under the appearance of bread and wine, is not really bread and wine, but rather the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.  And the stronger one’s faith is in this regard, the more disposed one will be to receive. 

Devotion is here to be understood as the disposition of the will to readily and promptly serve God and our neighbor for God’s sake.  It also means that, so far as it is possible, we are at peace with our neighbors.  As an effect of the reception of Holy Communion is unity with Christ and His Mystical Body, this effect would be hindered if we were at enmity with members of that Body.  We must, in humility, recognize how unworthy we are of the great favor Our Lord is about to grant us by coming to dwell with us in Holy Communion.  We must also stir up sentiments of love for Our Lord who first loved us unto death and left us such great gifts, including Himself. 

To have the right intention when receiving, one must desire to receive Holy Communion for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls, including one’s own.  It is also good if one has the intention to receive Communion for the good of the Mystical Body.  Communion should not be received out of habit, out of fear of what others may think if one does not receive, or as a way of flattering oneself.

Many hand missals and booklets have prayers for those preparing to receive Communion.  There are prayers for directing one’s intention and Acts of Faith, Hope, Love, Humility, and Contrition.  There are also prayers composed by saints, such as St. Thomas Aquinas.  It should be noted that the prayers for preparing for the reception of Holy Communion are different from the prayers for preparing for Mass.  Different prayers ought to be said for each.  Here is a good place to note that time should also be spent in thanksgiving after each Mass and each Holy Communion.  Hand missals and Mass booklets also contain prayers of thanksgiving.

Let us then resolve to always ensure that we are well-disposed to receive Holy Communion so that each reception may be fruitful.  Let us ensure that our external dress and appearance is proper for the great gift we are about to receive.  And, more importantly, let us work to properly prepare ourselves internally by making, with regards to the Blessed Sacrament, acts of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Humility; let us be, as much as we can be, at peace with all of the other members of the Mystical Body; and let us desire to receive Communion for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls, including our own.

Fr. William Rock, FSSP is a priest and writer of the Fraternity of St. Peter. He is also a veteran of the US Air Force. Currently he is serving at Regina Caeli parish in Houston, Texas.