What is the Easter Duty and is it still required?

The Easter duty is the requirement of a Catholic to receive Holy Communion worthily at least once a year.  It is a minimal requirement, not the optimal practice in receiving the life-giving spiritual graces given in this Sacrament.

The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 had mandated Holy Communion to be received annually at Easter time. The Council of Trent and the Code of Canon Law restated this obligation.

Many Catholics are under the impression that the Easter duty also requires going to Confession. While receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation annually is certainly a good idea, it’s not part of the requirement unless one is conscience of having committed a serious or what is commonly called a mortal sin.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to Him” (#1855).  Therefore, sacramental absolution is necessary to forgive mortal sin, to restore the sanctifying grace in a person’s soul, and to reconcile the person fully with God and neighbor.

In the United States, the fulfillment of the Easter duty [receiving Holy Communion worthily] can be fulfilled from the First Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday [the Sunday after Pentecost]. Altogether, this opens 14 weeks of the church year to fulfill the requirement of receiving Holy Communion worthily with the Sacrament of Reconciliation ((confession) before if needed.

Regular confession is the recipe for sainthood, and all of the saints of our Church knew it.  As we continue our Easter celebration, we must not forget those graces of forgiveness and reconciliation the Risen Lord offers to each of us through the Sacrament of Penance.