The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Most Blessed Sacrament, Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Eucharist. By whatever name, the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life and the pinnacle of Catholic experience this side of heaven.
At the Last Supper Jesus established this sacrament as the means by which He would continue to abide in His Church. Blessing the bread and wine, He said “This is my Body,” and “This is my Blood.” He then instructed the Apostles, the first priests, to do the same in His memory.
Once consecrated at Mass, the bread and wine become the True Presence of Jesus Christ. Those called to receive Jesus in this Eucharist are spiritually strengthened as they are united with Christ and His Living Body the Church. The Mass is a meal in that it offers the faithful spiritual sustenance and brings them together as a community of faith and love. It is also a sacrifice in that it allows us to participate in the one, perfect, and eternal sacrifice of the Cross. The Body and Blood made present to us in the Eucharist are the same Body and Blood offered up for us on Calvary – the only acceptable sacrifice.
Nor do we only benefit from the Eucharist when it is received in Holy Communion. The Eucharistic Presence of Jesus Christ may also grace us when we pray before the Lord in Adoration. In Adoration, a consecrated host is placed in a special vessel (a monstrance) on the altar. Those present then pray before the Eucharist so displayed. Just as once the Wise Men gazed upon the newborn Christ child in love, so we look upon the same Christ come among us in the Eucharist.
Every Catholic Church contains a tabernacle, a chest like container for reserving hosts previously consecrated at Mass. These are intended for distribution to the sick in hospital or at home. They also make the tabernacle the living, beating heart of the church building, since the True Presence of Jesus Christ dwells within. A red “Presence Lamp” burns beside the tabernacle as a sign of Jesus’ presence there. It is only extinguished on Good Friday, when the tabernacle is emptied in commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and death.
The Eucharist is one of the three Sacraments of Initiation into the Catholic Church. The others are Baptism, which must come first, and Confirmation, which is the final moment of initiation.
First Holy Communion
First Holy Communion requires special preparation, as one learns about the sacrament and its meaning in our lives as Catholic Christians. If you wish for your child to receive preparation for First Holy Communion, please call the Religious Education Office at 508-429-6076. Also, please click here to learn about our First Communion program under the Religious Education heading Pre-K through 8th.
If you are an adult desiring to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church but who has never made First Holy Communion, please click here to learn about St. Mary’s R.C.I.A. program. You are most welcome.
Guidelines for Receiving Communion in the Catholic Church
On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of communion. These guidelines replace the guidelines approved by the Administrative Committee of the NCCB in November 1986. The guidelines, which are to be included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States, seek to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to the sharing of Eucharistic Communion.
As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
For our fellow Christians
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
For those not receiving Holy Communion
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
To Read About the Sacrament of Eucharist in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Click Here.