From a reader…
One of the requirements for receiving communion, besides being in the state of grace, is being “properly disposed” to receive. This is something that never gets talked about. How exactly should we discern whether we are “properly disposed,” and what kind of things make one not properly disposed?
We are persons who have both body and soul.
Our proper disposition for reception of Holy Communion should be both spiritual and physical.
In the spiritual category, we should be reasonably sure that we are in the state of grace. We should not be aware of any mortal sins, unconfessed and unrepented and unshriven. It may be possible for a person to make a “perfect act of contrition” and then go to Communion, with the intent of making one’s confession as soon as possible. This is laid out in can. 916:
A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass [that’s obvious for priests] or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; 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.
This canon allows for Communion in a truly exceptional situation. Note that there must be a “grave reason” for receiving Communion and there is no opportunity to make a confession.
Is there today perhaps so much emphasis on every person always receiving Communion at every Mass that we have lost sight of the fact that it is okay not to receive even if you could?
In any event, a “perfect act of contrition” is not to be bandied about lightly, as if it were as easy as pie.
In the physical category, we have to attend to the Church’s law about the Eucharistic fast. Unless one is ill, etc., the law says that we should fast from food and liquids (other than water) for one hour before reception of Holy Communion. Since most Masses last long enough that the moment of Communion can arrive some 30-60 minutes after the beginning of Mass, the one hour Eucharistic fast is hardly serious. If you are at some grander Mass for a feast or occasion, you could stuff your pie-hole with Krispy Kremes on the way up the stairs into church and still go to Communion. That’s obeying the letter of the law and we have to say that it is sufficient for disposition. If someone wants to fast more, that’s great! But the law says one hour.
That’s for the interior physical person. How about the exterior physical person?
The CCC also speaks to our outward appearance and demeanor.
1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. [That’s the inward.] Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest. [That’s the outward.]
So, it does matter how people dress for church. We don’t all have to dress in perfect formal wear. But we have to do our best. You can tell when people are trying and when they aren’t. There is also the matter of bearing. Slouching in the pew like partially filled sack of lentils is not the proper dis-position for preparation for Communion. Shuffling forward in a distracted way and sticking your hand out as if reaching for a movie ticket or your change at the grocery store is not proper dis-position.
Let each person make a careful examination of conscience about disposition, inward and spiritual, outward in dress and gesture.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29 – RSV)
BTW… I once made a mug with the text of can. 915, which concerns the the distribution of of Communion to people who are publicly in a situation wherein scandal is given by Communion being given to them. However, can. 916 concerns the state of soul of the person when the details of sin or behavior are not necessarily known. This canon concerns the recipient’s responsibility, whereas can. 915 regards the minister’s responsibility. So, I determined that I needed to make another mug for can. 916.