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Frequently Asked Questions
regarding
WHEN THE PRIEST
RECEIVES COMMUNION
DURING HOLY MASS

Q. 1. At one of the Churches in the Diocese of Saskatoon, when the priest distributes the Eucharist, he begins by giving it to a Eucharistic Minister. That Eucharistic Minister gives it to another Eucharist Minister, etc.. The priest is the last to receive Holy Communion at the end of the line, after the Eucharistic Ministers, the Altar Servers, etc.. Then the whole process starts again with the distribution of the Blood of Christ.

Is this allowed in the Catholic Liturgy? I thought that no one, not even a priest, can change the Liturgy.


A. 1. The practice in the Catholic Church has always been that the celebrant (priest) receives Communion first and then the people come forward.

What you are witnessing is not appropriate. The Liturgy is universal. Catholics should be able to go to any Church in any country around the world and find an identical Liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church. No one, not even a priest or bishop, has the right to change the Liturgy of the Holy Mass.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum, No. 97, we read: "A Priest must communicate at the altar at the moment laid down by the Missal each time he celebrates Holy Mass, and the concelebrants must communicate before they proceed with the distribution of Holy Communion. The Priest celebrant or a concelebrant is never to wait until the people's Communion is concluded before receiving Communion himself."

I emphasize, "the priest must communicate at the altar," not at the end of the line behind the altar.

Below, I quote the April Newsletter of the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship. In this newsletter there is published an English version of a response to a dubium. Here it is with some added emphases:

Dubium on the Priest Celebrant Receiving Communion After the Faithful.

In the November-December 2008 issue of Notitiæ (vol. 45, pg. 609), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published their response to a dubium on the possibility of the priest celebrant receiving Holy Communion at Mass after or at the same time as the lay faithful. For the benefit of our readers, an unofficial translation is provided here:

Question: Whether it is permitted for the Priest celebrant to communicate only after he has distributed the Holy Eucharist to the faithful, or whether he may distribute the Holy Eucharist and then afterwards communicate together with the people.

Response: No, to both questions.

Certain practices of this kind in particular are being introduced, namely, where the Priest celebrant communicates only after he has distributed the Holy Eucharist to the faithful, or, by the same thinking, he waits until after the Holy Eucharist has already been distributed to communicate together with everyone else, namely, the faithful, as though feasting together at the Eucharistic table.

In all the Rites of the Church, an order is found which has been handed on for approaching Holy Communion: first, the Bishop or the Priest celebrant communicates, and then the other ministers according to their hierarchical rank, and finally, the people. The Priest communicates first, not because of any human superiority, but on account of the nature and dignity of his ministry. For, the Priest acts in the person of Christ on account of the integrity of the sacrament and because he presides over the assembled people: “So, as Priests join themselves with the action of Christ the High Priest, they daily offer themselves wholly to God, and as they are nourished by the Body of Christ, they partake of love from the heart of him who gives himself as food to the faithful” (Presbyterium ordinis, no.13).

In the edition of the Missale Romanum promulgated by the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, the communion of the faithful follows immediately upon the communion of the Priest, establishing it in this way as a unique action, different from the form in the edition of the Missale Romanum which appeared in 1962, in which the communion of the Priest is separated from the communion of the faithful through the recitation of the Confiteor [The Second Confiteor was removed in the 1962MR. I believe it remained only in the Holy Week section of the Missal (Good Friday – but that is neither Mass nor the usual sort of liturgy) and in the Pontificale for ordinations (as a commenter, below, clarified).] and of the prayers, the Misereatur, Indulgentiam, Agnus Dei and the Domine, non sum dignus.

The governing liturgical norm states: “A Priest must communicate at the altar at the moment laid down by the Missal each time he celebrates Holy Mass, and the concelebrants must communicate before they proceed with the distribution of Holy Communion. The Priest celebrant or a concelebrant is never to wait until the people’s Communion is concluded before receiving Communion himself” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 97).



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