QUAERITUR: non-concelebrating priests and Communion

From a priest reader:

Except when the Archbishop (or another Bishop) is celebrating here at the parish I am not inclined to concelebrate. I prefer to attend in choir as does my associate when one or the other or a visiting preacher is the celebrant ( special feasts, school masses, etc.). What is the protocol for the reception of Holy Communion for when a priest attends in choir dress? We know what it is when a Bishop is present but unsure if the same concessions go to a priest.


I agree. Concelebration should be safe, legal and rare.  Attendance in choir is better on most occasions.

In that case wear proper choir dress, which is cassock and surplice, with biretta.  If you are a canon or rector, etc. that would be a little different.

For reception of Communion, I don’t think there is anything to note, other than priests should always receive Communion wearing a stole.  In the older form (there is no concelebration of course) you would go to the altar and receive kneeling at the step below the footpace.  In the Novus Ordo, I suppose you could do this also, or Communion could be brought to you as you kneel.

I remember in Rome some years ago at a papal Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter seeing a line of canons/clerics receiving from the Holy Father.  One would receive, remove his stole, kiss it, hand it to the next man who kissed it, put it on… received… removed the stole… kissed it… handed it to the next man…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. TJM says:

    “safe, legal, and rare!” That’s one for the books. Tom

  2. Baron Korf says:

    How would this apply to permanent deacons?

  3. Baron: Indeed it would.

  4. Cal says:

    I have seen non-concelebrating priests put the stole on at the beginning of the communion rite, just before the Lord’s Prayer is begun, wearing it then while kneeling until after the Post-Communion Prayer. I take it that this is an acceptable expansion, rather than just wearing the stole at the moment of reception?

  5. prof. basto says:

    Yes, I tend to agree. But what about what Redemptionis Sacramentum says? What should the impact and interpretation of RS’s norms on concelebration/attendance in choir be?

  6. Arnold says:

    How would this apply to transitional deacons, for that matter? Should a priest or deacon refrain from recieving holy communion if he is without a stole? If a deacon is unable to assist at mass in choir, in which case he would not have a stole either, should he recieve communion?

  7. truthfinder says:

    And what would a rector wear for choir dress?

  8. anon says:

    There is an excellent book coming out this May by Grace Wing Publishers
    (out of England), called “The Holy Eucharist–the World’s Salvation.”
    It was written in the 1980’s by the late Fr. Joseph De Sainte-Marie,
    a very holy Carmelite theologian, who died an early death (he taught at
    the Teresianum in Rome). This book is the most thorough treatment of
    concelebration ever written, supporting fully Fr. Z’s comment about how
    it ought to be done only rarely, if ever. I highly recommend this book
    for every priest! This will be the first time it is publised in an English

  9. Ian says:

    Actually, Father, in the EF there is con-celebration but it is extremely rare. It is only done for the Ordination of a Priest or the Consecration of a Bishop. The Bishop con-celebrates with all of the ordinands. Certainly, it’s not the same conceptually as what is often seen with the OF, but it still does happen in the older books.

  10. Richard says:

    “I am not inclined to concelebrate”

    Then why not ask the celebrant to make it a Missa Solemnis, then you could act as deacon.

  11. Ann says:

    That must have been beautiful, seeing each priest kiss the stole, put it on, receive, remove the stole, kiss it and pass it to the next priest. I think that must have been beautiful!

  12. Paul Madrid says:

    Would wearing an alb be an acceptable substitute for a cassock & surplice for clerics who wish to assist in choir but do not own a cassock (e.g. many permanent deacons)?

  13. Fr Peter says:


    Although I have considerable sympathy for what you say, I would respectfully like to put forward an alternative point of view on the issue of priests concelebrating or assisting in Choir.

    I very much like to concelebrate – particularly when I am not presiding – because that sets me free to exercise the wonderful gift of the priesthood in union with my brother priests in the most self-effacing way possible. It seems to me that the very same temptation that some priests have to make the Mass “their” show when they are presiding, and to feel put-out if they are not able to preside, may also be a danger to some of those priests who reject concelebration because they prefer to celebrate “their” individual Masses. Of course, this is by no means always the case – but neither is it always the case amongst those who prefer to concelebrate. Indeed, the very desire to “depersonalise” the celebration of the Mass that may lead one priest to prefer celebrating alone, may also lead another priest to prefer to concelebrate. I think that there ought to be mutual respect for both positions, and mutual awareness of the possible dangers of each position.

    However, I would go further and also say that I am distinctly uncomfortable about assisting at Mass in Choir myself. Why should a priest who is happy to enjoy the privileges of his priestly status by being vested and occupying a special position in the Eucharistic Assembly deliberately chose to abstain from exercising the very function for which he was ordained? Is that not really an abuse of those privileges, unless the priest is impeded from concelebrating because of infirmity or the number of Mass he has already celebrated that day? After all, how does the participation in the Holy Sacrifice of a priest who is in Choir – and therefore definitely not celebrating or concelebrating – differ in kind from that the lay faithful?

    Moreover, what sort of message about the unity of the prebyterate is being given to the faithful by a priest who publicly refuses to participate in the supreme expression of that unity whenever the opportunity arises? Surely, such a refusal speaks volumes, rather like sitting down for the National Anthem – or declining to share the sign of peace?

    I should be very grateful for any light you may be able to shed upon these points.

  14. BlackFriar says:

    I would just add a reminder of “Redemptionis Sacramentum” n.98 and a query:

    It is to be noted that if the Priest or Deacon hands the sacred host or chalice to the concelebrants, he says nothing; that is to say, he does not pronounce the words “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ”.

    Does this also apply to priests receiving in choir dress?

    Also, remember n. 99: “Communion under both kinds is always permitted “to Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass”

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