It is always necessary to examine your conscience before receiving Holy Communion, especially if it has been several months since you last received the sacrament.
In many parts of the world Catholics have not been able to attend public Mass for several months. Only recently have churches begun to open, though the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still dispensed in most areas (please consult your local diocese to confirm).
With this in mind, many Catholics are asking, “Do I need to go to confession before returning to Mass?”
The quick answer is “Yes” and “No.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession” (CCC 1457).
Basically, if you are aware of a mortal sin on your soul after examining your conscience and have the opportunity to confess your sins to a priest, then it is your duty to seek sacramental absolution.
In some dioceses there still exist some restrictions to the sacrament of confession, which makes this requirement a little tricky to fulfill. In those cases it is best to contact your local priest for instructions.
At the same time, it must be remembered that the requirement to go to confession only applies if you desire to receive Holy Communion. You are always permitted to attend Sunday Mass, even with mortal sins on your soul. In such a case, you would refrain from receiving Holy Communion and either remain in your pew, or cross your arms across your chest for a blessing from the priest.
You don’t need to receive Holy Communion when attending Mass, which is why going to confession is not a “strict” requirement for basic attendance.
Furthermore, if you are only conscience of venial sins on your soul, you are permitted to receive Holy Communion, even if you don’t go to confession.
The Catechism explains, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful” (CCC 1458).
When planning to attend Sunday Mass again, examine your conscience, consult your local regulations and take advantage of the healing sacrament of confession, allowing God to pour his abundant mercy into your soul.
What is a mortal sin?