Can a non-Catholic person receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass?


Inviting our friends and family to Mass is extremely important and is something we are encouraged to do so that our Catholic faith can grow.  But we also need to remember that non-Catholic people cannot receive the Eucharist.  We may not extend the offer of Holy Communion to all those who are not Catholic or are not practicing Catholics.  Here’s why: The Eucharist is more than a symbol and “Communion” really means something.  The best way I have ever heard it described was from a man named Justin around the year 150 AD, he was asked to describe how Christians worship…what they did when they got together every Sunday?  He made it very clear:

…And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.  For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these…but…likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word…is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.  Since the beginning of Christianity, every believer recognized that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  Because of this, they consistently recognized that this holy thing was only available to those who were part of the Church…

We can see why the Church would teach this: the Eucharist is not “common bread and wine”, but the “flesh and blood of…Jesus”. If it is simply a symbol, then do whatever you want with it.  But if it is Christ, we may not do whatever we want with it. (See John 6:34-69 and 1 Cor. 11:23-30.)

Am I saying “non-Catholics are bad and don’t deserve the Eucharist”?  Absolutely not.  Most of them may have “been washed” in Baptism.  They are truly our brothers and sisters.  But they do not “believe that the things we teach are true,” and so we find ourselves separated.  That isn’t an insult, it is a description of what separates denominations.  “Jesus wouldn’t turn them away!”  Neither does the Catholic Church.  If a person wants to receive the Eucharist, they need do nothing more than become Catholic and live by the teachings of the Church.  Communion doesn’t just mean “I’m in union with Jesus.”  It means “I’m in union with the Catholic Church.”  You must realize that every time you come forward to receive the Eucharist and say “Amen” you are not merely saying, “I believe that this is the Body of Christ,” you are saying what every convert to the Catholic Faith says at the Easter Vigil Mass: “I believe and profess all that the Catholic Church teaches, believes and professes to be revealed by God.”  That’s what your “Amen” means. It means you are in Communion with the Pope, the bishops, and all the Faithful throughout time and eternity.

Last point, on hospitality.  Someone may say, “Oh real nice hospitality! I can’t believe you would invite me to church and then say I can’t go up and get that wafer!”  They may even insist on taking the Eucharist.  This is not only sacrilege, it is incredibly rude.  It is way more than leaving your shoes on when your host asks you to remove them before entering into their house. It is more like saying: “I can’t believe you would invite me into your home, have me eat at your table, and now you’re telling me that I can’t sleep with your wife!  You’re not being hospitable!”  That may sound extreme, but you need to realize that for Catholics, this is the level of intimacy we are talking about.  We should be inviting our non-Catholic brothers and sisters to Mass.  But I encourage you to be the one to instruct them about not receiving Communion.  Above all things, we need to pray for the day when all those in Christ will be truly united around the altar of God.


To a Catholic, the Eucharist is everything, our faith is centered on it.  What are your thoughts?


4 thoughts on “Receiving the Eucharist

  1. Speaking of the “ekklesia” (in other words, the congregation, or the assembly of the called out) that Jesus promised to build in Mathew 16:18, is the passage from Acts 2, verses 37 thru 41, a proper description of how one becomes a member of that “ekklesia”?

    1. Jim, thanks so much for this comment, let me do my best to answer your question.
      Being baptized is a great start to becoming a member of the Church. Repentance is a positive concept, a change of mind and heart toward God reflected in the actual goodness of one’s life. It is in accord with the apostolic teaching derived from Jesus and ultimately recorded in the four gospels. Luke presents baptism in Acts as the expected response to the apostolic preaching about Jesus and associates it with the conferring of the Spirit as it says throughout Acts.

      The fact that the crowd addressed their question to Peter and the other apostles indicates that Peter was speaking for them all, as the pope often speaks for the college of bishops today. The reaction to Peter’s speech parallels the response to John the Baptist’s speech in Luke 3:10-18. Both crowds ask what they should do, both are told to repent, and both are baptized. But John’s baptism is only a prophetic sign of the baptism received at Pentecost: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The promise of the Holy Spirit was given to you and to your children–namely, to Jews from all over the world gathered for the feast and to later generations. All those far off whomever the Lord our God will call foreshadows the outreach to Gentiles later in Acts. The hearers are to be saved from this corrupt generation. This phrase is from biblical passages about punishment (like Duet 33:5). Luke applies it to the generation that rejected Jesus.
      Act 2:41 mentions the number three thousand to show that a substantial portion of the Jewish people did believe in their Messiah and thus continued as the people of God’s promises. This also indicates that salvation has both individual and communitarian dimensions. Each person has to accept his or her salvation, but this is not merely a private matter between the individual and Jesus. One is baptized into God’s people and saved as a member of the Church.

  2. This post I will never forget. I concur 100%. I am all for the catholic faith and personally don’t receive the Holy Eucharist unless I am clean of mind and body, in a state of grace. It is completely appalling when the non-Catholics speak against our belief and are offended by the firm stance on the Eucharist being received only by practicing Catholics who have adequately prepared themselves to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. On days when I am short of grace, I remain on my seat and pray for the day when all will be one again and the non-Catholics are also requested to join in this prayer. I urge us all to discourage non-Catholics from forcefully receiving the Eucharist.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment.

      Yes, you are right, we must be in good standing before receiving the Lord and so many people, even Catholics, don’t understand that.

      I always make arrangement for a good confession if needed and I go about every three weeks on a regular basis. 

      Thanks again for the great comment.

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