The Holy Council of Trent, having in view the ineffable riches of grace which are offered to the faithful who receive the Most Holy Eucharist, makes the following declaration: "The Holy Council wishes indeed that at each Mass the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but sacramentally, by the actual reception of the Eucharist." These words declare plainly enough the wish of the Church that all Christians should be daily nourished by this heavenly banquet and should derive therefrom more abundant fruit for their sanctification.
It is not well known today that Holy Communion was rarely received daily before the decree of that great Pope. Saint Pius could be considered the Pope of Holy Communion, for the deep wish he had for all of his children to receive the greatest gift which Our Lord gave to His Bride: Himself, completely, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
This wish of the Council fully conforms to that desire wherewith Christ our Lord was inflamed when He instituted this Divine Sacrament. For He Himself, more than once, and in clarity of word, pointed out the necessity of frequently eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, especially in these words: This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever. From this comparison of the Food of angels with bread and with manna, it was easily to be understood by His disciples that, as the body is daily nourished with bread, and as the Hebrews were daily fed with manna in the desert, so the Christian soul might daily partake of this heavenly bread and be refreshed thereby. Moreover, we are bidden in the Lord's Prayer to ask for "our daily bread" by which words, the holy Fathers of the Church all but unanimously teach, must be understood not so much that material bread which is the support of the body as the Eucharistic bread which ought to be our daily food.
Moreover, the desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church that all the faithful should daily approach the sacred banquet is directed chiefly to this end, that the faithful, being united to God by means of the Sacrament, may thence derive strength to resist their sensual passions, to cleanse themselves from the stains of daily faults, and to avoid these graver sins to which human frailty is liable; so that its primary purpose is not that the honor and reverence due to our Lord may be safe-guarded, or that it may serve as a reward or recompense of virtue bestowed on the recipients. Hence the Holy Council calls the Eucharist "the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sin."
The will of God in this respect was well understood by the first Christians; and they daily hastened to this Table of life and strength. They continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread. The holy Fathers and writers of the Church testify that this practice was continued into later ages and not without great increase of holiness and perfection.
That terrible plague of Jansenism, born of Protestantism, had contaminated the piety of Catholics throughout the world. The Congregation of the Council had to make clear the historical position of the Holy See in the matter:
Accordingly, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a Plenary Session held on December 16,1905, submitted this matter to a very careful study, and after sedulously examining the reasons adduced on either side, determined and declared as follows:
1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.
2. A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.
3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.
4. Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one's strength, circumstances and duties.
5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor's advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.
6. But since it is plain that by the frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient, therefore, parish priests, confessors and preachers, according to the approved teaching of the Roman Catechism should exhort the faithful frequently and with great zeal to this devout and salutary practice.
7. Frequent and daily Communion is to be promoted especially in religious Institutes of all kinds; with regard to which, however, the Decree Quemadmodum issued on December 17, 1890, by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, is to remain in force. It is to be promoted especially in ecclesiastical seminaries, where students are preparing for the service of the altar; as also in all Christian establishments which in any way provide for the care of the young (ephebeis).
8. In the case of religious Institutes, whether of solemn or simple vows, in whose rules, or constitutions, or calendars, Communion is assigned to certain fixed days, such regulations are to be considered as directive and not preceptive. The prescribed number of Communions should be regarded as a minimum but not a limit to the devotion of the religious. Therefore, access to the Eucharistic Table, whether it be rather frequently or daily, must always be freely open to them according to the norms above laid down in this Decree.
Furthermore, in order that all religious of both sexes may clearly understand the prescriptions of this Decree, the Superior of each house will provide that it be read in community, in the vernacular, every year within the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
9. Finally, after the publication of this Decree, all ecclesiastical writers are to cease from contentious controversy concerning the dispositions requisite for frequent and daily Communion.