QUAERITUR: Deacons receiving Communion more than twice a day – Fr. Z rants

From a transitional deacon:

Is it lawful for a deacon to communicate more than twice on a Sunday, or any other day, for that matter?

I am currently a transitional deacon, and I am unsure if deacons can receive more than twice on a Sunday (given the canon that allows for a person to receive no more than twice per day). I know that a priest must receive the Eucharist at each Mass he celebrates or concelebrates, but I do not believe it is necessary for a deacon to do so, but I also wouldn’t want to cause scandal to the people if I do not receive when I am assisting at Mass. Any help that you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.

You identified the proper point after you asked your question.

The celebrating priest – no one else – is the only one who must consume the Eucharist during the Mass.  If he says Mass, for one reason or another, more than twice in a day, he still may receive Communion more then twice be he must receive more than twice.

A deacon is not a celebrating priest.  The CIC 1983 can. 917 applies to deacons as to every other member of the Latin Church.

Deacons are not obliged to receive Communion at any Mass, by the way, any more than any other member of the faithful is obliged to receive.  If the deacon is not in the state of grace then he had better not receive.  Consider: 1 Cor 11:29.  In the Extraordinary Form it is often assumed that the man who has the deacon and subdeacon role do not receive, or at least it is no surprise when they don’t.  Often the deacon or subdeacon is a priest who has already said Mass, or the deacon and subdeacon have already been to Mass and received earlier.  Under the 1983 Code they could receive again, iterum, of course, as its pleases them to receive.

The point is: if you are not the priest, don’t assume that you are obliged to receive just because you are at Mass. And that goes for everyone in the pews, too.

NB: If during the deacon’s third Mass on a Sunday he falls down in a heap from a severe case of the marthambles and is in danger of death, he may in that instance receive the Eucharist as Viaticum as part of Last Rites.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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14 Responses to QUAERITUR: Deacons receiving Communion more than twice a day – Fr. Z rants

  1. Paul says:

    Father, of all the many things you have taught me, I must admit to being the most pleased with the word, “marthambles”. I will use it in at least two emails and a meeting this week.

    Thank you so much!
    Paul

  2. jjfxg says:

    “The point is: if you are not the priest, don’t assume that you are obliged to receive just because you are at Mass. And that goes for everyone in the pews, too.”

    I always thought it was a mortal sin to knowingly receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin
    a) is that correct?
    b) if so, how does a priest in mortal sin deal with this if he is obliged to receive?

    Joseph

  3. priests wife says:

    about causing “public scandal” if clergy (or other ‘good’ Catholics) don’t receieve the Eucharist: we all need to give each other the benefit of the doubt-

    I have forgone receiving the Eucharist at times, such as: when I have broken my fast because of blood sugar issues during pregnancy & in the past when I have ‘squabbled’ with siblings before Mass. These reasons aren’t grave matter, but I chose not to receive- I hope no one was looking and ‘scandalized’ that I might be in mortal sin.

  4. Will D. says:

    Joseph, with regard to your first question, yes it is a sin:

    Catechism #1415 Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.

    I assume a priest that finds himself in that kettle of fish would add celebrating the Mass and receiving the Eucharist to the list of things he would confess at his next opportunity.

  5. Phillip says:

    I have never understood why anyone would presume to think that whether or not anyone (except the celebrating priest, of course) receives the Eucharist is their business. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, we’re all sinners, and I can’t bring myself to be “scandalized” by the realization that someone else, deacon or not, might not be able to receive the Eucharist due to having sinned mortally. I have my own conscience to attend to. Honestly, if the deacon didn’t receive, I probably wouldn’t notice.

  6. BLB Oregon says:

    Wow, assisting at three Masses in a day, that must be a little tiring to be fully attentive for so many! (Maybe this is for the Sundays when this deacon does the homily at every Mass?)

    I don’t know who would notice that the deacon didn’t receive, particularly if you choose not to receive at a different Mass for each Sunday on which you have three to do. Surely, though, even a person who wonders might easily guess that you have 3 Masses that day!

  7. Mike Morrow says:

    The post-Vatican II innovation of every sentient being within the church always receiving communion like some robotic automaton is one of the great differences many of us pre-Vatican II folks see and, frankly, can find rather objectionable. In every pre-Vatican II service I ever attended, there was never universal communion. Not only did many of the laity refrain, but often some of the servers and nuns attending did not receive. The act was attributed far more respect and significance then, so many refrained from communion if it seemed only that they weren’t of a proper mind or attitude. There was also the communion fast from midnight initially, then becoming only three hours beforehand, that had to be satisfied. Back then, no one was tempted to speculate on the sanctity of a non-receiving pew mate, as the non-traditional token fast and universal communion certainly encourages.

    It is disappointing to see this post-Vatican II attitude contaminating today’s EF Masses.

  8. BLB Oregon says:

    “The post-Vatican II innovation of every sentient being within the church always receiving communion like some robotic automaton is one of the great differences many of us pre-Vatican II folks see and, frankly, can find rather objectionable.”

    “….Back then, no one was tempted to speculate on the sanctity of a non-receiving pew mate…”

    These two comments do not seem to go together to me. How is it different to speculate on the sanctity of a pew mate when they don’t receive than it is to speculate when they do?

    ?

  9. Geoffrey says:

    “The post-Vatican II innovation of every sentient being within the church always receiving communion like some robotic automaton is one of the great differences many of us pre-Vatican II folks see and, frankly, can find rather objectionable.”

    I do not argue with the fact that more of the faithful receive Holy Communion now as opposed to back then, while the confessional lines are so short. However, the Council cannot be blamed. It is a matter of proper catechesis.

  10. MargaretC says:

    Hmmm….I really think that the danger of being judged harshly by onlookers for not taking communion is vastly overrated. Most parishes nowadays are too large for all parishioners to know each other. How would anybody know whether the one not taking communion was: 1) in a state of mortal sin; 2) somebody’s non-Catholic relative visiting from out of town?

    If you are ever tempted to speculate on why somebody is not taking communion, you are committing the sin of rash judgement. Take Father’s advice and go to confession.

  11. Kurt Barragan says:

    The rubrics of the Ordinary Form do seem to indicate that the deacon is to receive Holy Communion when he exercises his ministry at Mass. At the very least there is a strong presumption that he will do so: “After the priest’s Communion, the deacon receives Communion under both kinds from the priest himself and then assists the priest in distributing Communion to the people” (GIRM 182).

    Perhaps, then, a deacon should refrain from assisting as a deacon at more than two Masses in a day.

  12. MJ says:

    Perhaps, then, a deacon should refrain from assisting as a deacon at more than two Masses in a day.

    I don’t believe this is necessary…the deacon just needs to remember that he cannot receive more than twice in a day…period…unless he is suddenly in danger of death.

  13. David2 says:

    The situation of a priest in mortal sin offering Mass is dealt with by Can 916:

    Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

    I do not understand why these issues of receiving multiple times generate so many questions. The law of the Church is perfectly clear. Yet numbers of people seem to come up with “but what if … ” situations based upon some pretty flimsy reasoning. I question whether the practice of near-universal communion places undue pressure on the faithful to communicate when they have a serious obligation to dot do so, by feeding their insecurities about what their neighbour “might think”.

    My experience is that one’s neighbour is generally too pre-occupied with himself to give more than a fleeting thought to anyone else …

  14. Kurt Barragan says:

    MJ: You may be right. As Fr Z points out, the theological reasons which require the priest to receive Holy Communion at every Mass that he celebrates clearly do not extend to the deacon.

    What I wanted to add to this discussion is that the rubrics of the Ordinary Form seem to indicate that the deacon at Mass is to receive Holy Communion under both kinds and at the hands of the priest. They do not say that he may do so. They do not say “if the deacon is to receive Holy Communion…”. They simply say that he does.

    If we are seeking to “do the red and say the black”, I think that we must take such rubrics seriously. Since they do not envisage a deacon refraining from Holy Communion, there seems to me to be a case for the position that a deacon who is not able to receive Holy Communion should not exercise his ministry at Mass.

    The opposite view (i.e. that the deacon may function at Mass without receiving Holy Communion) would seem to assume that the rubrics are descriptive of the general case but do not intend to prescribe what must be done. I am not sure that this reading is correct. The GIRM indicates very clearly those situations where the possibility of deviating from the usual course of events is anticipated (e.g. in GIRM 181: “the deacon, if it is appropriate, invites all to exchange the sign of peace”).