QUAERITUR: Holy Communion twice in one day… did I sin?

From a reader:

At Mass this morning I received Communion, then unexpectedly invited to serve Mass this evening, which I did. I did not think to say to the priest before Mass that I should not receive, having done so already, [That's okay.] and to avoid disrupting the liturgy ended up doing so for a second time in the day. [You do not disrupt Mass by receiving Communion!]  I will mention this when next in the confessional, [No need.] but is this a sin or is receiving twice acceptable when serving? Both Masses were Extraordinary Form.

Please please please remember: Receiving Holy Communion during Mass, server or in the pews, does NOT disrupt Mass.  I know that some traditionalists have this view.  As a matter of fact, I have been in choir (sitting on the side in the sanctuary) at Masses of a particular group and, when I have indicated I would like to receive, was entirely ignored… as a priest.  But I digress. 

We have got to eradicate the idea that somehow your reception of Communion interferes with anything.

Next, it doesn’t make the slightest difference whether this was the Extraordinary Form (TLM) or the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo).  It doesn’t make a difference if you are serving or in the pews.

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 in the morning you were at some Novus Ordo Communion service wherein you received Communion, or a Mass in either Form.  Later in the day you stumble into a church where Mass was about to be celebrated.  At that Mass you could receive Communion again (iterum).  However, 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 because a Communion Service isn’t Mass.

Canon 917 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.

So, do NOT worry about this.  You did NOT sin in receiving Communion, during Mass, the second time.   You did NOT disrupt Mass by receiving Communion.   And if the priest gave you to think you did, he should be admonished by proper authority in the strongest terms to knock it off

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19 Responses to QUAERITUR: Holy Communion twice in one day… did I sin?

  1. Oneros says:

    Father,

    Your points about how receiving communion does not disrupt Mass are very important and good (I have a suspicion what group you are talking about)…

    However, the questioner’s inquiry says that he DID receive communion so as to NOT disrupt Mass.

    From what I glean, he forgot to tell the priest that he would not be receiving. I dont know if there was a congregation, but if not the priest possibly consecrated an extra host for him or whatever. So when the priest went to give him communion (or even as early as the “Ecce Agnus Dei” if there was no congregation)…the server didnt want to disrupt Mass by interrupting and saying “Wait! I’m actually not receiving!” If there was no congregation, especially, that would force the priest to scrap that whole rite, reserve the extra host in the tabernacle, etc…

    Of course, the opposite attitude exists too, and must be dispelled: that of people being pressured to receive communion, as if not receiving (whether because of breaking the fast, or mortal sin, or already having received that day) is somehow conspicuous or a disruption. When I’ve served the Novus Ordo and not been able to receive, I’ve gotten weird looks and pressure to receive.

  2. Francis says:

    Hello Father,

    A post by Damian Thompson on the Daily Telegraph site on your culinary taste has attracted me to you blog. Very interesting.

    What about confession before communion as was done in olden days? If you go to a Novus Ordo parish and there is no confession. You haven’t been to confession for, say 3 months, what is to be done? How long can or should we abstain from communion if one has done serious sins and priests dismiss one with impatience? And in the case under study here, if the person after the first communion had committed a sin- shouldn’t he be confessing before going to communion at the next service, and indeed, before serving?

    thanks.

  3. Jerry says:

    “You haven’t been to confession for, say 3 months, what is to be done?”

    We are required to confess once a year. Of course, it is desirable to do so more frequently — as soon as possible if one commits a mortal sin — but there is no requirement to do so.

    “How long can or should we abstain from communion if one has done serious sins and priests dismiss one with impatience?”

    As long as it takes to make a valid confession. Even if such unfortunate circumstances were to occur at Easter, when one is required to receive Holy Communion, it would be better to sin by violating this precept of the Church than to do so even more gravely by receiving Our Lord in a state of mortal sin.

    “And in the case under study here, if the person after the first communion had committed a sin- shouldn’t he be confessing before going to communion at the next service, and indeed, before serving?”

    “A’ sin? Not necessarily. A mortal sin? Absolutely.

  4. StevenDunn says:

    I have a question similar to this: there is a woman in my town who suffers from sometimes-severe mental illness. Even when she is more stable she is obviously troubled. One manifestation of her illness is extreme religiosity. As a result she attends almost every daily mass in my town, which means she’s regularly receiving ~4x/day. On Sundays her reception is similar. I’m friends with this woman, and it seems to me her behavior here is incorrect, but I’m not sure. What do you all think?

  5. Agnes says:

    Lucky duck to receive Our Lord twice! No worries, my friend!

  6. Mary Ann says:

    Should a family member decline reception for a second time if they are present for their loved one’s Viaticum?

  7. pseudomodo says:

    Well… this is very interesting.

    Father Zee, does the legislation specify that eucharistic celebration = mass?

    It seems to indicate that eucharistic celebation could mean communion service.

  8. Frank H says:

    pseudomodo –

    The book used in the RCIA class in which I am a sponsor, “In His Light” by Rev William A Anderson, uses the term Eucharistic Celebration EVERYWHERE most of us would say “Mass”. In fact, at one point he says “Many refer to this celebration as the Mass, but it is more truly called a Eucharistic (thanksgiving) celebration.”

    There isn’t even an entry for “Mass” in the index.

    Needless to say, I am not a fan of this book.

  9. ray from mn says:

    Here’s a different twist on reception.

    I volunteer a couple days a week at a local hospital and often serve Mass too when there is nobody else present to serve.

    On All Souls Day, Father says three Masses, 7:30, 11:30 and 4:00. I served all three for him as there was nobody else. I received Communion at all three Masses. I checked it out with Father first and he said it was OK.

    Later I talked to a server who regularly serves at our local Cathedral and he said that servers (and perhaps lectors, cantors and EMHCs?) are exempt from the limitation if they serve more than two Masses in a day.

    I must say, though, I occasionally haven’t always felt that I was at Mass when I serve. My mind is preoccupied with my duties and postures and prayer and worship don’t come to mind.

    But I was also told that St. Augustine or somebody said that that was all right. Servinig being a ministry.

  10. Oneros is right, Father – your correspondent said that he chose to receive Communion rather than disrupt the liturgy, not that he somehow believed receiving Communion would be disruptive.

    He seems somewhat scrupulous, but acted prudently.

  11. StevenDunn, here is my take on things: while receiving so often is clearly against the canons, one should also take your friend’s mental state into account. Is she responsible for her own actions? An insane person, or others who cannot act of their own free will, can commit no sin. Even if her command of her will is only impaired, this would mitigate any sin committed.

    I think your friend first and foremost needs support and help rather than correction on this issue. It may be that she finds solace in the Eucharist, and this is a good thing. If anyone should talk to her about this it should be her pastor, but I imagine that most priests would reckon that the special needs of a troubled soul take precedence over laws that were written for ‘normal’ people.

    It could of course also be that she feels a compulsion to go to daily Mass and receive Communion, in which case it might be purposeful to dissuade her from doing it so often, but this is best left to a therapist.

  12. Robert says:

    “Eucharistic celebration,” “Eucharistic sacrifice,” and “Eucharistic synaxis” all clearly refer to the Mass. See canons 899-933 in the Code of Canon Law.

    Also, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts gave an authentic interpretation of canon 917, which is translated into English as follows:

    “Q.–Whether, according to c. 917, one who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist may receive it on the same day only a second time, or as often as one participates in the celebration of the Eucharist?
    R.–Affirmative to the first; negative to the second.

    Response 26-06-1984
    Papal approval 11-07-1984
    Promulgation 07-08-1984″

    Therefore, strictly speaking, the altar server shouldn’t receive the Eucharist during the third Mass on the same day, and maybe shouldn’t be serving the third Mass in the first place. On the other hand, the legal principle of epieikeia (see Aquinas, S.T. II,II,120) might permit a deviation from the law when the creation of a law did not foresee a given circumstance.

  13. Tom Ryan says:

    I’ve heard it said that receiving the Precious Blood after the Body in an O.F. Mass amounts to Communion twice. How should I respond?

  14. Alice says:

    Tom,
    Is this only a problem in the OF? I seem to recall that even in the EF the priest drinks the Precious Blood after receiving the Body of the Lord. :) I have never heard anyone say that the priest receives twice (or possibly more) at Mass, so I don’t to know the laity would be different.

  15. Marcin says:

    pseudomodo:

    Besides canonical considerations, it is the “Eucharistic celebration” (which clearly means the E. Synaxis, i.e. Mass or Divine Liturgy) is the context of primary use of the term ‘Eucharistic’. Now, this term is often used in reference to the Holy Communion, and rightfully so, but it’s a secondary meaning, as Communion is ‘derived’ from the Eucharistic Synaxis. For besides specified cases (and I understand that among Latins it’s much more liberally applied than among Greeks) there is no Eucharistic species to be received apart from Mass.

  16. dcs says:

    Should a family member decline reception for a second time if they are present for their loved one’s Viaticum?

    Is it common for Holy Communion to be offered to family members when Viaticum is brought to the dying? I’ve only been present for one such event and Holy Communion was not offered to family members.

  17. wolfeken says:

    This seems to be a similar situation (at least the part about receiving twice) as the fast and abstinence laws in place during 1962.

    We should be honest and say that in 1962 (1917 Code) one could not receive twice in the same day, except in certain circumstances (Midnight Mass, then another Mass on Christmas Day, for example).

    While the old law is no longer in force, I believe (as do many others) that following the old customs/disciplines in conjunction with the traditional Latin Mass is a GOOD thing.

    Therefore, perhaps it is wise to fast from midnight (or three hours for afternoon/evening Masses) before receiving communion. Perhaps it is good to fast and/or abstain from meat on the old appointed days (Fridays, 40 days of Lent, Ember Days, certain vigils, etc.) Perhaps one wants to limit himself to receiving communion once a day, even if he attends two TLMs.

    I know others disagree and favor a hybrid 2010/1962 situation. But following the 1962 laws (even when they are not binding) while using the 1962 books seems to make the most sense to me. [The 1983 Code is in force now.]

  18. pseudomodo says:

    Hi Marcin,

    The Eastern church have thier own Code of Canon Law. Also the greek have Extreme unction which is communion apart from the Divine Liturgy.

    All I’m saying is that the Eucharist may be recieved apart from mass in various ways in the Latin Rite and C917 recognizes that.

    One could be at a parish communion service or attending the sick (where recieving communion is common) AND happen upon a mass later in the day where, according to C.917 one can recieve communion once more.

    This simply could be all a misunderstanding with the definition of terms. C917 could have used the term MASS but didn’t because they thought it was understood. The same thing happened with the term Crucis = CROSS where people thought is meant cross without a corpus. Rome later (much later) clarified it to mean a cross with a corpus ie: a crucifix.

  19. thymos says:

    Father,

    my (Arlington) diocese’s Father William Saunders has an article online wherein he seems to indicate one can receive twice in one day only if one is *entirely present* at both masses, neither late to, nor leaving early from the first nor the second Holy Mass. Does that seem right?

    see: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0295.html