QUAERITUR: How many times may I receive Communion in a day?

A reader in a comment under another entry asked a question about reception of Holy Communion.

Can [you] communicate twice if one Mass is 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time and the second one is Conversion of St. Paul.

 

Yes.

For Latins the 1983 Code of Canon Law says:

Can. 917 – Qui sanctissimam Eucharistiam iam recepit, potest eam iterum eadem die suscipere solummodo intra eucharisticam celebrationem cui participat, salvo praescripto Can. 921, § 2. … Someone who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it again (iterum) on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, with due regard for the  prescription of can. 921 § 2.

Can. 921 § 2 says that if a person is in danger of death, he may receive Communion even it is not in the context of Mass.  That is Viaticum.

That iterum does not mean "again and again", but merely "again one more time".

So, say you were in the morning at some Communion service wherein you received Communion.  Later in the day you were while driving happy to stumble on a church where Mass was being celebrated.  You could receive Communion again (iterum) at that Mass.  However, if the opposite were the case, if you were at Mass in the morning and then stumbled into a Communion service at a priest-less parish in the afternoon, you could NOT receive again: it isn’t Mass.

The canon tries to walk the line between promoting frequent reception of the Eucharist and a superstitious or excessive frequency.  The key here is that the second time must be during a Mass, unless it is as Viaticum and you may not enter the Mass at some late point merely to receive.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to QUAERITUR: How many times may I receive Communion in a day?

  1. Thanks for clarifying that question.
    What does “day” mean? I was recently told that if one received at the anticipatory vigil Mass Saturday evening, that one could only receive once on the following Sunday.

    Is ‘day’ the time from midnight to midnight or a liturgical day? [The Law favors the person. So, "day" in this sense is interpreted in the way that is most flexible. Therefore beyond the time of vespers all the way to midnight at least.]

    I can imagine someone taking advantage of this: receiving Saturday morning and then at a noon Mass again. Then receiving again at the Vigil anticipatory Sunday Mass if ‘liturgical’ is the meaning.

    This question comes up in choir as we frequently sing more than one Mass. I was surprised that some choir members had never even heard of the ‘twice a day’ allowance.

    Also, I’ve been told that to receive this way, one has to participate in the Mass from end-to-end both times. Can’t be late or leave early in either case.

    Can you clarify further? I’ve never been able to get a satisfactory answer over the years. Thanks!!!

  2. Boko Fittleworth says:

    Rather than communicating twice within a few hours, why not take the opportunity to remain in the pews and make a spiritual communion, thus setting a beautiful and much-needed witness to all those who communicate while improperly disposed? [Fine. Good choice! But that is not the point of the law.]

  3. Fr. John says:

    Here is a follow-up question, Father:

    The obvious exception to this rule is the priest who must say three masses in one day: Morning mass, the school mass, and evening mass because the pastor is out of town.

    I once had a strange case where the same altar server happened to be scheduled for all three masses. With regard to receiving communion, what does one tell the altar server at the third mass? [You tell him that the law of the Church doesn't not permit him to receive unless he is about to die during the third Mass. He'll understand.]

    Thanks.

  4. B says:

    Why not tell him not to receive Holy Communion? At my parish (FSSP), it is common to see altar servers who do not receive. People (except for the priest) should not feel that they are obligated to receive.

  5. At the risk of being pedantic, what if one were to receive at a daily mass on a Saturday, then attend a funeral, a wedding, a confirmation and the Vigil Mass for Sunday ? Still 2 times for receiving communion ? [Twice on the Saturday, say a funeral in the morning and then an anticipated Mass in the evening, so long as the second time is at Mass. Not three times. Possibly twice on the Sunday, so long as the second time is at Mass. Not hard.]

  6. Momcilo says:

    Is it ok to receive at a Byzantine Catholic Liturgy and then go an receive at a Latin Rite? The canon law is for Latins only? Thanks

  7. Andreas says:

    Why is this difficult to understand? You can receive a second time if you attend Mass. If you are a priest, if you are dying, if you are an angel, other rules may apply, but for you who is not a priest, not dying, the rule remains the same. Perhaps people need a flow chart: are you dying at the present moment? If “no” proceed to the next step …

  8. Mike Morrow says:

    In my pre-Vatican II experience, it was very common for Catholics to *not* receive communion at every Mass. Today, it’s more of an automated reflex action, apparently.

    The greatest number of Masses in one day that I ever served was three on the day of President Kennedy’s funeral. At my small parish in Arkansas, the limited number of servers frequently resulted in one serving two Masses in one day. I recall receiving communion only at the first of such Masses.

    Even in normal circumstances, it was very common for not all servers to receive communion. Most of us felt that being of the appropriate mind and attitude was an essential prerequisite to communion. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a person just is not.

  9. Nick says:

    It baffles me why there would be a need or desire to receive Holy Communion more than once a day. This would be especially so if one stumbled upon a second mass. Does anyone in the parishes actually prepare to receive Holy Communion anymore or is it just mechanical if one is at mass?

  10. kat says:

    This is not an issue with our overly scrupulous little 8 year old girl. Every week she says, “I need to go to Confession.” Some Sundays she thinks she can’t receive even after going to Confession 20 minutes before Mass begins because she was chastized for somthing during the interim.

    I don’t know if this is a good thing or a problem. Between homeschooling and attending the TLM, it is drilled into her head that she should not receive if she has committed a mortal sin. But how many mortal sins (if they really are?) can 1 sweet little girl commit in a day?

  11. Melody says:

    Wow kat, your little girl reminds me of St. Therese. How lovely that she holds the sacrament in such esteem. Perhaps, however, she needs to be reminded that much sin is venial, like the things you would gently scold her for.

    I sometimes receive communion twice if I attend the regular NO and then meet up after with friends to go to St. Michael’s abbey. I think twice is enough to simply delight in the sacrament (provided one is in a state of grace) without being superstitious.

  12. Nick said :baffles me why there would be a need or desire to receive Holy Communion more than once a day…Does anyone in the parishes actually prepare to receive Holy Communion anymore or is it just mechanical if one is at mass?

    Nick, you’re spot on here. This is why I prefaced my question as saying it “risks being pedantic”. Having been raised in the post-conciliar church, I have actually heard that one can receive as many times as one wants as long as they are different “events”. This appears to be an “urban myth” in light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and Fr. Z’s comments (above); but I threw it out there as there are probably many souls operating under this false teaching.

  13. Nick: Does anyone in the parishes actually prepare to receive Holy Communion anymore

    Surely this is the most pressing question here. You arrive at church 15 or 30 minutes before a typical parish Sunday Mass, and not many people are there yet. Hundreds of people swarm in just before or even after Mass begins, and then process down the aisles to receive Holy Communion.

    You wonder how it is possible for them to have prepared prayerfully for reception. Did they all kneel at home to say their usual prayers of preparation before jumping in the car. Or did all the families pray together in the car all the way to church? Or at least observe prayerful silence all the way?

  14. Nick says:

    “I sometimes receive communion twice if I attend the regular NO and then meet up after with friends to go to St. Michael’s abbey. I think twice is enough to simply delight in the sacrament (provided one is in a state of grace) without being superstitious.”

    “Superstitious”??? How about “precious”? If multiple Communions aid us in “delighting” in the sacrament then we should be receiving Holy Communion every half hour. Presumably one is in the state of grace the first time one communes. Is there then something lacking? Didn’t the first Communion quite take?

  15. Tom A. says:

    I think Father has fully answered the question. Twice in a day is permitted as long as second time is at a Mass. It seems some comments are veering into whether this practice is desirable or not and whether the pre-concilliar rules were better or not. It matters not, Rome has spoken and the answer given. Some say only once and others say every half hour if you feel like it. Is this not what has gotten us into so much trouble? Personal preferences as opposed to what Rome has dictated.

  16. Mike says:

    I also was wondering about this. As a altar server at our parish’s TLM, I had to serve three Masses in one day – morning low mass, a mid morning nuptial mass, and an afternoon High Mass. I was a bit concerned that receiving Holy Communion at all three masses was appropriate. I’m glad Fr. Z cleared up this question.

  17. Nick says:

    Rome has spoken but Rome is always speaking. We are well aware of the Roman dictation but what is the theological explanation? Should the ideal now be to receive Holy Communion repeatedly (two and a half times) as long as we are attending multiple masses? Should this now be our goal? Where is the consistency between the days when the reception of Holy Communion was rarer but done with conscious preparation and today where it is increasingly appears like eating popcorn? A little catechisis would be helpful for inquiring minds.

  18. RC says:

    For Momcilo:

    This rule applies to Latin-rite faithful with regard to any Catholic liturgy they attend, regardless of the sequence in which one attends them.

    I don’t know whether there is any comparable rule for any of the Eastern Catholic churches. For practical purposes, I would assume there is no restriction on Eastern faithful unless/until you find out otherwise.

  19. Melody says:

    Nick: Provided one has prepared to receive the sacrament (and I do mean frequent confession and penance), communion is a glorious, grace-filled experience. So, I feel privileged to receive Him twice on some Sundays. However, I am aware that receiving once contains all sufficient grace. The second time is simply glorifying and delighting in Him. However, it’s important not to make the mistake that receiving the holy eucharist is a matter of quantity. The idea that more is necessarily better is erroneous and can become superstitious and spiritually harmful.

  20. Nick says:

    Melody,

    No one is questioning whether “[Holy Communion] is a glorious, grace-filled experience.” The question here is whether Catholics should receive Holy Communion twice on the same day “to glorify and delight.” People are supposed to have confessed, done penance and fasted to receive the first time after all (and hopefully “delighted” too). The practice of multiple Communions seems a peculiar innovation and I would be interested in which Saints recommended this repetition and which religious orders espouse this practice.

  21. Andreas says:

    The Church allows this because we are living in difficult times. Some people need to be very close to the suffering Christ in order to remain faithful to the end. Some christians are living lives of daily martyrdom and extreme challenges. They might live among us and we don’t know what they’re going through. And I am not talking about physical threats but spiritual, moral, and similar challenges. And Jesus, through this provision, reaches out to them and provides for their need.