QUAERITUR: Saying “Amen” before Communion in the Ordinary Form.

From a reader:

Is it required that a communicant say “Amen” in order to receive Holy Communion at the Novus Ordo?

I ask because we normally attend the Extraordinary Form, but last weekend we were traveling and attended the Novus Ordo. My 10-year-old went up the Communion and put out his tongue. The priest stopped, told him to say “Amen”, but my son did not hear/understand, and thought the priest was telling him to put out his hands to receive. This went back and forth a bit and my son finally realized what he was being told, in line, and said “Amen.” He was a little embarrassed, as the line was held up as he was being publicly corrected.

Obviously “Amen” is not said in the EF, and my son was not used to it. Should the priest have done this?

Hmmm.  “Should the priest have done this?”

That’s one way to frame this.  I’ll track back to that.

Let’s first look at the rubric in the new, corrected English translation of the Missale Romanum:

134. After this, he takes the paten or ciborium and approaches the communicants. The Priest raises a host slightly and shows it to each of the communicants, saying:

The Body of Christ.

The communicant replies:

Amen.

And receives Holy Communion.

Say the black and do the red, right?

Yes, the proper thing to do is to say “Amen” and then receive.  And yes, that is not how we do it in the Extraordinary Form.  Parents who take their kids to the Extraordinary Form exclusively might want to run through this with kids in case they do go to the Ordinary Form sometimes.

I think it is good to do this according to the book.  One reason is that, if you don’t say anything during the Ordinary Form, you might give the priest (or … who knows who) the impression that you don’t know what to do because you aren’t a Catholic.  In that case, the minister of Communion might hesitate to give you Communion.

Also, “Amen” is an entirely appropriate response, since it expresses belief in and consent to what has been said: “Corpus Christi“.

Should the priest have done what he did in that moment?

I can’t say for sure, but it seems to me that he had some justification.  I am supposing that virtually all the people presenting themselves in his Communion line are Catholics who attend exclusively the Ordinary Form and, therefore, they know to say “Amen”…. unless they are not Catholic, as happens during weddings, funerals, etc.  It strikes me that the priest was making sure the communicant in front of him was a Catholic who could receive.

So, should the priest have done what he did?

Let’s think about this.

10-year-olds who have only been to the Extraordinary Form shouldn’t be expected to be psychic or have infused knowledge about what to do at the Ordinary Form any more than 10-year-olds who have never been to the Extraordinary Form should know when brought for the first time.  And the priest doesn’t usually have psychic powers about 10-year-olds who only go to the Extraordinary Form.  Perhaps writing on their foreheads would give him clue.

Parents must see to it that their children know how to receive the sacraments to which they are admitted.  This includes both sides of the Roman Rite.

It also includes knowing a regular formula for how to make a good confession.

Parents should make sure that their children know what to do so that they are not uncertain or overly nervous or put off so that they next time they might not want to do it.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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35 Responses to QUAERITUR: Saying “Amen” before Communion in the Ordinary Form.

  1. KAS says:

    I’m going to have to remember this, that I need to be sure I teach the Little Tiger the proper responses, not only for the NO where we usually attend, but also for the EF I hope we eventually are able to attend.

  2. salve95 says:

    Once I was at Mass, and an incredibly old and grumpy priest preached before Mass began about saying “amen” before communion. When I went up to receive from him, I said “amen” perhaps a bit too quietly for his aged ears, and he stared at me like he was going to kill me until I spoke up. He’s a pleasently eccentric old priest. :)

  3. kab63 says:

    My daughter went through a similar conundrum when moving from the DL, where you cross your hands over your chest as a sign you intend to receive, to the NO. Priests kept trying to give her a blessing! Of course we had explained the procedure to her but a young person gets confused in the heat of the moment. Also, they are not expecting the priest to dialogue with them at the moment they are prepared to receive Our Lord, which makes correction extra tricky.

    My mother’s back goes up a little bit at your answer, Fr. Z. [Sometimes mothers react without thinking, as in the time I chose not to give Holy Communion to a girl quite clearly chewing gum. Can you guess whose fault it was that missy had to stop chewing gum before Communion?] A young person is much more embarrassed by these misunderstandings than an adult would be. [Parents are the primary educators of their children in the matter of the Faith and reception of sacraments.] Look at this as a good sign: Catholics are breathing with all the Church’s lungs. Children now have the chance to become more fully formed in the faith than ever was possible when we were kids.

  4. Dave N. says:

    Since it seems the parents had dropped the ball in terms of instruction–and a 10-year old should be able to discern whether he/she is at an EF or NO Mass–then it’s up to the priest to step in, and I think he did the right thing at least in principle. HOW this is best done is a matter of a fair amount of judgment.

    I hope this priest is equally as diligent with adults.

  5. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    Parents who take their kids to the Extraordinary Form exclusively might want to run through this with kids in case they do go to the Ordinary Form sometimes.

    Personally, I believe parents should take their kids to the OF as well so they become familiar with both forms of Mass, especially given that it is the ordinary form in which Mass is most commonly celebrated. There’s no guarantee that these kids are always going to have access to the EF, and thus should know both forms and understand that despite the differences, they’re still the same Rite.

    Sorry, it just really grinds my gears to read on here people ranting about how people who attend the OF exclusively should be attending the EF too so they learn their full rite and blah blah blah, and then someone gets upset because they never took their kid to an OF Mass before, he didn’t know what to do and the priest corrected their kid over it.

    It’s something that has been irking me since I started attending the EF exclusively again (with the exception of tonight, ’cause I can’t make it tomorrow to the EF Mass.)

    @kab63
    My mother’s back goes up a little bit at your answer, Fr. Z. A young person is much more embarrassed by these misunderstandings than an adult would be.

    If it’s any consolation to you, when I was 8 I went to receive communion, being left handed I tried to receive with my left hand, and the priest wouldn’t let me. He physically took his free hand and lifted my left hand onto my right hand and then gave me communion. My mom was more upset about it than I was.

  6. heway says:

    At the NO if you cross your arms across your breast – it means you want a blessing. [Not always and not everywhere.]
    After 30 years of the EF and 46 of the NO, I bow slightly approaching the celebrant and respond with “Amen” . My husband has always responded at the NO with “I believe” and it is acceptable.
    I am a catechist and I’m wondering where these poor chiuldren are receiving their instruction for their First Communion. How frightened and anxious they must become after such a scene as they attempt to receive. Caritas!! is needed by all.

  7. Volanges says:

    There was a big to-do in an aboriginal mission I know when a priest who didn’t know the culture refused Communion to an elder a few Christmases ago, because she didn’t say ‘Amen’. He wasn’t aware that that in that particular society those who do not speak English don’t use the word “Amen” but were taught to give an answer in their own language.

    I wasn’t aware of that either, but it was pointed out to me by a teacher who’d lived in that culture for 25 years. They would have been taught that by the priest who was in their community when the vernacular started being used and who translated the Mass into their language.

  8. Peggy R says:

    We have a problem somewhat similar with our 9 year old who made his first communion this spring. The children do get intimidated by the priest and EMHCs, I think. Our son made his first communion on the tongue, though we attend an OF mass where 99.9% of the people, ie, all but our family, receive in the hand. I had no problem with our pastor when I stated at rehearsal that my boy would receive on the tongue. My son seems unwilling or afraid to stand his ground to receive on his tongue, however, with other priests at our parish and other parishes or when we’re stuck w/a layperson. He ends up presenting his hands–also b/c that’s what the priests/EMHCs expect. I do talk to him ahead of time about how to present himself. I assure him the priest or layperson WILL place communion on his tongue, but he’s got to stand his ground. I will keep assuring him and encouraging him to stand his ground.

    But in the story here, the child should say “Amen” and I think it is reasonable for the priest to expect it or correct the communicant. It might have been uncomfortable, but it was necessary it seems. Either we believe in following the rubrics or not.

  9. Joshua08 says:

    On needn’t be EF olnly to have confusion. When I started practicing the faith the last time (the time it took), I decided to start going to daily Mass. I observed people kneeling for communion. The priest would communicate them and then go to the standing line. This inspired me. It just seemed right, so I went and knelt. But I noticed no one said Amen. Having read something that I misremembered about kneeling for communion (namely that he who knelt didn’t need to show further reverence as kneeling was itself an act of reverence), I didn’t say Amen either, thinking that was correct. The priest said “Body of Christ” and then “Amen”

    After doing this for quite a while, the priest caught up to me in the parking lot (heck he probably never caught me before as I had walked…I had just got a license and a car) and greeted me with “Say Amen! Don’t you believe in the real presence!” and some further berating. I was afraid of him for a while…then I went to college and he happened to be a new chaplain that very year…eerie…

    I think what the priest did was right, and if the boy was a little confused well that happens. No use making any fuss over it. Believe me, better than being frightened half to death in a parking lot

  10. Joshua08 says:

    Oh, the reason while some of the kneelers didn’t say Amen was odd. They were very strange people. They attended the SSPX on Sunday, even registered there. I noticed this when under special circumstances I went forCorpus (woke up late, other option included liturgical dancing). One carried the cover for the priest. Traffic made them go to the most respectable Novus Ordo nearby instead for daily Mass…they just read what would have been the EF Mass and postured themselves accordingly…

  11. Alice says:

    APX,
    This mother agrees with you. When I was in college, I was shocked to discover that Eastern Catholic and EF students sometimes used their lack of familiarity with the OF to justify missing Mass and decided that my children would be familiar with the OF, even if our family normally went to the EF or Divine Liturgy.

    When I was attending the EF with my parents, our pastor expected people to kneel and receive on the tongue and would instruct people at the Communion rail if they weren’t doing it right. My sister found out the hard way that at the OF you say Amen. My mother-in-law has gotten blessed a few times when she went to Communion with her arms crossed across her chest Eastern Catholic style. Hopefully after one embarrassing incident, people won’t need another reminder.

  12. APX says:

    @Alice
    When I was in college, I was shocked to discover that Eastern Catholic and EF students sometimes used their lack of familiarity with the OF to justify missing Mass

    All the more reason for Catholics to become familiar with as many forms of Mass and as many rites they can attend to fulfill their Sunday obligation at. Even I was I brought to DL “just in case” I might have to some day attend a DL.

  13. discipulus says:

    The three most recent times we have attended OF masses (last year), I didn’t say “Amen”, as I have been educated not to in the EF and Divine Liturgy. I will, however, remember this for future times I recieve @ an OF Mass.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Firstly, college students are not children. It is their responsibility to learn whatever.

    And, children can learn quickly and are usually more intelligent than we give them credit. As a parent, it was my responsibility to teach the rubrics of the Mass, as well as the doctrines, dogmas, traditions, the Liturgical Year Calendar, etc.

    There are missals written for young ones and a regular missal for the NO and EF can be easily read by a ten year old. The new missals coming out for the “New Mass” have come out in editions which are quite easy for a child, and as the Sunday ones are just that, these are not expensive. They are for sale already in English and in a Latin/English version, and available online.

  15. St. Rafael says:

    I find it absolutely ridiculous that a priest would hold up the line ang go back and fotrh with a 10 year old kid for not saying Amen. I would have given him Communion no problem. A 10 year old kid choosing to receive on the tongue is good enough for me. Obviously I would think he is Catholic. No reason to think otherwise. [Apparently you didn’t read the top entry. This wasn’t about reception on the hand or tongue.]

    I don’t see the big deal whether Catholics say Amen or not. I think the whole thing is silly and if I was a priest, I would care less if Catholics said it or not. Anyone receiving on the tongue or with the right hand posture is assummed to be a Catholic.

  16. APX says:

    @St. Rafael
    Anyone receiving on the tongue or with the right hand posture is assummed [sic] to be a Catholic.

    Not all Catholics have received their First Communion or First Confession. I’ve received communion before I received my First Communion. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I just approached the EMHC and stuck out my hands like everyone else did. I see nothing wrong with anyone distributing communion to take the extra effort to protect the host from any possible profanation.

  17. jeff says:

    Fair enough–do the red and say the black. That’s why I’ll bow to the altar DURING mass when I acolyte. [“Acolyte” isn’t a verb.]

    My cynical side wonders if he [NB: “is” is a verb, and a useful one.] only this scrupulous with Trad deviations. What about NO excesses? Does he allow EMHCs to give “blessings”? (Our parish priest INSTRUCTS us to leaving me in a predicament when people approach me with their arms folded) Does he clearly instruct people not to self-intinct? [Whether he does those things or not is hardly relevant.]

  18. A rather rare sight, a NO priest getting picky about respecting the rubrics. Makes me wonder, did he know that the child receiving communion normally attends the EF? Could this be a way of taking a jab at the EF? [Perhaps you are slightly unfair on a couple points? My friends are very careful in celebrating Mass in the Ordinary Form. And why impute such a motive to the priest based on such scant details?]

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Just to reassure those who have trouble with this scenario, I , too, at NO Masses in America, have had priests wait until I say the Amen, when they have no idea of my EF leanings. No one should get paranoid over this fact, but just follow the rubrics. If one forgets, I am sure a kindly reminder, or even a hesitation on the part of the priest, is perfectly normal. One need not get prickly over such situations, but go with the flow.

  20. C. says:

    Regardless of how the communicant should behave, the minister making this correction at the time of Communion is effectively denial of Holy Communion, and Holy Communion cannot be denied for this reason.

  21. C. says:

    Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    [91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

  22. In every other area of life, nobody hesitates to correct a kid at the moment of making a mistake, and adults aren’t better than kids over the age of reason. I’ve heard priests give sotto voce reminders at the EF (requests for the communicant to open wider or stick out the tongue are fairly common, for instance). So yeah, let’s not get more upset than need be.

    And yeah, if the priest (or EMHC) has a reasonable suspicion that you’re a godless heathen or a Satanist or are publicly expressing your disbelief in the Real Presence, I certainly hope that the hairy eyeball will be deployed.

    However… while it’s certainly a Good Idea to make sure kids know how to behave at Catholic Masses of all the different rites and forms and uses, I don’t think there are any easy-to-get books of all the Rites/forms/uses in one easy-to-find place. I mean, geez, there’s what, 31? and most not in English? It’d be nice, but I don’t see it happening. (OTOH, if somebody did it, that would be an awesome and useful thing. Good phone app for travelers, too, in case you’re stuck in Albania and need info on the Albanian-Catholic rite so you do anything bad at Mass.)

  23. anncouper-johnston says:

    The combination of saying Amen and receiving on the tongue can be a bit hairy if you have a person who is eager to place the Host. Some don’t leave you enough time to say Amen without your being in danger of catching their fingers in the process! At least I now know I should say Amen – I do because that is my confirmation to the person giving me communion that I know what, more accurately Who, I am receiving – should he not wait for that?

  24. APX says:

    @anncouper-johnston
    The combination of saying Amen and receiving on the tongue can be a bit hairy if you have a person who is eager to place the Host. Some don’t leave you enough time to say Amen without your being in danger of catching their fingers in the process!

    Yes, I found this too, especially with my priest back home. He would practically stuff the host in my mouth as I was saying “amen”, so I started kneeling to receive. It eliminated all confusion and all force-feeding.

  25. PostCatholic says:

    “Publicly corrected” or publicly instructed?

  26. Hidden One says:

    I have sometimes been unable to say “Amen”. I consistently elect to receive on the tongue; sometimes the Host has been placed in my mouth the moment it opens. I have also sometimes forgotten – and that started happening before I ever went to the EF.

  27. marajoy says:

    @Hidden One-
    ugh! that happens to me! yes! how the h are you supposed to say Amen with the host already in your mouth?!?

  28. leonugent2005 says:

    When the priest holds up the host and says This is the Body of Christ and I say amen, I am saying Yes. I believe this. As the two masses converge perhaps this could be retained in both. But I think in reality the NO as it is quaintly called is the only one that anyone really thinks will change.

  29. Slappo says:

    @ C.

    C. says:
    16 October 2011 at 7:07 am

    Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    [91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

    “to those who seek them in a reasonable manner” Is it reasonable to not follow the rubrics of the mass for receiving communion?

  30. Craigmaddie says:

    I wonder why we do say “Amen” after priest says “The Body of Christ”? Since “Amen” literally means “that it may be so” why do we say it in response to the Real Presence – almost as if there is some element of doubt that Our Lord is really present in the Eucharist?

    Surely “I believe” would be a better response. [I strongly disagree. “I believe” in this context has a Protestant ring, as if it is our faith which ensures the Real Presence.] Or silence in the face of the Mysterium Fidei that is the Real Presence. [At some point in both rights someone says “Amen”. This is the best approach.]

  31. MJ says:

    I am pretty unfamiliar with the OF, having only been to a handful my whole life (EF is what I’m used to) – and I know that the first time I went to an OF just a few years ago my friends told me “Hey be sure to say ‘Amen'”. The next time I was at the OF I forgot to respond with an ‘Amen’…the priest waited and I had my head back and eyes closed and tongue out waiting, and I was thinking “What’s…going…on…” then I remembered ‘Ahhh! I’m supposed to say Amen!’ By the time I remembered it, the priest had already placed the Host on my tongue and moved on. I felt bad but I really had forgotten – just not used to the OF.

    My 0.02…for what it’s worth…those of us who prefer the EF are very picky about “say the red, do the black”, and we get all up in arms when something isn’t done right. Seems we can – and should – extend that same mentality to the OF as well. Just because it’s an OF doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same attention to detail.

  32. MJ says:

    Hahaa, whoops – I meant “say the black and do the red”. :) I need another cup of mystic monk I guess.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    Amen means truly, so be it, in Hebrew, which is an affirmation, and found in the Old Testament, as well as in the new. Christ Himself used the term. I can say what Christ said, quite easily. We are hearkening back to the roots of our Faith by using the word. I think it is quite appropriate and laden with meaning. Any word with multiple references and a great liturgical past is worth saying.

  34. leonugent2005 says:

    Credo in unum Deum. Does not ensure that God is one.

  35. leonugent2005 says:

    [At some point in both rights someone says “Amen”. This is the best approach.]….. I learn from this blog. In the Traditional Latin mass the priest says the Amen for me. I hadn’t thought about that. The Divine acts, the human is passive and unnecessary. This is Nestorian. The second vatican council reformed the mass even if people who didn’t understand what they were doing threw the reform in the trash