Questions on the Holy Eucharist
With Answers from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

This set of ten questions serves as an introductory tour to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and highlights the teaching that “the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1327). Each paragraph of the Catechism is numbered for easy reference. The paragraphs listed in parentheses after each question provide the location of the answer to that question. The answers, drawn from the Catechism, follow each question. To explore the Catechism further, use the search, table of contents, and index tools available from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church (Picayune, Mississippi) at

This set of questions was printed on the Corpus Christi Catechism Fund bookmark for the Year of the Eucharist. The Corpus Christi Catechism Fund distributes copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church free of charge to newly confirmed youth in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. For more information on the apostolate of the Corpus Christi Catechism Fund, visit

1. What sacrament is the source and summit of the Church’s life? (1324-1327)
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Pasch.” (1324)

“The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates His Church and all her members with His sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to His Father; by this sacrifice He pours out the graces of salvation on His Body which is the Church.” (1407)

2. What is the Real Presence? (1374, 1378-80)
The Real Presence is the real, true, and substantial presence of Jesus Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Holy Eucharist under the species or appearances of bread and wine (see 1374). This unique presence of Christ “begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist” (1377).

The faithful deepen and express their faith in the real presence of Christ through adoration and receiving Holy Communion at the Eucharistic liturgy, and through adoration outside its celebration (see 1378-79)

“In His Eucharistic presence, [Christ] remains mysteriously in our midst as the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us, and He remains under signs that express and communicate this love” (1380).

3. Name some other ways Christ is present to His Church. (1373)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is also present to His Church “in His Word, in His Church’s prayer, ‘where two or three are gathered in My name’ (Matthew 18:20), in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, (cf. Matthew 25:31-46) in the sacraments of which He is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister” (1373).

4. What do we offer to God the Father along with the Body of the Lord at Mass? (901, 1368)
Along with the Body of the Lord, we offer to God the Father the spiritual sacrifices of our own daily life (see 901), as members of His Body, the Church (see 1368).

“In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of His Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with His total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with His offering.” (1368)

5. Why do we need an ordained priest or bishop in order to celebrate Mass? (611, 1369, 1546-53)
At the Last Supper, the Lord instituted the Apostles as priests of the New Covenant (see 611 and 1337). Their successors, the bishops, continue to be responsible for the Eucharist, both when they celebrate it personally and when they entrust the celebration to priests, their co-workers (see 1369 and 1411).

“Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as Head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers” (1549). Bishops and priests act in the person of Christ and in the name of the Church (see 1548 and 1552) Through their ministry, Christ the Head offers His redemptive sacrifice to God the Father (see 1410), and the faithful, as members of the Body of Christ, are enabled to offer Christ’s sacrifice, joining to it their own sacrifices (see 1369 and 1552-53).

6. Can Catholics receive Holy Communion at a non-Catholic church and vice versa? (1399-1401, 1336, 1213)
We can consider three groups of non-Catholics: Eastern Orthodox Christians, Protestant Christians, and non-Christians.

Eastern Orthodox Christians
Although they are not in full communion with the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches possess true sacraments, above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist. While Orthodox and Catholic priests cannot concelebrate the Holy Eucharist together, the Catholic faithful are encouraged to participate in Orthodox liturgies, including the Divine Liturgy (Mass), even though it is generally not possible for Catholics to receive Holy Communion in an Orthodox church. Catholic Church law allows Catholics to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist from an Orthodox priest in certain restrictive circumstances, but the Orthodox Churches are usually more restrictive, allowing only members of their own Churches to receive Holy Communion, excluding all others. Likewise, our law allows an Orthodox Christian to ask for and receive Holy Communion from a Catholic minister, but generally the Orthodox Churches would not permit their members to do so. (See 1399 and 838)

Protestant Christians
Protestant Christian communities celebrate the Lord’s Supper, but they “have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders” (1400). Catholics may not receive Holy Communion in such communities. It is normally not possible for Protestants to receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass, but in certain rare and grave situations, such as danger of death, and when certain prescribed conditions are fully met, a Protestant Christian can ask for and receive the Holy Eucharist from a Catholic priest (see 1401) One of these conditions is that the Christian must “give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding” the Holy Eucharist (1401). However, Protestants typically reject, in whole or in part, the following Catholic Eucharistic doctrines (see 838): the centrality of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Church (see 1407, 1324-1327), the necessity of a validly ordained priest (see 1411), the true sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic offering (see 1362-72), and Christ’s real, true, and substantial presence in the Blessed Sacrament (see 1373-81).

It is never possible for non-Christians, such as Jews (see 839-840), Muslims (see 841), adherents of other non-Christian religions (842-845), atheists (2123-26), or agnostics (2127-28), to receive Holy Communion, because they are not yet baptized. Baptism is “the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (1213).

(See also United States Conference of Bishops, Guidelines for the Reception of Communion (1996).)

7. How does the Holy Eucharist commit us to the poor? (1397, 1373, 2449, 1379)
In the Eucharist, Christ gives Himself up for us; we must have that same attitude of mercy toward the poorest, His brothers and sisters. (See 1397) His more-than-meets-the-eye presence in the Blessed Sacrament helps us to recognize His presence in those who are poor materially and spiritually. (See 1373 and 2449)

The sacred liturgy provides a model of such care for the poor. Since the earliest days, the Church has cared for her sick and absent members by reserving the Blessed Sacrament after the Eucharistic liturgy in order to bring It to them. (See 1379)

8. If we are aware of having committed a mortal sin, what must we do before receiving Holy Communion? (1415, 1457)
“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” (1457; see 1415).

“In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, that is, an act of sorrow for sins that ‘arises from a love by which God is loved above all else’ (Catechism, no. 1452). The act of perfect contrition must be accompanied by the firm intention of making a sacramental confession as soon as possible.” (United States Conference of Bishops, The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers (2001), n. 11)

“By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in His friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from Him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins—that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.” (1395)

9. What virtue is necessary for a true gift of self in friendship? (2346-2347)

“Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort” (2345). “Chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person” (2346).

“The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate Him who has chosen us as His friends (John 15:15), who has given Himself totally to us and allows us to participate in His divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

“Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.” (See 2347)

10. How did St. Teresa of Avila describe contemplative prayer? (2709)
“Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” (2709)

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