Can I receive communion? How does a plenary indulgence apply to this?

Around Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday, I had a conversion of sorts. I was so sad that it was Easter and I was completely alone. Both my parents died last year and I wanted to see them so badly and knew that could only happen if I made it to heaven which meant making some changes in my life. I’ve been a lukewarm Catholic for years, going through the motions of attending mass but but not really there in spirit and not going to confession. Since churches were closed due to the pandemic, I made a long confession (30 years+) to God and set myself a penance and have since been praying the Divine Mercy chaplet daily and trying to be a better person and avoid sin.

Anyway, now churches are finally opening up in my area at 30% capacity and we need to make a ‘reservation’ to attend. However, I still haven’t been able to go to ‘real’ confession as it’s not open yet and I don’t know when it will be possible. I don’t know if I should make a reservation for Mass and if I can receive communion or not? Or should I let others go first who can fully participate? I watched the Pope’s urbi et orbi on youtube and know he gave us a plenary indulgence and I’ve read about it several times but still am not sure I understand it or if it even applies to me or not. I read somewhere you had to be in a state of grace at the time… Can anyone clarify for me, please?

(I hope I posted this in the correct place - sorry if I didn’t!)

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You do need to receive absolution before you would receive communion. Not judging you in mortal sin — I cannot do that — but if it’s been 30 years since you’ve been to confession, that has to come first.

Try to get to confession as soon as you can. That’s top priority — not that confession is more important than Mass, it’s not, but you need to follow up everything you have done, with sacramental absolution and being certainly loosed of your sins (and we all need that, I know I certainly do!). You have “done all the right things”, but you still need to make a sacramental confession, before receiving communion.

It is very generous of you, to forego assisting at Mass, so that someone else can go instead, and presumably receive communion. Assuming your bishop has lifted the obligation, no, you do not have to go. But assisting at Holy Mass without receiving communion is never a bad thing, quite the contrary.

If I were in your place, I would make arrangements to go to confession first, and then make a reservation to go to Mass and receive communion.


Thank you for replying HomeschoolDad.

Our bishop has removed Sunday obligation until Advent - sort of scary in a way! - and I certainly plan to get to Mass before then! In a recent letter he mentioned "If you are concerned about access to confession, please remember that Pope Francis granted the faithful a plenary indulgence " so that was why I asked. Maybe I will write to him and ask if confession by phone is an option…

Thank you again!

Until Advent. Wow. Now that is a long time.

Unfortunately, you can’t do confession by phone.

I’m a bit puzzled as to why the priest would bring up the plenary indulgence. Plenary indulgences, by themselves, do not absolve sins, and they are not a substitute for confession.


@CajunJoy65 - yes, until Advent is a very long time! I’m in Canada and we are reopening things very slowly to try to prevent another wave of the virus but that does seems extreme. Maybe the bishop is just giving a worse case scenario that is more aimed at the vulnerable?

@HomeschoolDad - no phone? Darn. I’ve no idea why the Bishop mentioned the plenary indulgence but that was a direct quote from his May newsletter. I hope he comes up with an alternative soon. I know we are short on priests and don’t want them (or anyone ) to become ill but it’s difficult waiting.
I have a confession all typed so I don’t forget anything and keep revising as things come to me that I’d forgotten about from years ago. At the rate things are going, I’ll have a whole book before I can ever receive the sacrament!

Hang in there, this too shall pass.

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My parish (and many others) do have confession by appointment.Masks and social distancing in a private, large room (not using the confessionals.) We just have to call and set an appointment. We have this option during non-covid times, also.

I’ve not seen mention of this on the parish website but I can inquire. Thanks @Dlee

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As I said, you are doing all the right things — writing out a confession is fine, as long as a person doesn’t become scrupulous over it, worrying about forgetting things, or thinking that sins exist where they don’t, or that sins are worse than they actually are. I don’t get the impression any of these things are a problem for you. The important thing, make an appointment to see the priest, tell him briefly what your situation is, and do whatever he tells you.

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My parish is not allowed to advertise confession though they do have it and we have not even got to have mass yet . My point is its worth asking. God bless you, its tough waiting but God is with you.

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Given the fact that you have a long list of sins it would probably be the best option, even without a pandemic.

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Thank you SO much @Bluebright and everyone else as well. I contacted the parish and was able to go this afternoon - such a weight off my chest - and the priest was so kind about it, too!

Take care!


Good for you. I have sent you a private message, if that’s ok?

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Edited as I see you already went to confession. Good for you. Welcome back!

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Hi @Tis_Bearself and Thank you!

(FYI: I remember you from my book series question. I asked about them (once by emailing a priest) and then in confession today and both basically said real life is messy, the books might help someone, cleaning them up a bit was sufficient. You were right all along!)

Take care!

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