Communion Outside Mass


Here is another interesting question that was sent to me in my role as Education Officer with The Liturgical Commission and the response that I sent to the enquirer. Some details have been omitted for privacy purposes.

Q. At our daily morning Mass we have a parishioner who comes late for Mass every day, after Communion is finished most times, and demands Communion from one of the Ministers of Communion after Mass is finished. When asked, the person says that they have no reason for coming late. Lately some others have beenarriving at around the time of the Lord's Prayer. Is there something written somewhere in Liturgy documents about how much of Mass we should be participating in (unless we have genuine excuses) before receiving Communion?

A. Thank you for enquiry. I must confess that the practice you describe of people arriving when Mass is almost over and demanding to be given Communion puzzles me greatly.

Canon Law # 918 has this to say on the matter:
“It is most strongly recommended that the faithful receive communion in the course of a Eucharistic celebration. If, however, for good reason they ask for it apart from the Mass, it is to be administered to them, observing the liturgical rites.” (emphasis added).

The parish priest or another pastoral leader in the parish needs to talk to the people concerned and firmly but gently explain this requirement to them as well as the theological understanding of Eucharist on which it is based.

It is important that people understand that the last part of Canon 918, which allows for communion outside Mass, refers to cases such as the housebound sick. Even then, communion is given ‘observing the liturgical rites’.

The liturgical rites for administering communion outside of Mass are set out in the official rite entitled “Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass”. The liturgical form to be followed includes greeting, penitential rite, reading of scripture, Lord’s Prayer, communion, concluding prayer, blessing and dismissal, even in the shorter form of the rite.

If people are not present for these aspects of the Mass because they arrive late, then they need to be observed before communion can be given to them. Asking a minister to do otherwise is expecting them to break both Canon Law and liturgical law.

The documents also state clearly that communion can only be distributed outside of Mass ‘for a just reason’. Simply arriving late is not a ‘just reason’, so communion should be refused.

The action of people who expect to receive communion without being present for the whole celebration of Mass indicates:
· disrespect for Christ present in the word proclaimed at Mass (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7)
· disrespect for Christ present in the gathered assembly (CSL #7)
· disrespect for Christ present in the priest presider (CSL #7)
· a consumer/ materialistic mentality because their focus is on ‘getting’ the fruits of the Mass without participation in the ‘giving’ (offering) aspect of Mass.

Surely common courtesy would indicate to these people that their behaviour is wrong. If it is rude, disrespectful and insulting to arrive at a dinner part after everyone else has eaten, for no reason, and demand to be fed what everyone else has had, then it is CERTAILY rude, disrespectful and insulting to do the same thing at the sacred meal of the Eucharist.

Elizabeth Harrington