The National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of Holy Communion:

  • For Catholics: As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the  Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive  Communion devoutly and frequently. In  order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should  not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one  hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body  and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except  for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In  this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act  of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as  possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of  Reconciliation (Penance) is encouraged for all.
  • For our fellow Christians: We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the  Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism  and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer  to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us.  We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with  Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
    Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a  sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members  of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily  not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional  circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the  directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon  844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the  East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the  discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic  discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of  communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
  • For those not receiving Holy Communion: All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to  express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus  and with one another.
  • For non-Christians: We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our  faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we  ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human  family.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's description of receiving Holy Communion during Mass