I'm Afraid to Receive Communion

I recently started practicing Catholicism again, and have been going to confession and Mass regularly. While I’ve always been anxious about sin and not committing them,recently (about the middle of Christmas break), I’ve been absolutely terrified that everything I do is a sin and possibly a mortal sin. I also have horrible thoughts and phrases in my head that I’m not sure I’m choosing. This anxiety also manifests itself physically and it leaves me physically exhausted and affects my breathing. Because of all of this, I am terrified to receive Communion. I receive anyway, since I’m not sure, but Mass brings more worry now. I went to confession last week and the priest told me to only go once a month, which I intend on doing, but I’m scared I’ll commit a mortal sin between now and then. Does anyone have advice? Has anyone else been this way?

You are being tormented with scrupulosity, which many people have struggled with. To be told not to go to confession so frequently is a common prescription from confessors for this problem. The scrupulosity may only be a symptom, though.

You may eventually find help in seeing a spiritual director on a regular basis, but if this is affecting your breathing and physical condition, you might want to consider seeking professional counselling first. People with anxiety disorders are particularly prone to this problem, and there are practical ways to deal with it, some including cognitive training. This is a real physical condition, so if you are unsure, you might ask your primary care provider about it.

This is not saying that this is a psychological or physical problem, and not a spiritual one. Far from it! We are not made in little boxes like that. It is saying that you may find help from a psychologist or psychiatrist that could be very helpful in your spiritual progress. I can tell you from personal experience that learning how to calm yourself and breathe won't keep you from sinning, but knowing to do it before addressing spiritual torments head on, and knowing how much physical self-care impacts our spirtual state, are a very useful tools to have in the spritual arsenal.

By the way, anxiety is very often an ongoing problem, like a trick knee. Be ready for that. Many people struggle with it, and it is no sin in itself. It is having too much pride to admit you struggle with it that is the worst problem. Once you learn to see that old demon coming, and to laugh at his persistence, he will leave you alone a lot more. "The devil is a proude spirit, and cannot endure to be mocked." (St. Thomas More)

You will not be committing a mortal sin unless you willfully do so. A holy priest once said to me that, when in doubt, go to Communion. The act of being fearful and concerned is a sign that one is disposed properly for Communion. Anyway, that is what I was told.

Perhaps a prescription to Thorazine would alleviate this anxiety.

[quote="Other_Eric, post:4, topic:184626"]
Perhaps a prescription to Thorazine would alleviate this anxiety.

[/quote]

It is a bad idea to present to a physician, particularly a psychiatrist, with your own diagnosis, let alone your own prescription. Anxiety disorders are often treated with cognitive training alone, but they are rarely treated with pharmaceuticals alone. At any rate, should not imply to the OP that we know what a physician will diagnose or suggest as treatment.

It is enough to suggest that the person might want to consult with a medical professional, when one has medical symptoms. After that, it is doctors' work. Even doctors do not diagnose over the Internet.

This is simply the Devil trying to keep you away from Communion.

The closer you get to Jesus, the more Satan hates it, and the more lies he will tell you to upset you.

Don't listen to him.

You could also be suffering from an anxiety disorder, which is principally medical and maybe psychological, but only a physician can diagnose this.

[quote="FishHookOpenEye, post:1, topic:184626"]
I recently started practicing Catholicism again, and have been going to confession and Mass regularly. While I've always been anxious about sin and not committing them,recently (about the middle of Christmas break), I've been absolutely terrified that everything I do is a sin and possibly a mortal sin. I also have horrible thoughts and phrases in my head that I'm not sure I'm choosing. This anxiety also manifests itself physically and it leaves me physically exhausted and affects my breathing. Because of all of this, I am terrified to receive Communion. I receive anyway, since I'm not sure, but Mass brings more worry now. I went to confession last week and the priest told me to only go once a month, which I intend on doing, but I'm scared I'll commit a mortal sin between now and then. Does anyone have advice? Has anyone else been this way?

[/quote]

I wonder if this might help a little. It certainly has helped me.

I recall Padre Pio ... now St Pio de Pietrelcina saying that nothing should stop you going to Mass except the certainty you are in mortal sin ...

I am sorry for your suffering and I will pray for you. This kind of fear is so so hard and I hope others will join me in saying a prayer for you.

So if you are anything less than absolutely sure your sin is mortal ... this greatest of saints would say you should go,

My heart goes out to you in your pain and suffering! I read your post and I can totally relate. It sounds like you are suffering from scrupulosity which can be a component of anxiety and OCD. Here are some resources which may help you with your fear and suffering. They have been a great help to me.

The book "Understanding Scrupulosity" by Fr. Thomas M. Santa amazon.com/Understanding-Scrupulosity-Questions-Helps-Encouragement/dp/0764815768/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264613457&sr=8-1

A free newsletter by Liguori called "Scrupulous Anonymous" You can have this newsletter mailed to your home or you can read it online mission.liguori.org/newsletters/scrupanon.htm

You could try to find a copy of "Helps for the Scrupulous" written by Fr. Russell M. Abata. I found a used copy at Alibris as the book is currently not available as a new copy.

I hope this information helps you as it has helped me. Remember Jesus LOVES you so very much!!! I will remember you in my prayers.

Therese

[quote="FishHookOpenEye, post:1, topic:184626"]
I recently started practicing Catholicism again, and have been going to confession and Mass regularly. While I've always been anxious about sin and not committing them,recently (about the middle of Christmas break), I've been absolutely terrified that everything I do is a sin and possibly a mortal sin. I also have horrible thoughts and phrases in my head that I'm not sure I'm choosing. This anxiety also manifests itself physically and it leaves me physically exhausted and affects my breathing. Because of all of this, I am terrified to receive Communion. I receive anyway, since I'm not sure, but Mass brings more worry now. I went to confession last week and the priest told me to only go once a month, which I intend on doing, but I'm scared I'll commit a mortal sin between now and then. Does anyone have advice? Has anyone else been this way?

[/quote]

yes it sounds like you are suffering from scruples.

remember that in order to commit a mortal sin one needs grave matter, full knowledge and full consent....if any of these are lacking --no mortal sin.

and a good principle for anyone who is seeking to follow Christ and live a good life (live according to the teachings of the Church) is that when one has doubts that one all three of those requirements together -- one may judge that one did NOT commit a mortal sin.

it is good to find a good confessor who can help you with what seems to be scruples.

[quote="FishHookOpenEye, post:1, topic:184626"]
I recently started practicing Catholicism again, and have been going to confession and Mass regularly. While I've always been anxious about sin and not committing them,recently (about the middle of Christmas break), I've been absolutely terrified that everything I do is a sin and possibly a mortal sin. I also have horrible thoughts and phrases in my head that I'm not sure I'm choosing. This anxiety also manifests itself physically and it leaves me physically exhausted and affects my breathing. Because of all of this, I am terrified to receive Communion. I receive anyway, since I'm not sure, but Mass brings more worry now. I went to confession last week and the priest told me to only go once a month, which I intend on doing, but I'm scared I'll commit a mortal sin between now and then. Does anyone have advice? Has anyone else been this way?

[/quote]

Ok here we go.

  1. This is a difficulty that has experienced by certain Christians...for centuries....it can be a real torture.

  2. Relax. Do not worry.

  3. Such thoughts are likely scruples (those with scruples can be known to have a problem with them --and they really become scruples when one worries or fears sin). Which is why scrupulosity is often put together with OCD --but note too that this does not mean that Scrupulosity = OCD as some hold. Though a persons scruples can also be at the same time OCD. Hope I do not confuse you here... It all depends on the person.

  4. They can be internal but not willed. They can seem like 'you are the one causing them' --for it is the nature of such thoughts.

  5. Now are they mortal sins? No. are they venial sins? No. Not very likely at all even little little venial sin.

For a mortal sin one needs a grave matter ...full knowledge AND full consent!!! and it does not sound like you are giving them full consent....you do not want them at all!

A. If you do not want the thought...it the thought displeases you: it is a sign actually that you did not give consent or do not give full consent. And actually one could say prob. in your case from what you describe --no consent.

B. Even if you felt a temptation for the thought -- and were drawn to it -- say a sexual thought -- --but rejected it and maybe even turned to God : again a sign not full consent.
But these are not even temping for you! they bother you!

C. But what if one has a tempting thought --say of a sexual nature and even hesitated for a moment...but then rejected it for one did not want to sin? : it can be partial consent perhaps (and thus a venial sin)-- or it may be no sin at all but rather a strong temptation that drew you but then you saw what was happening and turned away.

D. A temptation can even be very strong or the thoughts very often -- but this does NOT mean one has consented! so worry not...even it they go on for a long time....

BUT this is not what you are talking about -- they are not even tempting thoughts -- so what I just wrote here in C was for future reference.

What if one is doubting if they gave full consent -- well if you are seeking to follow Christ and live a good life or at least not giving in often in that area-- you can assume or judge that you did not. Especially since you are not ordinarily giving it to such things...(again these are not even 'temptations' )

and thus they are should not keep you from Communion!

This is especially true of those with scruples...which it seems you have from your description...

remember -- for everyone --for it to be mortal there must be that deliberate consent!

What to do? on the spiritual side--relax first of all and remember the above.

Next -- know that the more one fears the thoughts the more likely they are to come.... or said another way --the more a person seeks to avoid the thoughts the more likely he will have a problem with them. (but do not worry about this either!)

for example: for the next 10 seconds try NOT to think of an apple.

tick tock ...

Ok what did you think of? Most likely an apple.

So it is best to ignore them and just not consent and then turn your attention to some other good thing...for instance whatever you are doing. Simply do not consent and move on. and do not worry

These thoughts and other scruples should be treated like a barking dog --and just ignored and passed by... one does not stop to argue with a barking dog one just keeps walking (this wisdom about the dog is from a Carthusian from the 15th century --Joannes Lanspergius)

another point -- thoughts can just happen --they are the stuff with which we think...it is up to us to consent and take them further or not.

Simply do not consent...and relax. have a sense of humor.

And remember -- we are not even obliged to confess doubtful things....

treat them like the little flys that bug you (we call them nats here --not sure what you have down under) --that fly about your head in the summer ....and into your eyes...just try go about your business and do not worry...they can cause you no real harm...they just annoy you.

you may find this helpful too from the chief apologist of Catholic Anwsers: jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2005/04/a_crown_of_thor.html?cid=118867622

now you may or may not have ocd ...for scruples are not = OCD but some who have ocd have scruples etc.

also please know that you can trust my advice above. I have a degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and what I advise in this area based on very orthodox Catholic sources ...so worry not! for worry is part of the problem...;)

I'd say listen to your priest. If it's caused by anxiety that can be helped too. I had some anxiety problems myself that prayer and a good book on the topic were able to cure for the most part.

Above all, remember that God's mercy endures forever. It's good to avoid sin, and be concerned about falling into sin. However, if you are going to confession, you have no need to worry. Really! You are His loved one, and I don't think he will strike you down or something...especially when you are being so honest and earnest in your desire to please Him.

Our Father wants us to live lives that are holy, but not to be in constant fear in the process!
Have faith, you will be ok.

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you."
Matthew 6:14

[quote="FishHookOpenEye, post:1, topic:184626"]
I recently started practicing Catholicism again, and have been going to confession and Mass regularly. While I've always been anxious about sin and not committing them,recently (about the middle of Christmas break), I've been absolutely terrified that everything I do is a sin and possibly a mortal sin. I also have horrible thoughts and phrases in my head that I'm not sure I'm choosing. This anxiety also manifests itself physically and it leaves me physically exhausted and affects my breathing. Because of all of this, I am terrified to receive Communion. I receive anyway, since I'm not sure, but Mass brings more worry now. I went to confession last week and the priest told me to only go once a month, which I intend on doing, but I'm scared I'll commit a mortal sin between now and then. Does anyone have advice? Has anyone else been this way?

[/quote]

PS I would find one good priest that you get on well with and go to confession most of the time to him(if not always)...and work out with him how often ...you may need to go more than once a month...to clear things up....

[quote="FishHookOpenEye, post:1, topic:184626"]
I recently started practicing Catholicism again, and have been going to confession and Mass regularly. While I've always been anxious about sin and not committing them,recently (about the middle of Christmas break), I've been absolutely terrified that everything I do is a sin and possibly a mortal sin. I also have horrible thoughts and phrases in my head that I'm not sure I'm choosing. This anxiety also manifests itself physically and it leaves me physically exhausted and affects my breathing. Because of all of this, I am terrified to receive Communion. I receive anyway, since I'm not sure, but Mass brings more worry now. I went to confession last week and the priest told me to only go once a month, which I intend on doing, but I'm scared I'll commit a mortal sin between now and then. Does anyone have advice? Has anyone else been this way?

[/quote]

Ok here we go.

  1. This is a difficulty that has experienced by certain Christians...for centuries....it can be a real torture.

  2. Relax. Do not worry.

  3. Such thoughts are likely scruples (those with scruples can be known to have a problem with them --and they really become scruples when one worries or fears sin). Which is why scrupulosity is often put together with OCD --but note too that this does not mean that Scrupulosity = OCD as some hold. Though a persons scruples can also be at the same time OCD. Hope I do not confuse you here... It all depends on the person.

  4. They can be internal but not willed. They can seem like 'you are the one causing them' --for it is the nature of such thoughts.

  5. Now are they mortal sins? No. are they venial sins? No. Not very likely at all even little little venial sin.

For a mortal sin one needs a grave matter ...full knowledge AND full consent!!! and it does not sound like you are giving them full consent....you do not want them at all!

A. If you do not want the thought...it the thought displeases you: it is a sign actually that you did not give consent or do not give full consent. And actually one could say prob. in your case from what you describe --no consent.

B. Even if you felt a temptation for the thought -- and were drawn to it -- say a sexual thought -- --but rejected it and maybe even turned to God : again a sign not full consent.
But these are not even temping for you! they bother you!

C. But what if one has a tempting thought --say of a sexual nature and even hesitated for a moment...but then rejected it for one did not want to sin? : it can be partial consent perhaps (and thus a venial sin)-- or it may be no sin at all but rather a strong temptation that drew you but then you saw what was happening and turned away.

D. A temptation can even be very strong or the thoughts very often -- but this does NOT mean one has consented! so worry not...even it they go on for a long time....

BUT this is not what you are talking about -- they are not even tempting thoughts -- so what I just wrote here in C was for future reference.

What if one is doubting if they gave full consent -- well if you are seeking to follow Christ and live a good life or at least not giving in often in that area-- you can assume or judge that you did not. Especially since you are not ordinarily giving it to such things...(again these are not even 'temptations' )

and thus they are should not keep you from Communion!

This is especially true of those with scruples...which it seems you have from your description...

remember -- for everyone --for it to be mortal there must be that deliberate consent!

What to do? on the spiritual side--relax first of all and remember the above.

Next -- know that the more one fears the thoughts the more likely they are to come.... or said another way --the more a person seeks to avoid the thoughts the more likely he will have a problem with them. (but do not worry about this either!)

for example: for the next 10 seconds try NOT to think of an apple.

tick tock ...

Ok what did you think of? Most likely an apple.

So it is best to ignore them and just not consent and then turn your attention to some other good thing...for instance whatever you are doing. Simply do not consent and move on. and do not worry

These thoughts and other scruples should be treated like a barking dog --and just ignored and passed by... one does not stop to argue with a barking dog one just keeps walking (this wisdom about the dog is from a Carthusian from the 15th century --Joannes Lanspergius)

another point -- thoughts can just happen --they are the stuff with which we think...it is up to us to consent and take them further or not.

Simply do not consent...and relax. have a sense of humor.

And remember -- we are not even obliged to confess doubtful things....

treat them like the little flys that bug you (we call them nats here --not sure what you have down under) --that fly about your head in the summer ....and into your eyes...just try go about your business and do not worry...they can cause you no real harm...they just annoy you.

you may find this helpful too from the chief apologist of Catholic Anwsers: jimmyakin.typepad.com/defenso...?cid=118867622

now you may or may not have ocd ...for scruples are not = OCD but some who have ocd have scruples etc.

also please know that you can trust my advice above. I have a degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and what I advise in this area based on very orthodox Catholic sources ...so worry not! for worry is part of the problem...

PS: one of the things with scruples is that they are a problem with doubt...or fear....and anxiety....so you may want to consider seeing a good doctor ...or a good Catholic counselor (who thinks with the Church) ....especially if you are having other anxiety issues ...

OP - You are in my prayers. There is nothing else anyone could add to this discussion that would help...just prayers.

God bless you and Welcome Home!

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice...

From the Compendium of the Catechism:

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?

1855-1861
1874

One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?

1862-1864
1875

One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

ps: venial sins do not keep us from communion..and they can be forgiven in many ways ...prayer etc....including they can be wiped away at Holy Communion

it is again important to get a good regular confessor who can help you with this....

What everyone has said about mortal sin is right. We are all sinners. It would seem, as others have said, that the majority of your sins are probably venial. Maybe this, from the CCC will help: (I did not read every post, so, I apologize if this has already been cited, though, sometimes, it doesn't hurt to hear something over again - at least, for me, anyway!)

1393
]Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:
*
*
For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.**

The Eucharist is a time for thanksgiving. Try to approach the Eucharist from a new perspective (I should have a dollar for every time my priest has told me to try another perspective!) - an act of the will (Yes, those dollars would pile up here, too!).

I will keep you in my prayers.

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, BUT, only say the word and I shall be healed."

in addition to my posts above...

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

--Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Matt: 11:28-29 RSV CE)

[quote="LindaSK, post:16, topic:184626"]
What everyone has said about mortal sin is right. We are all sinners. It would seem, as others have said, that the majority of your sins are probably venial. Maybe this, from the CCC will help: (I did not read every post, so, I apologize if this has already been cited, though, sometimes, it doesn't hurt to hear something over again - at least, for me, anyway!)

1393
]Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:
*
*
For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.**

[/quote]

The Eucharist is a time for thanksgiving. Try to approach the Eucharist from a new perspective (I should have a dollar for every time my priest has told me to try another perspective!) - an act of the will (Yes, those dollars would pile up here, too!).

I will keep you in my prayers.

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, BUT, only say the word and I shall be healed."

Great point!

As the Church teaches in the Compendium:
**What are the fruits of Holy Communion? (CCC: 1391-1397, 1416)*
Holy Communion increases our union with Christ and with his Church. It preserves and renews the life of grace received at Baptism and Confirmation and makes us grow in love for our neighbor. It strengthens us in charity, wipes away venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin in the future.*

So why go to confession at all, if one has not committed a mortal sin? The Compendium addresses that, too:
**Why can venial sins also be the object of sacramental confession?*
The confession of venial sins is strongly recommended by the Church, even if this is not strictly necessary, because it helps us to form a correct conscience and to fight against evil tendencies. It allows us to be healed by Christ and to progress in the life of the Spirit.*

Also, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in Sacramentum Caritatis:
"...a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead, can be helpful for a renewed appreciation of the relationship between the Eucharist and Reconciliation. By this means the faithful obtain "remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven." The use of indulgences helps us to understand that by our efforts alone we would be incapable of making reparation for the wrong we have done, and that the sins of each individual harm the whole community. Furthermore, the practice of indulgences, which involves not only the doctrine of Christ's infinite merits, but also that of the communion of the saints, reminds us "how closely we are united to each other in Christ ... and how the supernatural life of each can help others." Since the conditions for gaining an indulgence include going to confession and receiving sacramental communion, this practice can effectively sustain the faithful on their journey of conversion and in rediscovering the centrality of the Eucharist in the Christian life.""

In other words, the practice of gaining indulgences, which the Church highly recommends, involves BOTH sacramental confession AND sacramental communion, just one more example of how the two are very closely intertwined. It is a million miles from the Church's teaching that we allow any sin, save a mortal sin (which cannot be committed, save we comprehend by its gravity that it is mortal and freely commit it anyway), keep us from the Eucharist.

Thank you for your replies and prayers. I'll try to keep what you said in mind. I also began seeing a counselor, so hopefully psychological help will also help spirtually.

Your very welcome...and get a good priest! (also there are alot of helpful things on scrupulosity out there....and there is a new compendium in the work on just the Eucharist!)

Another point.

Live in reality.

If you are 'in Christ' then you are a new creation! as Pope Benedict has pointed out -- St. Paul etc in Sacred Scripture --refers to all Christians as saints. Holy. (canonized Saints are those who have lived holiness heroically and are models for is etc)

reflect on the reality of Baptism! of being a Christian! a son of light!

If you are in Christ and have not committed a mortal sin (and again remember what I wrote about mortal sin....)-- you are living in his friendship and grace! you are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Read the letter to the Ephesians and the one to the Colossians.....

We need to follow Christ joyfully and with confidence!

Focus on HIM...

Run the race with eyes fixed on Christ....

we need to "walk in love", "walk in the Spirit".....live in God...in Christ.

He is our Hope!

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