How Should I Prepare to Come to Mass?
Preparing to attend Mass should begin at home. First, each person who plans to receive Holy Communion must observe the fasting requirement, which is to refrain from food and drink for at least for one hour before receiving. Some people mistakenly believe the Church has done away with the fasting rule; however, it is still required—though greatly modified. Before Vatican II, Catholics were required to fast beginning at Midnight before receiving Holy Communion!
Next, it is important that we be in the proper frame of mind and truly contemplate what we are about to do. The Daily Roman Missal tells us that, in preparation for Mass, we can contemplate the fact that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the most important event that happens each day—the most pleasing reality we can offer to God. It also recommends praying that the Holy Spirit will guide the priest’s words and actions, and that He will enlighten the members of the congregation to “open their ears” to receive the Word of God and accept its meaning. While there are many ways to pray in order to prepare for the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the point is to orient our minds toward God, to join with our brothers and sisters in the congregation, to have the right intention, and unite ourselves to the Sacrifice of Jesus.
Second, we should prepare for Mass in the way we dress—both modestly and respectfully. Sunday is a special day, and God’s House is a special place; and so our clothing ought to reflect this truth. In the Scriptures we read, “Worship the Lord in holy attire” ( 1 Chronicles 16:29, Psalms 29:2, 96:9). Also, the Catholic Catechism teaches that our clothing “ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of the moment when Christ becomes our guest” in Holy Communion ( CCC 1387). The exterior reflects the interior, and God definitely deserves the best we have—inside and out! This is also why altar dressings and priests’ vestments, etc., are normally the best the church can manage. However, we have to remember that our souls should also be “dressed nice,” which leads to our second question…
Should I Receive Holy Communion at Mass?
In order to respond to the Lord’s invitation to eat His Body and drink His Blood, we must first examine our consciences. St. Paul says, “Therefore, whoever eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). This means that if we have committed a serious (mortal) sin, we must not receive until we have gone to Confession. If this is the case, in lieu of receiving you may come forward and tacitly ask for a blessing by simply crossing your arms over your chest. Those who are not Catholic or who are not in full communion with the Church (professing and believing in all the Church’s teachings) are also not permitted to receive. The reason is simple: To receive while not being a practicing Catholic is to witness to something that we do not actually believe. In essence, each person who receives Holy Communion is proclaiming publicly that “I am a practicing member of the Catholic Church and I believe and follow all its teachings.”