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DealingWithFamily Debra wrote:

Hi, guys —

My family is fallen-away, but I hope to encourage all attend Mass for Christmas. To the best of my own knowledge, they are clearly not in a state of grace!

  • How can I discuss the inadvisability/sinfulness of their receiving Holy Eucharist without alienating them even further from the Church?

The entire Church attendance at Christmas seems to get up to receive the Eucharist with no admonition from the Celebrant! Because of this, it is difficult to have this discussion with my family.

  • Will I be in a state of mortal sin myself if I fail to present this Catholic teaching to my family?

I don't want them to all sit home while I attend Mass alone but I fear that would actually be their choice.

Help and Thanks!


  { How can I discuss the inadvisability of family members to receive Holy Communion at Christmas? }

Mike replied:


This is a tough family situation. If you are the only one who is practicing the faith, it is best to lead by example and kind deeds. Your obligation to persuade them to attend Christmas Mass is not a grave matter for you. If they are aware of their Sunday obligation, it is their responsibility, not yours.

You have to discern if they are open to your viewpoints on these religious issues.

  • If they are, share with them how the Church views Communion. Whether the faithful know it or not, when we receive the Eucharist or Holy Communion, we are publicly saying that we are in a Common Union with the teachings of the Catholic faith. For some reason, this has not been ingrained to the faithful in CCD or RCIA as much as it should have been.

    Also, share with them the importance of going to Confession on a regular basis (especially of they are conscious of committing a grave sin). The United States bishops recommend that Catholic families go once a month. Going to Confession once (in thirty days) isn't asking that much . . . in my opinion.

  • If they are not open to your views, the best you can do, is follow an expression attributed (by some) to Saint Francis:

      Evangelize the world; and when necessary, use words.

    When they see the kind deeds and favors you do for them (and for others); when they hear about how warm a person you are over time, they will say (inside):

      "I want to be like that person; let me find out more about what is important to them and what makes them tick."

  • If you are unsure whether they know about their obligation to attend weekly Mass or receive Holy Communion, if they have no grave sin on their soul, mention it once, in a charitable manner.

    After that, you are obligation-free.

One thing that's tough for faithful Catholics to do is to respect the free will of non-practicing family members to not practice the faith. You have to respect their free will.

Encourage them to go to Mass, especially on Christmas with you. Even if they can't receive the Eucharist, they can always say a Spiritual Communion while others are receiving the Blessed Sacrament. It's a practice I sometimes have to do because I've been unable to get to a scheduled Confession:

Spiritual Communion

O Lord Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

I love you above all things, (with all my mind, with all my heart, and with all my soul).
I love you because you are infinitely good and worthy of all my love.

Since I cannot receive You now sacramentally, at least come spiritually into my heart.
I embrace myself entirely to You and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Come Lord Jesus and glorify Yourself through my weak, broken body.


The Mass itself offers many graces for us each Sunday, even if we can only make a Spiritual Communion from the pew, which is why Our Lord wants us to attend weekly, if not daily.

One last note: You can't really know their culpability for any sins of omission or commission; only they can.

My colleagues may have more to add.

I hope this helps,


John replied:


We need to be careful not to assume the state of another person's soul. We can look at their actions and discern whether they are objectively in mortal sin but we can never assume their personal culpability. There are many things that can mitigate culpability. The most common is Ignorance.

You could subtly and casually point out the instructions for receiving Communion, which are in the Mass Missalettes but be very subtle. Act as though you're reading them yourself and then say, Hey look at this but be careful. Let them decide whether they believe they are conscious of sin in their lives.

Even better, you can casually mention before Mass that you recently went to Confession.

Remember, the most important thing is that they go to Mass and hear God's Word.

If they are open, the Holy Spirit will do the work in them. That work might not correspond with our timetable but if they are open to grace, God will deal with them.


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