Baltimore Catechism 3

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Holy Communion


 * Q. 366. What is Holy Communion?
A. Holy Communion is the receiving of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.


 * Just as it is necessary to nourish our bodies with material food, so also it is necessary to nourish our souls with spiritual food. Our Divine Saviour so loved us that He gave us Himself in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; He gave us His own body and blood as food for our souls.

 * It is not necessary that we receive Our Lord's body and blood under the appearances of both bread and wine. Christ is entirely present under the appearances of bread, and also entirely present under the appearances of wine. Therefore, we receive Him whole and entire under the appearances of bread alone or of wine alone.

 * In some Eastern Churches the faithful receive Holy Communion under the appearances of both bread and wine. In the Western Church the faithful receive Communion only under the appearances of bread.

 * > "Jesus therefore said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink: indeed. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me: and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever (John 6:54-59).

 * > "And they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread and in the prayers" (Acts 2:42).

 * See question 344, Scripture: Luke 22:19-20.


 * Q. 367. What is necessary to receive Holy Communion worthily?
A. To receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, to have a right intention and to obey the Church's laws on the fast required before Holy Communion out of reverence for the body and blood of Our Divine Lord. However, these are some cases in which Holy Communion may be received without fasting.


 * Venial sin does not make us unworthy of receiving Holy Communion; but it does prevent us from receiving the more abundant graces and blessings which we would otherwise receive from Holy Communion.

 * > "For I myself have received from the Lord (what I also delivered to you), that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks broke, and said, 'This is my body which shall be given up for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In like manner also the cup, after he had supped, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.'

 * > Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the cup; for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself. This is why many among you are infirm and weak, and many sleep. But if we judged ourselves, we should not thus be judged. But when we are judged, we are being chastised by the Lord that we may not be condemned with this world. Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together unto judgment. The rest I shall set in order when I come" (1 Corinthians 11:23-34).


 * Q. 368. Does he who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receive the body and blood of Christ and His graces?
A. He who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but he does not receive His graces and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.


 * To receive Holy Communion unworthily is a serious abuse of the sacred body and blood of the Lord, and therefore a sacrilege.31

 * See Scripture, question 367, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.


 * Q. 369. What should we do to receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion?
A. To receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion we should strive to be most fervent and to free ourselves from deliberate venial sin.


 * Q. 370. Does the Church now command us to fast from midnight before Holy Communion?
A. The Church does not now command us to fast from midnight before Holy Communion, as it did formerly. The laws enacted by Pope Pius XII now regulate this matter by the number of hours we must fast.


 * For many centuries the Church commanded a strict fast from midnight before one could receive Holy Communion. However, in 1953 Pope Pius XII introduced a much more lenient form of fasting before Holy Communion, and in 1957 the same Pope granted greater concessions, in order to give Catholics an opportunity to receive Holy Communion more frequently.

 * Pope Pius XII also allowed the celebration of afternoon and evening Masses every day, when the spiritual good of a considerable number of the faithful requires it. It is the right of the bishop of each diocese to decide when such Masses may be offered in his diocese.


 * Q. 371. When may Holy Communion be received without fasting?
A. Holy Communion may be received without fasting when one is in danger of death, or when it is necessary to save the Blessed Sacrament from insult or injury.


 * Ordinarily the danger of death comes from sickness or injury. But it is not necessary that a person be in danger of death from sickness in order to receive Holy Communion without fasting. The danger of death may come from some other cause. A soldier, for example, who is about, to go into battle or a person about to be executed may receive Holy Communion without fasting.


 * Q. 372. What are the laws enacted by Pope Pius XII regarding the fast required before Holy Communion?
A. The laws enacted by Pope Pius XII regarding the fast required before Holy Communion are the following:


 * Water may be taken at any time before Holy Communion without breaking the fast. Sick persons, though not confined to bed, may receive Holy Communion after taking medicine or non-alcoholic drinks. A priest's permission is not necessary.

 * All Catholics may receive Holy Communion after fasting three hours from food and alcoholic drinks and one hour from non-alcoholic drinks. This applies to Holy Communion at midnight Mass as well as at Masses celebrated in the morning, afternoon or evening. A priest's permission is not necessary.

 * Catholics are urged to observe the Eucharistic fast from midnight as formerly, and also to compensate for the use of the new privileges by works of charity and penance, but these practices are not obligatory. One who has already received Holy Communion may not receive the Blessed Sacrament again on the same day, except in danger of death.


 * Q. 373. How should we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion?
A. We should prepare ourselves for Holy Communion by thinking of Our Divine Redeemer whom we are about to receive, and by making fervent acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition.


 * We should be neat, clean, and modest in our appearance, and respectful and reverent in our manner. Each time we receive Holy Communion we should try to be as devout and fervent as if it were the only Communion of our lives. When actually receiving Communion we should raise the head and extend the tongue. We should swallow the sacred host as soon as possible, not allowing it to dissolve in the mouth.

 * > "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8).

 * > "Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

 * > See Scripture, question 366, John 6:54-59.


 * Q. 374. What should we do after Holy Communion?
A. After Holy Communion we should spend some time adoring Our Lord, thanking Him, renewing our promises of love and of obedience to Him, and asking Him for blessings for ourselves and others.


 * > "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. Or what man is there among you, who, if his son asks him for a loaf, will hand him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? Therefore, if you, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11).


 * Q. 375. What are the chief effects of a worthy Holy Communion?
A. The chief effects of a worthy Holy Communion are:


 * 1. first, a closer union with Our Lord and a more fervent love of God and of our neighbor;

 * 2. second, an increase of sanctifying grace;

 * 3. third, preservation from mortal sin and the remission of venial sin;

 * 4. Fourth, the lessening of our inclinations to sin and the help to practice good works.

 * See Scripture, question 366, John 6:54-59.


 * Q. 376. When are we obliged to receive Holy Communion?
A. We are obliged to receive Holy Communion during Easter time each year and when in danger of death.


 * Q. 377. Why is it well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily?
A. It is well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily, because this intimate union with Jesus Christ, the Source of all holiness and the Giver of all graces, is the greatest aid to a holy life.


 * > "And they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread and in the prayers" (Acts 2:42).

 * See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20; question 366, John 6:54-59.


 * Q. 378. How should we show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist?
A. We should show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist, by visiting Him often, by reverence in church, by assisting every day at Mass when this is possible, by attending parish devotions, and by being present at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.


 * Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a ceremony in which the sacred host is exposed for a time on the altar, usually in the monstrance. During Benediction the priest blesses the people with the sacred host.

 * The monstrance, or ostensorium, is a large vessel in which the host is exposed to view through a glass-covered opening in the center.

 * The long cloak-like vestment worn by the priest at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is called a cope. The humeral veil is placed over the priest's shoulders before he gives the blessing.




 * Just as the body needs food for the support of man's natural life, so the soul must be nourished for the preservation and the strengthening of its supernatural life. For this purpose Our Lord has given us a most precious food, His own body and blood. It is indeed a token of His Immeasurable love for souls that He wills to come personally into our hearts: In order to help and to console us in the difficulties and temptations of our journey through life. And He makes the conditions of receiving Him in Holy Communion very simple. Nothing more is necessary than that we have the proper intention and that we be in the state of sanctifying grace; venial sins do not make us unworthy. The Church, out of reverence for this great sacrament, demands that we observe the law of fasting, described above, before Holy Communion, but in certain circumstances, particularly in danger of death, this law does not bind. Even though one is not sick, if there is danger of death-as in the case of a soldier going into battle-he may receive Holy Communion without fasting at any hour of the day or night.

 * Ordinarily it is permitted to receive Holy Communion only once a day, but there are exceptions to this rule. Thus, a person who has received Holy Communion in the morning may receive the Blessed Sacrament again as Viaticum if he falls into the danger of death in the course of the day. Again, a person who has already received Holy Communion could on the same day consume the Blessed Sacrament in order to protect It from insult or injury. Finally, a priest may receive Holy Communion more than once on the same day-namely, when he celebrates two or more Masses.

 * If we were permitted to receive Holy Communion, only once in our lifetime we should surely prepare carefully for this great event. But we are allowed to receive this sacrament every day, except Holy Saturday, when the Easter Vigil Mass is celebrated after midnight. The frequency with which we can approach the holy table should not diminish our fervor. Each time we receive Our Lord we should prepare our souls for His coming, considering that we are to have a privilege even greater than that of Martha and Mary and the other friends of Christ who welcomed Him into their homes when He dwelt on earth.

 * Even when we cannot actually receive Holy Communion we can make an act of spiritual communion, which is an act of faith and love toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with an ardent desire to receive Him.

 * Until comparatively recent times, daily Communion was very rare in the Church. However, children were generally not admitted to their First Communion until they were about ten years old. But a great and holy Pope, Pius X, who ruled the Church from 1903 to 1914, urgently invited all Catholics to partake of the Divine Banquet frequently, even daily, telling them that the only necessary conditions are the state of grace and a right intention. He also laid down the law that children are to be admitted to Holy Communion as soon as they reach the age of reason, when they are about seven years old. Certainly Our Lord must be pleased that through the efforts of this great Pope He has the opportunity of coming so frequently into the hearts of His faithful, especially into the innocent hearts of little children.

 * Sometimes we hear a person say that he intends to receive Holy Communion for someone else, and we should understand correctly what is meant by this. We cannot receive Holy Communion for another in the sense that we can transfer to him the graces conferred by the sacrament, for these belong to the recipient alone. But we can receive Holy Communion for another in the sense that we can pray for him at the time of Holy Communion, when our prayers have great value, and if we receive Holy Communion for a deceased person, we can offer for him any indulgences we may gain on that occasion.

 * No matter what difficulties we may encounter, no matter how many temptations we may have to overcome, no matter what sorrows may enter into our life, Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will give us the grace and the strength that we need. And we are permitted not only to receive Him in Holy Communion but also to visit Him in the tabernacle, where He remains day and night, saying to us as He said long ago to those who were in pain and sorrow: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" ( 28).




 * Resolve that whenever you receive Holy Communion, you will make a worthy preparation, and will spend at least fifteen minutes afterwards in fervent thanksgiving.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 28





 * (Select the word or phrase in each parenthesis which most exactly and most completely fills out the sentence.)


 * A person who is sick though not confined to bed can receive Holy Communion after taking (food ... medicine) or (wine ... non-alcoholic liquids).

 * One who is to receive Holy Communion at the midnight Mass must fast (from midnight ... 9 P. M... .Three hours before receiving).

 * We are bound under pain of mortal sin to receive Holy Communion (once a year at any time ... at Christmas ... once a year in the Easter season).

 * The long, cloak-like vestment worn by the priest at Benediction is called the (cope ... monstrance ... humeral veil).

 * We can make a spiritual communion (once a day ... whenever we wish ... on days when we do not receive Holy Communion actually).

 * The Pope who permitted children to receive Holy Communion as soon as they reach the age of reason was (Leo XIII ... Benedict XV ... Pius X).

 * Venial sins (do not make us unworthy of Holy Communion but prevent us from receiving more abundant graces ... make us unworthy of Holy Communion ... do not affect the measure of grace we receive).

 * To receive Holy Communion knowingly in mortal sin is (a venial sin ... a mortal sin of blasphemy ... a mortal sin of sacrilege).

 * The ostensorium is (the vessel in which the Blessed Sacrament is placed at Benediction ... the vessel from which the priest distributes Holy Communion ... the portion of the altar in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved).



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Abie, a little Jewish fellow, wants you to explain what his Catholic friend meant when he refused to eat a piece of candy this morning on his way to church: "I can't; I'm going to Communion." Tell Abie why could not eat candy and what "going to Communion" is.

 * Charity went to Communion in the afternoon; at home that evening she became angry at her brother Bernardine, who was annoying her; an hour later she lied to her mother, when asked if she had done all her homework; then she went to bed without saying her night prayers. May she go to Holy Communion the following morning without going again to confession? Give the reason for your answer.

 * Ignatius has a severe headache. At 8 o'clock Sunday morning he takes two aspirin tablets, swallowing them with a drink of milk, since he wants to go to Holy Communion that morning at the children's Mass. Does he need anyone's permission in order to receive Holy Communion?

 * Irene is up at 6:00 o'clock, takes a cup of coffee and a buttered role for breakfast, then goes to the church at 8:00 o'clock. Irene goes to confession. She remains for the 9:00 o'clock Mass, during which she goes to Holy Communion. Since she took nothing to eat since about 6:15 o'clock, was it all right for her to receive? Explain.

 * It is Christmas Eve. Kenneth intends to receive Holy Communion during the midnight Mass. He decides to keep the fast from 9:00 o'clock that evening. He does so until 11:30, when knowingly and deliberately he breaks it by taking a glass of ginger ale. May he go to Communion during the midnight Mass? Explain fully.

 * Kathryn, through forgetfulness, eats one small piece of cake on Sunday morning before she goes to Mass. Then she remembers she is going to Holy Communion, and doesn't eat any more of the cake. May she go to Communion that morning? Be sure you consider the time she ate the cake and the time of Holy Communion.

 * Ludwig went to confession Saturday afternoon, intending to go to Communion Sunday morning. Sunday morning, on getting up at 8:00 o'clock, he is very, very hungry; knowingly and deliberately, he eats two rolls with some milk. At the Communion time of the 9:00 o'clock Mass, he remains in his pew while all the other members of his class receive Holy Communion. Did Ludwig commit any sin by breaking his fast purposely? Did he commit any sin by remaining away from Holy Communion? Because a child goes to confession one day, is he obliged to go to Communion the next day? Could he receive Holy Communion at a later Mass?

 * Marjorie wants to know if Penance and Holy Eucharist are sacraments that must be linked together, or are they entirely separate and independent of each other?" Tell her your answer.

 * Phyllis receives Holy Communion this morning without fasting. For the past five weeks she has been a patient in the hospital. She is not in danger of death, and will not be discharged from the hospital for another week or ten days. At 7:00 o'clock this morning the nurse gave her a glass of orange juice, and some medicine; at 8:00 o'clock she enjoyed a glass of milk. The priest came with Holy Communion at 8:30 and permits her to receive without fasting. Please explain matters.

 * A company of soldiers is ordered to the battle front at 9:00 a.m. All of them have had a good substantial breakfast. About an hour after breakfast the Catholic Chaplain is seen giving Communion to the Catholics in the company. Not one of them is fasting. Explain this situation.

 * Jeannette has a way of her own in making thanksgiving after Communion. Returning to her pew, she buries her face in her hands for a while, then kneels in silence without reading any prayers. Afterwards she reads her prayer-book slowly and thoughtfully, taking her time about it. There are some loose pages inserted in her prayer-book. These are homemade prayers of her own. Write two or three sentences of comment on her mode of thanksgiving.


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