August 5, 2010

Should We Always Confess Before Communion?

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

QUESTION: Must Confession and Communion always be tied together?

AMSWER: No. There is no canonical or patristic justification for tying the two together. Some people believe that you can only have Confession if you are preparing for Holy Communion. Sadly, this attitude tends to make Confession a mechanical act, often void of any deep, heartfelt repentance. One should have Confession regularly, whether or not you are going to receive Holy Communion. Confession is a medicine for the soul and mind, a cleansing and healing process which must be accompanied by contemplation and heartfelt repentance. We do not Confess "as part of preparation for Holy Communion," but to unburden our souls and spirits and seek prayerful help in resolving of spiritual problems. Many priests will confirm that such a Confession made as a required act before Communion is often mechanical and meaningless. Frequently, such a mechanically required Confession might consist in a rote, "I don't really have any sins to confess" or "Just all my daily sins."

Confession is not prescribed in preparation for Holy Communion by any canon of the Church, and I am not personally aware of any patristic injunction making it so. Requiring Confession before every Holy Communion presupposes that you will be communing infrequently -- perhaps no more than four times a year. It must be seen as a custom where it is locally required. Fasting, on the other hand, is clearly required before Holy Communion, and this is something deeply ingrained in the conscience and Tradition of the Church.

Ultimately, though, you will have to observe the requirements set by your own local bishops.