I am a divorced Catholic, can I receive holy communion?

I was asked to do a census of the people who make up our parish community. It was really a lot of fun. Anyway, during one of my visits I knocked on the door and a young girl answered.   

Through the screen door I asked if her mom or dad was home. She looked a little reluctant to answer the question so I bent down and said, as innocently as possible, “Do you know who I am?”

She immediately ran deeper into the house calling, “Mom! There’s a man at the door who doesn't know who he is!”  Oops!

As Catholics, it’s important for us to know who we are and what we are all about. So who are we? And what are we all about? We are a Eucharistic people. Eucharist is Greek for thanksgiving, and we use it to refer to the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive at Mass. This is what defines us and, in many ways, what is different about us from other Christians. We have some questions about the Eucharist this month so read on ...

Dear Fr. Joe: I am a divorced Catholic. Some people have told me that I cannot receive communion and others have said I can. Who is right?

Me. Always. And write that down!

Well, about your specific question, though, you may be able to receive communion. Let’s run through the policies. First of all, a Catholic who is divorced and not remarried is able to receive communion. It is those who are divorced and remarried outside of the Church who are not permitted.

The reason is because the host that you receive – the body of Christ – is, among other things, a sign of our unity with each other, and the Church as a whole. Those who are baptized are obligated to marry in the Church, and marrying outside of the Church breaks the unity that your parents, or you, promised at your baptism.

Read on for some more questions on the Eucharist ...

Dear Fr. Joe: I am a Protestant who goes to Church with my Catholic spouse. I want to receive communion but was told I can’t. Why can’t I?

To be honest, I am not sure why you would want to. You see, to Catholics the Eucharist is the sign and source of our unity of belief and purpose. By receiving it, Catholics are affirming what we believe about our faith and receiving strength to live that belief. We believe that the host is the actual Body of Christ, given to us through our Church. We don’t consider it a symbol of Christ, as would most Protestants, but the real thing (please see John 6).

If you find that you agree with the Church’s position on this, you may want to talk to your husband’s priest about becoming Catholic.

Otherwise, please know that you are always welcome to join us in worship. I personally find it inspiring and beautiful that you continue to join your spouse in worship. Thank you for your great example!

Enjoy another day in God’s presence!