I recently read a pastor's comments on the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. His comments reflected the Catholic Church's once-a-year requirement for both.
Why only ONCE a YEAR? I don't know about you, but I can walk out of a confessional and see a beautiful woman in line, and have to immediately turn around and go back to confession. I can also be cut off by a fellow parishioner while trying to leave the church parking lot and have to turn around and go back. Lastly, I can get home, get into an argument with my wife and have to turn around and go back to confession.
So, I decided to look it up and found this within the Canon Law:
Can. 920 p. 1. After being initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year.
Can. 989. After having reached the age of discretion, each member the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.
p. 2. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season [Ash Wednesday through Trinity Sunday] unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during the year.Still curious about what Canon Law states the bare minimum, I "Asked a Priest" at www.RCSpirituality.com. Here's the response I received:
[Your "Ask a Priest" Question has been answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC. God bless, RC Spirituality Center]
Dear Dan, The requirement for once-a-year confession and communion is a minimum standard. The ideal, as you mentioned, is for frequent confession and frequent communion. But it’s one thing to hold out an ideal, and another to require it.
Put another way, the Church isn’t contradicting itself by recommending frequent confession and communion on one hand, but only legislating their reception once a year on the other. The Church in effect is leaving room for the faithful to voluntarily choose to make frequent use of the sacraments. Things done voluntarily are usually done with more genuine piety (not always, but often enough). I pray that you make frequent use of these great sacraments. God bless.
The key here is "it’s one thing to hold out an ideal, and another to require it."
Pope John Paull II said in his groundbreaking work "Theology of the Body" that "prayer, Eucharist, and Penance. These, he says, are the 'infallible and indispensable' means for living the truth of love that God has inscribed in the theology of our bodies (see TOB 126:5)."1 This is the reason why I try to take advantage of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist, especially Confession. It is the best self-improvement plan on earth!