Communion After Mass

Date: November 28, 2021
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I would like you to help me with this liturgical doubt. This is the situation: A faithful attends Mass without receiving Communion. After Mass, this faithful asks for confession and, after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, asks the priest to give him or her Communion. It is my understanding that in this particular case, it is not necessary to follow all the rites indicated in the “Rite of Distributing Holy Communion Outside Mass. The Short Rite with the Celebration of the Word” (Nos. 42-53 of “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass”: Introductory Rites, Short Form of the Reading of the Word, Holy Communion and Concluding Rites). I think it would be sufficient to show the host to the communicant and say, “The body of Christ,” because all the rites have been already observed in the Mass that has been celebrated some minutes ago. However, I have seen a priest following all the steps indicated in the rite in a similar situation. -- D.A., Granada, Spain

A: Apart from the situation described by our reader, there is also the possibility, in places where confession is being offered during Mass, of a person who is participating in the sacrament of reconciliation and does not arrive in time for Communion and requests Communion as soon as Mass is over.

In both cases I believe it would be sufficient to give Communion to the person by simply showing the host and saying, “The Body of Christ.”

It must be admitted that this is a pastoral judgment, since there are no set norms regarding this precise situation. My reasons stem from the fact that the rite for Communion outside of Mass (either the long or short rite) exists for other very specific circumstances that are quite different from the one described.

As the ritual says:

“This rite is to be used chiefly when Mass is not celebrated or when communion is not distributed at scheduled times. The purpose is that the people should be nourished by the word of God. By hearing it they learn that the marvels it proclaims reach their climax in the paschal mystery of which the Mass is a sacramental memorial and in which they share by communion. Nourished by God’s word, they are led on to grateful and fruitful participation in the saving mysteries.”

The introduction also presents the “The Relationship between Communion outside Mass and the Sacrifice.” To wit:

“13. Sacramental communion received during Mass is the more perfect participation in the eucharistic celebration. The eucharistic sign is expressed more dearly when the faithful receive the body of the Lord from the same sacrifice after the communion of the priest. Therefore, recently baked bread, for the communion of the faithful, should ordinarily be consecrated in every eucharistic celebration.

“14. The faithful should be encouraged to receive communion during the eucharistic celebration itself. Priests, however, are not to refuse to give communion to the faithful who ask for it even outside Mass. In fact, it is proper that those who are prevented from being present at the community’s celebration should be refreshed with the eucharist. In this way they may realize that they are united not only with the Lord’s sacrifice but also with the community itself and are supported by the love of their brothers and sisters. Pastors should see that an opportunity to receive the eucharist is given to the sick and aged, even though not gravely sick or in imminent danger of death, frequently and, if possible, daily, especially during the Easter season. It is lawful to minister communion under the appearance of wine to those who cannot receive the consecrated bread.

“15. The faithful should be instructed carefully that, even when they receive communion outside Mass, they are closely united with the sacrifice which perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross. They are sharers in the sacred banquet in which ‘by communion in the body and blood of the Lord the people of God shares in the blessings of the paschal sacrifice, renews the new covenant once made by God with men in the blood of Christ, and by faith and hope prefigures and anticipates the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes.’”

Therefore, since the purpose of the Rite of Holy Communion outside of Mass is geared toward those who are unable to attend Mass, I think that it is a logical conclusion that its rites are not applicable to those who have participated at Mass but were briefly impeded from receiving Communion at the proper time.

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