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Say there's a once-Catholic adult who is considering attending a Catholic mass. This person was baptized Catholic as a baby, and received first communion when a child. This person did not go through the confirmation process, as their family has moved away from the church by that time.

If this person plans to attend a Catholic mass, would they be expected to/would it be appropriate to receive communion? Would they need to do anything before just showing up? This person might rejoin the Catholic faith but wishes to attend a mass at Christmas. After so many years away (30?) this person would like to see what a mass is like, once again.

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  • +1 fascinating question. I’ve asked a similar kind myself In regards to confirmation. Thank you for your contribution!
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 16:56
  • Anyone (provided he's not excommunicated) can attend a Mass, but Communion is reserved for those who are practicing Catholics in a state of grace (having committed no mortal sin since last valid confession) and fasting beforhand. Are you asking what these conditions are to receive Communion worthily?
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 22:16
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    Possibly a duplicate of: "Who may receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church?"
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 22:20
  • @Geremia yes it is similar, but the present question is more about attendance in general and whether this person is expected to receive, not whether they are allowed to.
    – nuggethead
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 23:59
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    No one except the priest is expected to receive communion at mass. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 1:04

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Geremia stated an objective fact about the need to receive the Eucharist at least once a year. But Catholics are also obligated, and it is a mortal sin to violate this, to attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of obligation (like last Wednesday, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception). So there are two objective reasons why a person attending Mass after 30 years cannot receive communion.

It's usually a touchy subject and needs to be dealt with, with tact, before everyone in your pew goes up for communion. Most of us Catholics receiving communion are probably guilty of some mortal sin and still receive communion anyway. That does not make it OK. If someone is unaware of a sin or unaware that they've committed a sin, then they have "invincible ignorance" but that's easily changed to "vincible ignorance". Mother-in-laws are good at this.

If this person has received communion, he or she probably has made a confession in the past. Making a general confession before attending Mass is a great way to put yourself right with Jesus. But confessing not attending Mass without resolving to attend Mass in the future would be not really a confession at all. However, there are most likely a great many other things worth confessing in the course of 30 years that would likely steer a heart toward authentic conversion and I can't see how it would be a bad thing.

That being said, the guidelines for receiving communion is a good resource. And those not receiving communion:

are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

which is nice.

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One of the precepts of the Church is "To receive the Eucharist at least once a year, during the Easter Season (known as the 'Easter duty')." If you have gone longer than a year without receiving, you should, before receiving Communion, confess that you violated a law of the Church.

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Attending Catholic mass after many years away?

This question could be phrased as follows: How to return to the Catholic Faith?

If the person returning to the bosom of the Church was a practicing Catholic, he simply has to start of by go going to confession with childlike simplicity. Feel free to ask questions of any Catholic pastor of one local parish how is the best way to recharge those spiritual batteries. He may in fact suggest taking a refresher course about Catholicism. But do not fear anything, God is on your side.

Turns out that returning to the Catholic Church after 2 years, 20 years, or even 60 years is much easier than one might expect. Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™ on Relevant Radio, offered this explanation:

“It’s a simple thing—all you have to do is go to Confession. And the priest will help you work through, even if you perhaps haven’t been there in a while so you might not know exactly how to do it—don’t worry. All you have to do is walk in ready to confess your sins.

“And since it’s been a while you might want to do an examination of conscience before you go in there. You can find examinations of conscience all over the place—they’re online, they’re on our Relevant Radio app; there’s many places you can find a good examination of conscience. And if you can’t find one just walk through the Ten Commandments and think of any of those you may have failed to live up to during these two and a half decades away.

“And then, just make a sincere Confession. You will know with absolute certainty because the Holy Spirit will work through the priest who will be acting … in the person of Christ. You will hear Christ speak through the priest, your sins will be forgiven and absolution received. You’ll be given a penance and you do that penance and you’re able to receive Communion and begin again the life of grace.

“Now of course, Satan will do everything he can to keep you from doing this. So expect some difficulties in this because he doesn’t want you to be reconciled to Christ and His Church. But be not afraid; persevere. Your heart’s in the right place, your will’s in the right place, your mind’s in the right place because you seek that union with Christ. And that’s the key! Christ loves you and all he wants you to do is respond to his offer of love.”

(How to return to the Catholic Faith)

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